OCdts. On Parade

Former Spartan among military’s top brass: 14378 Denis Thompson

Article by Joanne Saunders

14378 Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson (CMR RMC 1984), who was commander-in-chief of the Canadian joint task force in Afghanistan from May 2008 to February 2009, recounted with great candor and humour the challenges soldiers face in Kandahar province to about 800 people at Stayner Collegiate Institute (SCI) Monday.

For a man who had carried such a huge burden of responsibility, the Brig. Gen. appeared as completely relaxed and down to earth as the proverbial boy next door when he joked with his former SCI football team buddies before and after his presentation.

Thompson, who attended SCI until 1979, said his memories of the school included a lot of football games, other sports events and many dances.

Brian Baker, Doug Lowe and Dayn Leyshon were among his contemporaries recalling Thompson’s years at the school. A life in the military was always Thompson’s goal, said Leyshon and his rise through the ranks, “was no surprise to anyone.”

Although Thompson was born on a Canadian Forces base in Germany, he said he moved to this area when his father was transferred to CFB Borden. He then attended New Lowell Central Public School before going to SCI.

He told the Stayner Sun that he had, indeed, decided on a military career while in high school.

“My father was in the military. I’m in the military and my son is at Royal Military College (RMC).

“It’s the family business,” he quipped.

Thompson said he left RMC with the rank of second lieutenant in 1984. In 25 years he rose through the next seven ranks to become brigadier-general.

Leyshon said he saw a photo of the commander in a newspaper and recognized him as a former schoolmate.

Leyshon’s wife, Pam Jeffrey, a teacher-librarian at SCI, contacted Thompson through the Armed Forces and he agreed to speak at the school.

Told of a movement afoot to close SCI in favour of a more centralized secondary school, Thompson said it would be “a grievous error to close SCI.”

It’s a really small and close high school, he said, and it breeds good Canadian citizens.

In his presentation, Thompson said the number one enemy in Afghanistan is illiteracy. In second place is governance and third is the Taliban.

He said the only way the west is going to get out of Afghanistan is by developing their forces. To that end, much of the focus is on training police to secure territory when the military moves on

In Kandahar province where Canadian Forces are based, Thompson said there are many challenges. While the green belts are really green, much of the territory is desert and the soldiers have to contend with extreme heat and dust.

“It’s a tough go, to be frank,” he said. It requires high levels of fitness and leadership.

The Taliban tactic of using improvised explosive devices, he said, is not winning the hearts and minds of the populace.

He said both sides in the war say it’s not a tribal conflict. The Taliban say they are fighting to oust the non-Muslims and the government says it’s fighting for democracy, not for its own rule.

Afghans trying to help the Canadian forces are “brave to the point of being foolhardy.” He said most are untrained and even have to be told to take cover when being shot at.

The Afghans are so brave that even though acid was splashed in the faces of school girls in a widely reported incident, girls continued to go to school.

He said 25 Canadian soldiers died when he was there and the loss of even one hurts deeply but, he added, “your Canadian soldiers are as deeply resolved as ever to get on with the job despite the casualties.”

Asked about the opium trade, Thompson said, you need a mechanism to bring down the drug lords.

“It’s more dangerous to go after the poppy than it is to go after the Taliban,” Thomson said. The good news, he said, is, “I’m told only half the amount of poppy was planted this year as last.”

Asked what he would say to potential military recruits, he said he would tell them to “get on with it.” In addition to the travel and training, he said, there is a wide range of trades to be learned in the military.

Original Article from Stayner Sun

More on 14378 Denis Thompson


The sky’s not the limit for 22911 Capt. Joshua Kutryk (RMC 2004)

AIMING FOR SPACE PROGRAM: Son of Barry and Kathy Kutryk of Belleville

Capt. Joshua Kutryk is used to being in the skies but the 26-year-old pilot may one day find himself in the stars.

Kutryk, a pilot of the CF-18 Hornet jet fighter who is based with 425 Squadron at CFB Bagotville near Chicoutimi, Que. was recently announced as one of 16 Canadians shortlisted to possibly become one of two new astronauts through the Canadian Space Agency. CSA president Steve MacLean introduced the candidates earlier this month.

“It”s been an amazing experience,” Kutryk told The Intelligencer adding he has dreamt of being an astronaut since he was a child. “I tried not to go through high school saying I was going to be an astronaut because, quite frankly, there’s just too many things that need to line up but I knew if there was going to be a competition and I was eligible I was going to try.”

That competition began last year when 5,351 online applicants were screened for the National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign. Over the past number of months the CSA interviewed candidates and put them through a number of tests, whittling down the candidates to the final list of 16.

It will be another month and a half before the CSA announces the successful candidates.

Kutryk said his experience so far has been exciting and enjoyable. The various challenges and tests the candidates have faced, he said, were wide ranging.

“They’ve been really diverse. At one point you’re operating a robotic arm and then, the next hour, you’re completing a math test and then you’re in a tank, it’s pitch black and the water’s rising around you…. It’s been humbling because you leave those exams or events and you don’t feel that confident. Getting selected to go to the next level has always been a surprise.”

Kathy Kutryk, the pilot’s mother, is from Belleville, where she attended Quinte Secondary School. She said his love of flight may have an early influence from a familiar local source.

Her husband and Joshua’s father, Barry, was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police inspector. That job meant the family could take flights on military aircraft.

The Kutryks often took summer flights to Trenton aboard Hercules air transports so they could visit relatives in Belleville.

Her children, especially Joshua and younger brother Matthew, now 25 and preparing to become an air force pilot, loved the flights.

“I think those first trips to Trenton had some bearing on their first interest (in flight),” she said.
“The people on the Hercs treated them well. They would try to get them up into the cockpit and they just loved that.”

She said her brother, Mike Empey, has spent 30 years at the base, where he oversees plumbing and heating.

“When we’d go in and out of Trenton, Mike would always show the boys around. We always went to the (National Air Force) museum,” Kathy said.

Joshua and his siblings spent a week or two most summers in Belleville, boating on the Bay of Quinte, seeing family, and climbing trees at Riverside Park.

His mother said Joshua was keen at age 12 to join the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Corp and it’s not surprising he wants to be an astronaut.

He earned a mechanical engineering degree from Kingston’s Royal Military College, is working on a master’s in aeronautical engineering and climbs mountains in his spare time.

“He loves flying and he loves engineering and he loves science and he loves adventure.”
Yet he’s also private and modest, his mother said.

“If you walked into a roomful of people you wouldn’t notice him.”

Kutryk said he remains optimistic that he may become one of those final two but admitted he is still grappling with the fact he has made it this far.

“I’m really surprised. I know last summer when this whole thing kicked off I didn’t think I had a chance at being where I am right now,” he said.    Read earlier e-V article here


Brighton resident aims for the stars –

19882 Mark McCullins (RMC ’95)

By Bill Tremblay – Northumberland News – The Independent

As a young child,  Mark McCullins dreamed of becoming an astronaut.
Now, the 35-year-old Brighton resident has a one in 16 chance of being shot into space.
Mr. McCullins is participating in the Canadian Space Agency’s astronaut recruitment campaign to determine who will be Canada’s next two members of the Canadian Astronauts Corps. Over 5,000 Canadians applied when the campaign was launched in May, 2008 – the first recruitment program since the early 1990s.

“This is always something I’ve had in the back of my head,” Mr. McCullins said. “My mom would often pull out work I had done in school with little rockets drawn on them.”

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Mr. McCullins moved to Canada and was raised in Winnipeg. He earned a honours degree in chemical materials engineering from the Royal Military College, a MBA in project management from Athabasca University and holds the rank of Major in the Canadian Forces. Adding to his qualifications for space travel, Mr. McCullins is a trained test pilot and was a Tactical Unit Crew Commander in Southeast Asia providing airlift support to the Canadian Forces.

“I have quite a broad base of engineering, scientific aviation and project management education that sort of dove tails right in with the jobs I’ve done in the military as a Hercules pilot and test pilot for heavy aircraft,” Mr. McCullins said.

He moved to Brighton last summer after being stationed at CFB Trenton.
“It’s been pretty whirlwind. We moved in and a week later I was off to Afghanistan for three months,” Mr. McCullins said.

Mr. McCullins is currently in Little Rock, Arkansas testing the C130J model Hercules expected to hit the tarmac at CFB Trenton in 2010.

“I’ll be in charge of the operational flight test program to bring those into service,” Mr. McCullins said.

Despite his lengthy list of qualifications, Mr. McCullins didn’t expect to make the final 16 astronaut candidates.

“Not in my wildest dreams,” he said. “It’s very much been a step by step process. When you start this, the odds seem so long you just put one foot in front of other and do your best every day.”
The remaining candidates have spent 30 full days completing physical and psychological testing. The remaining 16 potential astronauts spent the past week going through extensive medical testing.

“I feel very much like pin cushion right now,” Mr. McCullins said.

The naval damage simulator has proven to be the most intense recruitment test.
“It dumps you into a big pool of water then flips you upside down to simulate a helicopter ditched in the ocean. Then you are to escape from it in the manner they would teach you,” Mr. McCullins said.

The potential astronauts were given a small amount of instruction needed to get out of the submerged helicopter.

“It looked to me like an exercise that was designed to see how quickly you could absorb instructions and successfully carry them out in a stressful environment,” Mr. McCullins said. “It was designed deliberately to be intense.”

The role of the two successful astronauts has yet to be announced by the Canadian Space Agency.

“For now, it looks to be flying long duration missions on the international space station,” Mr. McCullins said.

In April, successful candidates will be invited for a final round of interviews and medical exams. The final selection of candidates will be made in May and the astronauts will report to the NASA Johnson Space Center in August.

Topping Mr. McCullins’ experience in the recruitment program has been working with his fellow candidates.

“There have been some really strong friendships forged, which I suspect will last the rest of our lives,” Mr. McCullins said. “Whoever is selected will absolutely hit the ball out of the park.”

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