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This year, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is celebrating 100 years of serving and protecting Canadians. As Canada’s trusted defence partner, Lockheed Martin Canada has proudly contributed to this history and supported the RCAF in its mission of keeping Canadian skies secure.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RCAF, we interviewed Lockheed Martin Canada employees with previous Air Force careers to hear about their experiences and learn what RCAF100 means to them.

First in our series is Gennifer Stainforth, Sustainment Strategy and Integration Lead at Lockheed Martin Canada. She reflects on her exciting RCAF career and how this experience impacts her work now with Lockheed Martin Canada.

The start of an inspiring career:

When Gen enrolled in the Royal Canadian Army Cadets in high school, she never would have guessed that this experience would shape the course of the rest of her life. It was a transformative opportunity which inspired her to pursue a career with the Canadian military:

“I wanted to make a difference in the world and to lead people. I loved working in a large and structured organization and inspiring people to work together towards a common vision. I enjoyed mathematics and decided that I wanted to study engineering at the Royal Military College. I remember visiting the recruiting office several times to see how soon I could apply. At 17-years-old, they finally let me with my parents’ permission. I tried to join the Canadian Army as a military engineer, but at the time they were looking to recruit women to become air crew. They asked me if I wanted to spend an all-expenses paid week in Toronto at Air Crew Selection and it seemed like a fun idea. The next thing I knew I had an offer of early acceptance for RMC as an Air Navigator.”

Coming from a family with deep RCAF roots, starting her own career with the RCAF connected Gen to her family’s history:

“My Great Uncle Allan was sure excited—it turned out he was an Air Navigator himself back in the day, and my grandfather was also very pleased as he had been a radar technician in the RCAF during the second world war. I also learned that my Great Aunt Marg was a nurse in the RCAF. I guess being the RCAF ran in our family, and it seemed that it was my destiny.”

What does the RCAF Centennial mean to Gen?

She explains, it’s about honoring a distinct heritage while also looking forward:

“Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force should give us pause as Canadians—and also as Lockheed Martin employees. What a legacy—and what a bright future!

Since the early days, Gen’s time in the air force has been intertwined with Lockheed Martin Canada. She spent her orientation summer flying three iconic Lockheed aircraft: the CH-124 Sea King, the CC-130 Hercules and the CP-140 Aurora II.

“I think of my third summer in the RCAF where I was assigned to three separate units for orientation training. Luckily for me, I started the summer at 12 Wing Shearwater to fly on the resilient and extremely flexible CH-124 Sea King. Next, I got to fly on the mighty workhorse of the RCAF—the CC-130 Hercules—out of 8 Wing in Trenton. On one hot summer night, I was strapped to the monkey tail with the ramp open and thought that it was the most fun that I had ever experienced. I finished my summer orientation at 14 Wing Greenwood flying 10-hour missions on the sleek greyhound of anti-submarine warfare which I later so fondly referred to as the flying Winnebago: the CP-140 Aurora.

All of these aircraft were built by what is now Lockheed Martin. Our RCAF is still operating three fleets built by our company and will soon operate a fourth with the delivery of the F-35A Lightning II. We are all part of this proud RCAF history.”

How her RCAF experience supports her work at LMC:

Today, Gen is the Sustainment Strategy and Integration Lead at Lockheed Martin Canada, where she helps navigate the federal government’s processes to enhance existing sustainment solutions and to win new contracts for sustainment work. She notices similarities between the two roles every day.

“It is easy to draw a few parallels. Working in a large and diverse organization that is focused on a common mission is one. My favourite part about being in the RCAF was being part of fantastic teams, tackling challenges together, and learning new things every day. Now as part of Lockheed Martin Canada, I work with great people; we collaborate to solve problems, and goodness knows we learn new things every day. When I think about the experiences that I had in the RCAF, I think about facing adversity and uncertainty together – I find that comradery every day at Lockheed Martin.”

“As the Sustainment Strategy and Integration Lead here at LM Canada, I know firsthand from my RCAF experience what it is like to try to do the job with equipment that is no longer fit for purpose—and that memory motivates me every day to support our teams in supporting our customers in sustaining RCAF fleets.”

Bud White RMC Class of 1948-1952 Secretary and Gennifer Stainforth at the 2023 Abbotsford Air Show.

Advice for those considering joining the RCAF?

Go all in with both feet and hold nothing back, Gen encourages!

“It is a fantastic time to join the RCAF. Canada is about to acquire new fleets of aircraft and new equipment and there is such a bright future. Canadians need RCAF aviators of the future. What I can say is that I am so proud to count myself an RCAF veteran. I had the privilege of serving with some of the finest Canadians and I am sure that anyone who decides to join today will eventually feel the same way.”

Gen’s own experience in the RCAF motivates her to support Canada’s defence in her current role.

When asked what would be the one thing about the RCAF she would share with Canadians, Gen points to acknowledging the commitment from the personnel.

“The women and men in the RCAF have dedicated their lives to the safety and security of our nation. They have given all of themselves, sacrificing time with family, life choices, and often their own well-being to defend our country at home and abroad.

As members of the defence industry we owe them our best in supporting them in the work that we do—making the best equipment and providing the best services that we can.”

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