12 Wing Air Person of the Year

Warrant Officer Sandra Leaman, a supply technician with 12 Air Maintenance Squadron, was recently named 12 Wing’s Air Person of the Year.

WO Sandra Leaman named 12 Wing Air Person of the Year

By 2Lt Leo Zhou,
12 Wing Public Affairs

WO Leaman as a member of the Colour Party at the Wing Change of Command Ceremony at 12 Wing Shearwater on July 18, 2019.

“In the field, giving troops an extra box of glow sticks or baby wipes can really make their day better,” says WO Sandra Leaman. “It’s very rewarding to be able to provide support to other members.” WO Leaman is a Supply Technician (Supply Tech) and the Deputy Maritime Helicopter Logistics Officer at 12 Air Maintenance Squadron. In this role she primarily supports the Helicopter Air Detachments (HELAIRDETS). “We ensure the HELAIRDETS get things like spare parts since COVID-19 started we’ve also been busy purchasing hand sanitizer, signs, and other items for 12 Wing.”

On July 10, 2020, WO Leaman won the 12 Wing Shearwater Air Person of the Year Award for her dedication and work ethic. Her chain of command describes her as, “A team player who always volunteers time for her unit.” From volunteering for deployments and Flag Parties to coordinating unit morale events, WO Leaman’s expertise and willingness to do more was recognized at the wing’s annual Honours and Awards ceremony at the Sea King Club.   

Originally from Cow Bay, Nova Scotia, WO Leaman joined the Canadian Army in 2002 at the age of 17. “I had no family in the military and actually went to the recruiting centre because of a friend from high school,” she says. “Her parents wanted her to join and she agreed to speak to a recruiter if I came with her, we both ended up joining.”

After trade training at CFB Borden, WO Leaman was posted to CFB Gagetown in July 2003 where she handled kit receipts and issues at Base Supply. In January 2004 she was deployed to Bosnia for three months. “Canada was pulling out at the time and when I went over, we were starting to tear stuff down,” she says. “When going out we didn’t need to be fully kitted out because most of the fighting had ended, though being a small town girl, it was a big culture shock seeing all the damage. Things like holes in the roofs of homes and burnt out cars in the ditch, it was eye opening.”

In 2006, WO Leaman was promoted to Corporal and began working at the Quarter Master shop for 2 Royal Canadian Regiment, responsible for issuing and receiving weapons, ammunition and field equipment. She went to Afghanistan from February to August 2007 with the National Support Element, where she was responsible for high-priority orders. “I spent a lot of time at the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and it was nice to be the main Supply Tech at the FOBs,” she says. “Close to 70 percent of my deployment was in the FOBs.”

WO Sandra Leaman in front of a United States Army Black Hawk helicopter during her deployment to Afghanistan in February 2007.

Getting from place to place was especially challenging in Afghanistan. “When riding in the convoys our senses were always heightened, we did a year of work up training so we pretty much knew what to expect, I rode in the right seat of a supply truck to the first FOB, a UH-60 Black Hawk to the second FOB, and a Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) to the third; riding in the Black Hawk was definitely cool.” The FOBs had facilities such as modular tents, a field kitchen, and showers. “We would only shower every couple of days because we never knew when or if the next supply convoy would arrive with water, so having baby wipes was great,” she says. “As for food, we had cooks but out on convoys we would eat rations.”

WO Leaman, received her Air Person of the Year Award on August 31, 2020.

WO Leaman got married and had her first son in 2008. In 2010 she was a part of Operation PODIUM, the CAF’s contribution to security at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. “I was very fortunate to be able to go down to Vancouver quite often, I got to see the rings in the harbour turn gold when Canada got a gold medal,” she says. “It was my first time in British Columbia and I was in awe at how beautiful it was.”

“My husband and I were posted to 14 Wing Greenwood in 2011, it was my first introduction to the Air Force,” she says. It was also the year WO Leaman’s daughter was born. In 2012 WO Leaman was promoted to Master Corporal and in 2015 she was deployed to North Sinai, Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers on Operation CALUMET for three months. “During my time there, the posture changed and things became more hostile,” she says, “our camp was hit with mortars, IEDs were being placed, and we had several stand-tos, and more insurgents were moving into the area.” The following year she was promoted to Sergeant and returned to the Sinai from October 2017 to April 2018. “The second time things were much more relaxed, we were in South Sinai this time around.”

In July 2018, WO Leaman was posted to 12 Wing and deployed to CFS Alert for a month in the spring of 2019. “It was always on my bucket list so I saw everything I could while up there,” she says. Later that year, WO Leaman assisted with Exercise CUTLASS FURY and immediately after was off to France on a C-17 to hand deliver high-priority materials to the deployed Cyclone HELAIRDET in HMCS Halifax. “During CUTLASS FURY my boss asked if I was interested and not being one to shy away from trying new things, I took the tasking.”

When asked how she gets to do so many cool things at work, she says: “The first thing I tell people is to look for the positives of every opportunity. When they’re looking for volunteers, always put your hand up and see the world. Whether it’s a parade, or a tasking, you never know what it will be like until you go, so always volunteer.”