12 Wing Logistician wins national CAF award
By Joanie Veitch,
On June 7th, Captain Heather Constantine, the current Deputy Wing Administration Officer for 12 Wing Shearwater, was named the 2020 Logistician of the Year (Junior Officer) for the Canadian Armed Forces in a virtual ceremony put on by the Royal Canadian Logistics Service (RCLS).
Recognized for her steadfast leadership and human resource management excellence, the RCLS noted that Capt Constantine “embodies all the qualities of an outstanding RCLS officer — professionalism, dedication, innovation and leadership.”
Capt Constantine, who joined the military as a reservist in 1995 and transferred into the Regular Force in 2016, said she was surprised and humbled to receive the honour. “It’s still sinking in, really,” Capt Constantine said. “I’ve worked with some amazing Log Os out there who do fantastic work, so to be recognized amongst my peers, it’s humbling.
In the notice of her award, RCLS highlighted Capt Constantine’s work in coordinating casualty administration and support activities following the Stalker-22 crash that killed six military members off the coast of Greece last year, and the tragic Snowbird crash in Kamloops, BC less than a month later.
Capt Constantine was posted to 12 Wing’s 406 Maritime (M) Operational Training Squadron in January 2018, before taking on the Lead Administrative Officer position for 12 Wing in December 2019. She said she remembers the day on April 29, 2020 when word came in that a CH-148 Cyclone had crashed in the Ionian Sea.
“I got a call that afternoon and that evening I was at the squadron coordinating the casualty administration and management portion. It was the largest mass casualty event in the Royal Canadian Air Force in recent history,” she said. “My job became coordinating all of the pieces.”
Although she had previous experience coordinating a casualty event as a Designated Assistant, the scale of the tragedy, coupled with COVID-19 restrictions, made the situation especially hard. Coordinating all of the pieces, as Capt Constantine put it, meant following up on many details — large and small — from liaising with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, through their Liaison Officer LCdr Nicole Dugas, and working with Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC), to managing on site at 12 Wing Shearwater, and, of course, supporting the grieving families through Designated Assistants assigned to each family group.
“Casualty management is difficult under the best of circumstances, but in a COVID environment, it is magnified to an extreme. It was a difficult time. Those were very full days.”
Her own family saw very little of her in the days that followed the crash, leading up to the repatriation ceremony at 8 Wing, Trenton on May 6. Capt Constantine gave credit to her two daughters for their support and understanding.
“They knew and accepted that Mom was going to be away from home… It was a hard time but I knew we just had to take it step by step and all work together.”
The next challenge arrived with the tragedy on May 17th, when a Snowbirds aircraft taking part in Operation Inspiration, crashed in Kamloops, BC, killing Captain Jennifer Casey, the Public Affairs Officer from 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron of 15 Wing, Moose Jaw.
Hard lessons learned in the weeks before helped Capt Constantine as she took a lead role in coordinating plans for the homecoming ceremony in Capt Casey’s honour.
“Having that experience with Stalker 22, showed that — in the midst of chaos — having a clear plan to follow would help get us through it. Our goal was to be able to provide for the family the best ceremony and service we could, and to have it be as respectful as possible.”
Capt Constantine’s work during those challenging days and weeks was exemplary, but beyond that,, the award nomination and win reflects the day-to-day work ethic and professionalism she’s shown since starting with 12 Wing in 2018, said Lieutenant-Colonel William Reyno, Commanding Officer at 12 Wing Headquarters
“She stood out at 406 Squadron and was handpicked to take on the Acting Wing Administration Officer role,” said LCol Reyno. “She’s a go-to person on the Wing for her leadership…and stood head and shoulders above other great candidates in winning this award.”