CWO conference in Halifax focused on improvements for members and families
By Ryan Melanson,
Even for some of the CAF’s most senior non-commissioned members, who have decades of service time, stepping on board an RCN frigate can still be a unique experience.
That’s why it was made sure a day sail with HMCS Charlottetown was on the agenda as a group of 50 Chief Warrant Officers and Chief Petty Officers First Class travelled to Halifax from September 25-27 for the annual CAF Chief Warrant Officers Conference. With chiefs from across the country as part of the group, as well as a few who came from postings abroad, some of them were seeing the home of the Atlantic Fleet for the first time.
“We’re all away from our offices, coming from all over Canada, and being here in Halifax, it’s one of the only places in Canada where we can find Army, Navy, Air Force, and SOF, our four force generators, all in one place,” said CWO Alain Guimond, the CAF Chief Warrant Officer and leader of the conference.
“But of course Halifax is the home of the Navy and where we’re building our Navy, so there is naturally a bit of a focus on the Navy.”
The day at sea was complete with flyovers from the CP-140 Aurora and CH-148 Cyclone, and the CWO team had plenty of time to interact with junior members and the rest of the crew. They had similar experiences through the week through visits with 12 Wing Shearwater, SOF, and 5 Cdn Div facilities, and CWO Guimond had a lot of praise for the members who met with the CWOs, spoke about their jobs and gave equipment demonstrations during the tours.
“They were very professional and well spoken; they knew who they were talking to and were not intimidated. I don’t know if I could have done the same when I was in their place,” he said.
While the group spent their afternoons visiting facilities and meeting members, mornings were spent at Juno Tower going through the nuts and bolts of the conference, with briefings, discussions and working groups. Leading the conference for the first time after stepping into the CAF CWO role earlier this year, CWO Guimond said a focus for the week was exploring how the members at the CWO and CPO1 rank level can become better communicators and do more to improve the CAF experience for those below them.
“We’re here to help people. Years ago, when I joined, the Chief Warrant Officer was there to yell and discipline people,” CWO Guimond joked.
“Today, things are different. What can we do to retain our people? To keep them happy and make them want to stay? We’re asking those kinds of questions. This is not only about the soldiers, but their families as well.”
Those questions around the morale and wellbeing of CAF members and their families fit into the larger initiative that Military Personnel Command has dubbed the Canadian Armed Forces Journey, focused on modernizing aspects of the CAF to benefit its people. This was a major focus for one morning of the conference, while subsequent days focused on identifying needed training and education for CWOs and CPO1s, as well as the Strategic Employment Model project, an ongoing effort to refocus the CWO and CPO1 rank on leadership roles only and reduce the overall number of members at the rank level.
Every attendee of the conference currently works for a general officer or flag officer, and busy days mean communication among the group via phone or email is difficult. Gathering the most senior NCMs once a year allows for a deeper exploration of issues and projects, and gets everyone on the same page for the year ahead.
“We’re doing a lot of good work this week, and these things are going to help me, and they’re going to help the Canadian Armed Forces in the future. This isn’t about us, because we’re all soon to retire. We’re trying to do work that will help the people coming behind us,” CWO Guimond said.