Outgoing 423 Squadron CO credited for leadership during difficult time
By Ryan Melanson,
When Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Thomey took over as Commanding Officer of 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron in July of 2020, those newly under his command were still reeling in the aftermath of the tragic Stalker 22 crash that occurred three months earlier. Four members of 423 Squadron, along with two of their RCN shipmates, were killed when the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter went down in the Ionian Sea.
“It was one of the most challenging times in our squadron’s history,” LCol Thomey said, speaking at the Squadron’s change of command ceremony on July 14, where he handed the reins to LCol Matt Fraser. The ceremony was held ahead of a big weekend for the squadron, which celebrated its 100th anniversary at a gala event the next night.
The outgoing CO said the priorities for his job were to continue providing support for the families of the Stalker 22 members and others impacted by the tragedy, while also working to establish standards of practice that would give his people renewed confidence in the Cyclone platform.
“It was not an easy task, but we showed dedication and commitment to completing this necessary work, and we were able to accomplish the goal of sending helicopters to sea, supporting deployments safely and effectively.”
Since then, 423 has hit new milestones with the Cyclone, including a recent stint that saw three helicopter air detachments deployed at one time.
12 Wing Commander Col Patrick MacNamara praised LCol Thomey for excelling in his role, both as a compassionate representative of the RCAF in being the main contact for the Stalker 22 families, as well as an effective operational leader, frequently putting in long hours and logging flight time with his crews.
This work has allowed 423 to meet the challenging demands of the east coast fleet over the last two years, he said.
“423 has been at the forefront of Canada’s response to global upheaval. They have stepped up and delivered every time.”
LCol Fraser now takes command of 423 as the squadron welcomes home two crews from recent European deployments and prepares to send more to sea in the coming months. He’ll have the support of an old friend during the handover – LCol Fraser noted he completed his BMQ alongside LCol Thomey, the duo even shared an apartment in Halifax earlier in their careers before working together as colleagues.
“Passing the squadron to Matt only seems natural,” LCol Thomey added.
“And I have full confidence that he, with the team working alongside him, will do amazing things.”