New era for MARLANT/JTFA as RAdm Baines takes command
By Ryan Melanson,
Through his four years in command of MARLANT and JTFA, RAdm John Newton became known for his unorthodox and colourful leadership style, something that was clearly reflected in the ceremony as the formation said goodbye to the outgoing commander on September 1.
Sing-a-longs, props, a few tears and lots of laughter were all part of the Change of Command Ceremony, which saw RAdm Craig Baines, former Commander of CANFLTLANT, take over from the man who served as his boss for the previous years.
With plenty of serving and retired colleagues present, including VAdm Ron Lloyd, Commander RCN, along with family, friends and members of the wider Halifax community, RAdm Newton pointed out some of the highlights of his time in command. From seeing the completion of the HCM/FELEX process, to pushing HMCS Windsor through hundreds of days at sea, to deploying personnel to a range of operations and exercises that broke from RCN routine and created new avenues for the Navy.
“I wanted us to learn and undertake international relationships we’ve never tried before, to step outside the comfort zone of key enabling allies and push a statement through new partners. If it was hard, or impossible, I wanted to try, because there’s nobody after us to do it,” he said.
He had many thanks for the different people, units, and organizations who supported him and the formation since 2013, and wielding an oversized wrench for effect, gave a special shout out to the civilian engineers and other staff at FMF Cape Scott, instructing the Stadacona Band to play a rendition of Taking Care of Business in honour of the workforce. The band later led a sing-a-long of Heave Away at the Admiral’s request, and also had a surprise in store with the first performance of the newly-composed RAdm Newton March.
He was never shy about his love for the Arctic, and RAdm Newton mentioned advancing Navy operations in Canada’s North as one of the proudest achievements through his command, one that connected with his personal passions for the Northern land and the communities of largely Indigenous Canadians who populate them.
“One of the best ways we can show substantive progress on inclusivity and diversity is by ensuring sailors, soldiers, and airmen and women are sent forth regularly to the coastal and aboriginal communities across the breadth of the north,” he said.
“Contact between service personnel and Aboriginal communities is essential in demonstrating that the Canadian Armed Forces serves all Canadians.”
MARLANT also made large strides in connecting with local Indigenous communities and potential Indigenous recruits in the last four years, and HCol Donald Julien, a CAF veteran and member of the Mi’kmaw Grand Council, was on hand to recognize RAdm Newton for that work. He was presented with a framed ceremonial Eagle Feather, an acknowledgement of ‘love, appreciation, and respect,’ for his work supporting CAF Aboriginal programs, for visiting local community events and powwows, and for generally strengthening MARLANT’s relationship with Indigenous people in Nova Scotia.
“There is no higher honour than to receive an Eagle Feather from a Mi’kmaw elder and member of the Mi’kmaw grand council,” HCol Julien said.
RAdm Newton also received kind words from his successor, as RAdm Baines thanked him for the vision, energy and creativity he brought to the job. Because the two worked so closely together during what the incoming Commander described as a three-year job shadow, the formation can expect much of the same strong leadership it’s used to, he said.
“You won’t see a lot of differences. One of the best things about working with RAdm Newton over the last three years is that he and I are completely in sync and aligned as to the direction the East Coast fleet should be moving in and how we conduct our operations.”
RAdm Baines said he was excited above all else to be stepping into the role, with HMCS Harry DeWolf and other new ships on the way, and after working with base staff and sailing with the fleet extensively as CCFL, he said he has nothing but confidence in the formation he’s now been tasked to lead.
“When I arrived here for the first time in 1989 as a Sub-Lieutenant, I could never have imagined I’d be standing here in this position,” he said.
“I’m humbled and it’s an absolute honour.”