“Where have 35 years gone?”
Chief Warrant Officer Miles Barham posed that question on November 9, 2012, as he prepared to hand over his appointment as Chief Warrant Officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force to Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West. CWO Barham held the position of the most senior non-commissioned member of the RCAF for two and a half years.
The change of appointment ceremony took place in Ottawa; among the guests were Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cléroux, Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer, numerous chief warrant officers from across the Canadian Forces and many senior officers, including Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin, Commander of the Canadian Army, Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, and Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, former Commander of the RCAF.
The RCAF chief warrant officer is an integral member of the RCAF command team, leads the Air Force non-commissioned members (NCMs) and advises the commander of the RCAF on matters affecting all NCMs who wear air force blue.
In his farewell remarks, CWO Barham praised the accomplishments of the RCAF chief warrant officers’ team. “We’ve done some tremendous things, especially in the ten years since 9/11,” he said. He emphasized the importance of taking care of people. “We’re all about people and that’s the biggest thing we should be concerned about.”
Over the past two and a half years, he noted, “we worked on effects” and raising the level of operational training for non-commissioned members.
In the future, he said, mentorship will be a key to success. And he also pledged that there would be a stronger emphasis on traditions and heritage among RCAF NCMs. “We need an understanding of where we came from and where we’re going.”
As one of his last official acts, CWO Barham presented the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to four RCAF NCMs: Master Warrant Officer Annie Donaldson-Dilello, the RCAF CWO’s executive assistant; MWO Bryan Keith Pierce, a search and rescue technician currently employed at the United States Air Force Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in Montgomery, Alabama (MWO Pierce is one of only 20 recipients of the Cross of Valour, which is Canada’s second highest decoration for bravery and surpassed only by the Victoria Cross); CWO (retired) Roger Bouchard, who led the initiative put in place a succession planning process for RCAF NCMs; and CWO West.
“CWO Barham is the product of 35 years of good recruiting, good training and good mentorship,” said Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin, Commander of the RCAF during the ceremony.
“You impress us all,” he told CWO Barham. “You put your heart out there and that’s the way you’ve been throughout your career. On behalf of all of us, and the men and women who you’ve represented over the past two and a half years – thank you for your service.”
Turning to CWO West, he said, “I’m really counting on you to push the Air Force to where it has to go. We’re going to be busy.”
“We will have challenges, and we’ll overcome them by being a family and working together,” said CWO West after co-signing the documents appointing him as RCAF CWO.
“I vow to support all of our personnel and their families [and] to accomplish the missions with the excellence we’re renowned for.
“Equipment doesn’t accomplish missions,” he reminded the guests. “People do. I want to move the yardsticks on helping our great people.”
CWO West also noted that CWO Barham had been RCAF CWO when the historical designation ‘Royal Canadian Air Force’ was restored. “This is a historical event. [CWO Barham] is ending his tenure as the last Air Command Chief Warrant Officer and the first Chief Warrant Officer of the modern RCAF.”
Finally, he noted, “It is a true honour and privilege to have been appointed as your RCAF Chief Warrant Officer.”
CWO Barham has retired from the Regular Force, and has transferred to the Reserve Force. He and his wife continue to reside in eastern Ontario.