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A bitter-sweet military goodbye

Military commander bids farewell to the North

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 12/02) - Canadian Forces Northern Area Commander Col. Kevin McLeod is leaving the North to tackle a top-level position in Ottawa next week.

McLeod will take on a position as national operations officer for the Canadian Armed Forces after he and his family arrive in Ottawa on Aug. 20.

"Well the job is a challenging job ... and I look forward to the challenges it offers as Canada gets engaged in operations around the world.

"It will be my responsibility to prepare and get the troops ready to meet those challenges ... it's an interesting time in the Canadian Forces, post-Sept. 11, and it's an interesting time to be engaged on the operational side," he said.

McLeod will be replaced by Col. Norris Pettis, who recently returned to Canada from a posting in Saudi Arabia.

The change of command ceremony will take place tomorrow at noon at the CFNA headquarters in Yellowknife.

"As of after the signature is on the piece of paper, I am gone," said McLeod with a hint of regret in his voice.

The commander of the CFNA is normally a two or three-year posting. McLeod's two years are now up and his time in the North has come to an end.

"A command in any military organization is the best job. We've had an excellent experience here, an excellent time and I've grown both professionally and personally.

"Any time you leave a post that you put your heart and soul into you leave some emotional strings behind, and then you move onto the next one. That's how life in the military is," he said, sitting in the spacious and tastefully decorated office he has called his own for the past two years.

His wife and three children have developed as deep a passion for Yellowknife as he has and they are also saddened at their upcoming departure.

"The people were great and all around it's just been a certainly wonderful experience," he said.

The warmth and unique Northern hospitality Yellowknife residents are renowned for is what made McLeod and his family fall in love with the community.

But the move is just one more "normal" part of the military lifestyle. In fact, McLeod said he believes frequent mobility is one of the strengths of the Canadian military.

"I think one of the strengths of the military force is it can bring in new blood, it can bring in new ideas and based on the success of the old regime, we move capabilities forward," he said.

The change of command will be a smooth and organized transition. McLeod said all information has been passed on to Pettis via briefings and a week spent travelling throughout the North, visiting various communities.

"When I leave he immediately takes over, so it's a seamless transfer," said McLeod.

He said he hopes to have the opportunity to visit the North again in the future when the military conducts its army exercises here.

"I think it's important that the commander of the army and his principal staff come and visit the North and see the issues and challenges," he said.

For his final words, McLeod said he has been "extremely privileged and proud" to be the commander of the CFNA for the past two years.