My apologies for neglecting to post as frequently as I would have liked to lately! Between the two jobs, just trying to catch my breath and battle burnout; it’s been a lot! I’m now deeply ensconced in a summer tasking, but I wanted to share a speech I had written for my Change of Command Ceremony on 14 June 2023. This ceremony was the end of my 3-year term as Commanding Officer for a local Cadet unit, and it was bittersweet, as it was also my last night with the Corps before I moved on in my career. It was also a time to welcome the new Commanding Officer to the role and a change for the unit.
In this speech, I talk about my leadership style and how I’d do it all over again if I had the chance, negative times included!
COC Speech – 14 June 2023
(Presiding Officer), (Incoming CO) Honoured Guests, League Members, Staff and Cadets, good evening.
Serve Canada before Self, or as Rotarians say, Service Above Self, is one of the principles of Canadian Armed Forces Defense Ethics (with the other two being Respect the Dignity of All Persons and Obey & Support Lawful Authority).
What do I mean by Serve Canada before Self or service above self? According to Rotary (who have the former as our motto), it best conveys the philosophy of unselfish volunteer service or giving back to the community and organizations for the sole purpose of doing good and making a difference in the lives of others. When writing this speech, I was thinking back on COs and leaders I’ve had or have, and how the ones that had the most significant tried to embody this ethos. Because of their influence, I’ve tried to embody this ethos as well.
As I sat preparing my mind for what comes after relinquishing my first command, I reflected on my time as a younger officer and senior Cadet. Looking back to before, you don’t realize it, but as you’re changing and developing yourself, your superiors and your CO are also growing and evolving too while trying to make it seem like they have it mostly figured out (hint, we don’t always, we just know where to look and who to ask)! I’ve been thinking about the significance of how much I’ve changed and grown. I’ve noticed big growth in myself in multiple areas: the ability to adapt my thinking based on latest information presented, learning to go with the flow more, read and interpret policies, be a better public speaker and not be afraid to light some fires when I need to.
The Coxswain mentioned that I attended almost every practice and event, from weekly training to team practices to competitions to parades, to support our Corps and cheer them on. I genuinely believe in our Corps, and knowing I get to be a part of it, even for a little while, is a privilege I try not to take for granted. As much as the burden of command has felt very heavy on my shoulders (almost crushing sometimes), the continuous demands of the one leading the charge in a tumultuous time and the number of times I told (incoming CO), “hey, want to move today up a bit and I’ll call the Area OC now? (He said no)”, I would not have it any other way. The amount of pride I feel about this Corps and the individuals mostly make up for the challenging times, the sleepless nights, and the 60–80-hour work weeks. I know that I gave 100% of what I could provide at the time, 95% of the time. The other 5% is because I am not a robot and have made mistakes. Being your CO has been one of my life’s greatest joys so far, and thank you to all of you for your dedication to our Corps.
To our league partners, thank you for your guidance and support. It was my first term, and I was just learning as I went and adapting as I could. I knew I could always rely on you to ask questions and help me understand. We didn’t always agree, but we figured out a way to work together, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for all of you and all you do to support our Corps.
To the Cadets, I don’t see you as Canada’s next leaders; you are Canada’s young leaders now. I think it’s incredible that we get to be a part of helping you become that. I know it’s what motivates me, even when I’m faced with adversity, to be the best I can be because that’s what you deserve. And you never cease to inspire me to know and do better than I did the day before. To the parents/guardians here, thank you for the opportunity to work with your children and for being so great to work with you and talk to every week.
To the Staff, honestly, I couldn’t have done any of this without you, from our planning meetings filled with lots of discussions and to coaching & mentoring each other & our Cadets, I couldn’t have done any of this without you, and I am fortunate to have you all as parts of my life. We’ve been through a lot as a team. Indeed we’ve had to rebuild our Corps & ourselves and continually re-adjust the plan(s). We’ve challenged and pushed each other along the way, but you’ve all made me a more decisive leader and a better person. I know I say “thank you” to you all at least once a week or more, and you’re likely sick of me saying it, but know that I genuinely mean it, and I don’t want you to forget it.
Finally, I want to thank my family and supporters (some of whom wear dual hats in this speech). To those who are here with me tonight as my support team, those who can’t be here tonight, those who are watching over me now (my Dad, and my grandmothers), and my friends, thank you. You’ve been my sounding board when I needed you, told me what I’m feeling is normal (especially those who have been in the chair before), and given me reality checks. But the biggest thing is, you’ve been there for me. You’ve been there when I thought I couldn’t take one more step or face one more change (and had firmly planted my feet in that mud, refusing to budge), and you’ve been my biggest cheering section.
As for what’s next for me, I will be leaving the Corps, as the time has come to pass the torch, as is tradition for outgoing COs. I won’t be a stranger, nor will I be vanishing completely! You will be with me no matter where I go, and I will always be proud to be a part of the alumni.
My parting advice to you all is to be fearless in pursuing what sets your soul on fire. I knew I wanted to be a CO since I joined the CAF, and I didn’t stop working toward that goal. When I knew I would achieve it, I made it my goal to give the position all the attention it deserves. I kept learning and growing as I went, with my soul afire the entire time (occasionally dimming until I got more oxygen).
I know (the new CO) will keep building on our momentum and has lots of exciting plans for his time (most of them coincidentally being the ones I wanted to implement before a Pandemic got in the way), and I can’t wait to see the new heights that the Corps achieves.
Please join me one last time in a round of applause, thanking my loved ones, our Branch, our Cadets and our Staff.