RCAF welcomes new Command Chief Warrant Officer

With pens in hand, three men in similar blue uniforms sit at a tartan-covered table with documents in front of them, smiling at the camera, with flags and a framed photograph behind them.
Chief Warrant Officer Denis Gaudreault, the new RCAF chief warrant officer (left); Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, commander of the Air Force; and Chief Warrant Officer Gerard Poitras, outgoing RCAF command chief warrant officer, sign the documents on June 14, 2018, to make the handover official during the Change of Appointment of the Royal Canadian Air Force Chief Warrant Officer in Ottawa, Ontario. PHOTO: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0057-002

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From RCAF Public Affairs

The responsibilities that go with the most senior non-commissioned member’s position in the Royal Canadian Air Force changed hands on June 14, 2018, in Ottawa, Ontario.

The master of ceremonies, Warrant Officer Jean Francois Turcotte, welcomed members of the Air Staff, families and invited guests to the ceremony marking the RCAF command chief warrant officer change of appointment between Chief Warrant Officer Gerard Poitras and Chief Warrant Officer Denis Gaudreault.

The command chief warrant officer (CCWO) serves as the direct link, the liaison, between non-commissioned members of the Air Force and the commander of the Air Force. The RCAF CCWO represents and promotes the welfare of all non-commissioned RCAF members, and also serves as a caretaker of the story, the history and heritage of the command.

Chief Warrant Officer Poitras had held the position since June 2015, when he made the move from the same position with the Canadian Joint Operations Command in Ottawa.

“It was a great ceremony,” he said about his handover to Chief Warrant Officer Gaudreault. “I was pleased to see the senior leadership present, and extremely happy about the fact that my three children—two of them airmen—were able to attend, with their spouses.”

During the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer Poitras was presented with a beautiful old wooden propeller. Its significance for him, he said, is twofold. “First, the one thing that comes to mind when you see a propeller is an airplane so, to me, it signifies what separates the RCAF from the other elements, which is the fact that ‘we own’ aircraft. Second—and most important—is that the propeller is the rank that an NCO [non-commissioned officer] gets presented upon his or her first promotion, and, as I happened to end my career wearing the senior-most rank in the RCAF, it has special significance for me.”

Chief Warrant Officer Poitras joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1983. From Tracadie, New Brunswick, he began his career in the Canadian Armed Forces as a traffic technician and, later, a loadmaster. Over the course of his career, he has put in about 4,500 flying hours and has deployed on operations at home and elsewhere.

“As I have been a chief warrant officer for 11 years and a senior chief warrant officer for about nine years, dealing with some important files and having an extremely busy schedule,” he said several days after the ceremony, “my plan for the summer is simply to get some rest and relaxation. I`m also looking forward to doing the things I haven`t had time to do during the last few years—fishing, gardening, and keeping up with my fitness.

“My future plans include employment of some sort, but I will decide where and in what capacity during this summer.”

The newly-appointed RCAF CCWO, Chief Warrant Officer Denis Gaudreault, joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1983 as a Navy signalman and, 16 months later, was posted to Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Ottawa and immediately deployed on a six-month tour with Standing Naval Force Atlantic. About four years later, he applied for and was granted an occupation transfer as an airborne electronic sensor operator.

Between then and now, he has served elsewhere in Canada, completed deployments to Italy, Southwest Asia, and Afghanistan, and served in several capacities in the National Capital Region. Chief Warrant Officer Gaudreault has accumulated more than eight years of sea time and about 3,000 flying hours on the CH-124 Sea King helicopter and the CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft.

“It was such an amazing day!” Chief Warrant Officer Gaudreault said about the change of appointment ceremony. “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to share this day with friends and family, and the great RCAF team.

“Having been in the joint environment for the last few years, I had the opportunity to see the outstanding work of our airmen and airwomen on both domestic and expeditionary operations, and I can tell you that I am extremely humbled and honored to be coming back to this great RCAF family, and working alongside our great commander, Lieutenant-General Meinzinger, and the entire team.

“I look forward to working and meeting personally our wonderful airmen and airwomen on their wings, in their squadrons, ‎and on deployed operations,” he said, “I am extremely proud of them, and to be part of their team.”

Lieutenant-General Meinzinger expressed his pleasure at the turnout for the change of appointment ceremony, and put into words the emotions engendered by such ceremonies.

“As all of those who have enjoyed the privilege of command or senior appointment would know,” he said, “today is one filled with mixed emotions for one family and raw excitement for another, as we say goodbye to a highly respected member of the RCAF, and welcome another.

“This normal transition in our leadership is unique to our profession and, of course, we underline such occasions with a parade or a ceremony such as today’s. This reflects the importance that we place on command and senior leadership in our organization.

“As you know, the RCAF command chief warrant officer plays an essential role in ensuring success in our mission by working hand and glove with the commander RCAF, the CAF and RCAF senior CWO network. The RCAF CWO is the battle buddy to the commander RCAF and command team partner. He or she is the confidant of the commander, a sage voice of reason, a provider of professional perspective that is grounded in decades of professional experience and excellence in the RCAF.”

Lieutenant-General Meinzinger made special note of the work and hours that Chief Warrant Officer Poitras devoted to the presentation of the new RCAF Colours in autumn 2017 in Toronto, Ontario.

“Your collaborative efforts … to develop the new Colours and conceive of an appropriate ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square turned vision into reality. The following laying up of the Air Command Colours in the Air Canada Centre was a poignant moment for all of us who serve and have served in the RCAF, and we owe you a great deal for this achievement.

“Simply put, CWO Poitras has given his heart and soul to the men and women of the RCAF over the last three years and, in doing so, will be forever remembered as a sterling example of what the RCAF needs within the senior leadership cadre.

“I know I speak for all members of the RCAF – and many more across the Canadian Armed Forces and among our civilian colleagues – when I say you will be deeply missed. The RCAF is a better institution because of you, your professionalism, your caring and your dedication.

“I’m very proud of you, Gerry, and I know Lieutenant-General Hood is as well. Thank you for everything you have done!

“Now, let me say a few words about the new guy,” Lieutenant-General Meinzinger General Meinzinger said, outlining for the attendees the interwoven service histories of Chief Warrant Officers Poitras and Gaudreault.

“Chief Warrant Officer Gaudreault, this key transitional moment may bring back memories, as this is not the first time you’ve followed in Chief Warrant Officer Poitras’ footsteps. In fact, you took the baton from him as wing chief warrant officer for the Joint Task Force-Afghanistan Air Wing in 2009. And, if that wasn’t enough, you also took over from him at Canadian Joint Operations Command, having replaced him as CJOC chief warrant officer. “To some, this may seem a bit unusual or unorthodox. The reality is that these two gentlemen are cut from the same cloth in terms of their dedication and sense of service to the RCAF. Like Chief Warrant Officer Poitras, Chief Warrant Officer Gaudreault has a proven operational record as aircrew and as wing chief warrant officer at a flying wing.

“Over the last few years, while travelling around the world with Lieutenant-General Bowes, he has become familiar with operational realities and the demands they place on the Canadian Armed Forces. As a result, he is very sensitive to what we ask of our personnel and their loved ones, and will no doubt be a great advocate for their well-being.

“Denis, I look forward to having you by my side as a member of the command team and on the ice as the stalwart defenceman that I know you are. I have no doubt that you will throw your heart and soul into this critical leadership post and will accomplish great things.

“Your proven leadership will be critical to our efforts to build the Air Force of 2030 and beyond by focusing on our amazing people, delivering on our new Defence Policy, our program and enhancing our posture.

“I know you care deeply about RCAF families and the rich mosaic of RCAF history and heritage which inspires us to move forward with purpose. I look forward to the many interesting conversations we will have on the issues that are ahead of us. I look forward to your candid input and guidance.

“You are a tremendous example to us all, and I would like to officially welcome you and Debbie to the RCAF team.”

Image gallery

  • With pens in hand, three men in similar blue uniforms sit at a tartan-covered table with documents in front of them, smiling at the camera, with flags and a framed photograph behind them.
  • Two men stand holding a framed certificate between them.
  • A smiling man stands at a lectern.
  • Three men seated behind a table reach for pens in front of them.
  • A flat round item, edged in gold, with a crest in the centre.
  • Four people.
  • Six men.
  • Three men sit at a table, and three women stand behind them.
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