Governor General visits 17 Wing
By Martin Zeilig – The Voxair
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, the 29th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, visited 17 Wing Winnipeg on November 27, 2018.
Julie Payette, a native of Montreal, Quebec, was an astronaut, engineer, scientific broadcaster and corporate director, before becoming Governor General. From 1992 to 2013, the Governor General, who speaks six languages, worked as an astronaut and flew two missions in space. She also served many years as CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, and was Chief Astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency.
Her Excellency, wearing a green flight suit with a space flight patch on shoulder, was shown around 16 Hangar, the home of 435 Transport and Search Squadron and 402 City of Winnipeg Squadron. Brigadier-General Mario Leblanc, Commander 2 Canadian Air Division and Colonel Eric Charron, Wing Commander, 17 Wing Winnipeg, hosted the visit.
“It’s a great honour having her visit us,” Colonel Charron said. He also remarked that the Governor General is a great speaker, noting that she spoke “a little bit” about her experience in space and mentioned that she saw Manitoba “for about a minute” from the International Space Station.
“Just last month we provided a Guard of Honour from 17 Wing to Detachment Dundurn when she went to Saskatchewan for the first time,” Col Charron said.
Master Corporal Chad Banks, an aviation systems technician at 435 Sqn, said Governor General Payette’s visit was a once in a lifetime opportunity. “It’s nice to have people of her stature come in and see what we do,” he added.
During an inspection inside the flight deck of the C-130 Hercules, led by Captain Gail Beaudoin, a pilot with 435 Sqn, Governor General Payette engaged members of the media. “We are open for business,” she continued in response to a question about her message for Canadians. “We welcome people. We are based on values of freedom, openness and democracy.”
“However, we also have defence,” she continued. “That’s very important. It ensures the sovereignty of our borders and to defend ourselves. We’ll answer the call for other people in need, our friends and allies. That’s why we need to be ready all the time.”
Governor General Payette praised the Canadian Armed Forces for their ability to help out “right here on the ground in Canada” when there’s a natural disaster.
“I had the privilege of training as a Canadian Air Force pilot at CFB Moose Jaw,” she said. “That was before I was sent to train as an astronaut at NASA. It really prepared me very well. By the time I ended up at NASA, I was very qualified because I had the opportunity to train with the best.”
“I’m very much at home here. I’m part of the military family. Whenever I come to a base I really feel at home. My time at 17 Wing has been too short. We’re already making plans to return, and to go out on a mission with Search and Rescue and see how they operate,” she added.
Governor General Payette also noted that members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) spend a lot of time just keeping their skills sharpened.
“That’s true of astronauts too,” she emphasized. “You’ve got to be ready every day. It requires continuous training. They (the CAF) have great career opportunities for young people, by the way.”
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