April 2024 marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and they are looking back at how the force has changed and where it wants to go.
According to Col. Maggie Jacula, they will be keeping in stride with a moto: “your air force.” She says this has become a new focal point, looking back on how they used to focus their attention.
“I think one of the things that I really love is that when we look back 100 years ago, we really focus on the pilots and the planes of the ‘20s,” said Jacula. “When you look at the air force now, some of the stories we’re going to tell are all the different men and women of different backgrounds, different trades, different ranks.
“We’re really going to make sure with the centennial that we’re highlighting all the other people that have contributed to the air force.”
Jacula adds one of the biggest focal points of the centennial will be building public awareness of who the air force is through a number of initiatives. They include the RCAF Run, local events at the museum, refurbishments to the Courtenay Air Park and an e-gaming tournament called RCAF Game Force.
“We did public opinion research last year. Of the folks that said they recognized the roundel, only about 16 per cent said they knew the roundel represents the RCAF,” added Jacula.
A big part of the centennial are honorary colonels. The RCAF says they are often former air force officers or distinguished Canadian citizens and provide a connection between the air force and the surrounding community for three-year periods, with around 70 across the country.
Hon. Col. Robert Quartermain is the honorary colonel for 19 Wing Comox. Working in the mining industry, he says he works to bridge the gap between the business community and the base.
He adds that for himself, he is looking forward to sprucing up the heritage air park for the celebrations.
“So many people in the community benefit by going and enjoying the air park, but as you may notice a few of the planes could do with a wash,” said Quartermain. “One of our plans is going to be refurbishing those aircraft, and in addition we have an aircraft here called the Vampire.”
Fundraising to preserve the Vampire is about 40 per cent along the way, according to Quartermain. They need around $1 million and have the goal of putting the plane in the park for the centennial.
Hon. Col. Loreena McKennitt is also looking forward to the celebrations. McKennitt, who is an award-winning Canadian singer, says she got involved after her husband died in a water accident in Europe, and the work she did fundraising following the incident.
She says it was a big learning experience about how much the RCAF is involved in the country outside of wars and is very excited to be a part of the celebrations.
“One of the very first things I learned was that there’s combat, there’s peace-making, there’s peace keeping, there’s sovereignty control, there’s search and rescue, there’s transport, there’s disaster relief,” said McKennitt.
She adds her favourite part of being the program is being able to serve others of who serve for the country, and hopes to start working in schools more frequently to talk to young people about career paths in the military.
Jacula adds being able to celebrate 100 years is a huge milestone as there are not many organizations that can celebrate a century of involvement in the country.