The Rotary Club of Belleville welcomed 8 Wing Commander Colonel Leighton James to their lunch meeting on Thursday, November 9th along with Honorary Colonel Julie Ann Lange.  Introduced by Past President Shannon Neely who shared Colonel James' biography with the Club.  Colonel James earned his Canadian Air Force wings in 2004 after completing his bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Toronto.  During his career, Colonel James has conducted numerous search and rescue missions, served as Aircraft Commander, Pilot Leader and Hercules Flight Commander.  In 2009, Col. James became a pilot instructor at the Hercules Operational Training Unit at 8 Wing Trenton, eventually holding the position of Deputy Commanding Officer at the Squadron.  Col. James has also participated in numerous humanitarian missions within Canada and has been deployed internationally  both in Haiti and Qatar.  He was promoted to his current rank in 2015 after completing a master's degree in Defence Studies at the Joint Command and Staff College in Toronto.  Command of 424 Squadron involved saving the lives of citizens on a daily basis.  In 2020 Col. James was appointed as Joint Air Component Coordination Element Director at the Canadian Joint Operations Command and upon completion of the National Security Program at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto he subsequently was posted to CJOC as the Special Advisor to the Commander.  Honorary Colonel Julie Ann Lange was appointed  as Hon. Col. of 436 Transport Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton effective September 2015 in a four year term.  Hon. Col. Lange has been an active volunteer with the Quinte Regional Children's Foundation and founder of their "Helping Hands' program which led to her being honoured with the prestigious Guardian Angel Award.  She is the past chair of Quinte Hospice and past Treasurer and Board Member of Trenton Memorial Hospital.  Hon. Col. has supported numerous other charities and committees, raising funds for the Trenton Memorial Hospital and Wounded Warriors Canada and founding an education bursary for children and spouses of 436 Squadron members..  A proud supporter of Canada's military as the daughter of a Second World War veteran and granddaughter of a First World War veteran.  Welcome both today.
Colonel James pointed out that command is something very special, cannot be taken lightly or done pridefully.  It is an honour and must be done with humility.  Having said that, Col. James feels Canadians need to hear about the world's instability and its overall impact.  The world is a dynamic and fast changing place that is difficult to predict.  Just think about the past four years with a worldwide pandemic, record high interest rates, a traditional WWII style war of attrition in Europe, political polarization and now a hot war in the middle east.  The reality is that the places where you expect conflict are rarely where conflict emerges.  In 1924, Senator Raoul Dandurand said that "Canada is a fireproof house, far from flammable materials".  Oceans that separated Canada from Europe protected it from harm.  The developing industrial might of the U.S. to our south and the Arctic to the north meant that Canada was untouchable and this sentiment remains in Canadian DNA today.  All of this leads to a perception of being invincible.   Our adversaries know they cannot challenge western might on the battlefield, but they can challenge the power by fracturing our societies and this type of reflexive control is everywhere.  Democracy as a way of government is on decline and authoritarian regimes are on the rise.  Information has become more important than knowledge and knowledge more important than wisdom.  In 1968 Walter Cronkite was a trusted deliverer of unbiased news, but today, that trust is difficult to identify.  We must acknowledge that geography is no longer enough to protect our interests.
The close to 5,000 people at 8 Wing touch everything that happens in the Canadian Armed Forces.  Another way of saying that is to say that everything that happens in the world, happens to 8 Wing.   The 39 units in total at 8 Wing cross all components and aspects of our military.  With a budget of around 170 million and a salary base of around 260 million, the wing contributes approximately 350 million dollars in direct and indirect economic benefit to our community.  8 Wing is the cornerstone of CAF operations.  But the most valuable resource is the people that consist of 8 Wing.  Our recent interventions in Israel evacuated 1600 people, launched at a moment's notice from across vast distances.  Trusted to serve is one of three guiding and foundational principles.  In these challenging times we have soldiers, sailors and aviators who rely on the community's support systems.  The members of the military are people too, with family challenges, medical challenges, financial challenges and all of the demands that life puts on members of our society.
The Royal Canadian Air Force will be celebrating 100 years of history in 2024 and a number of significant events in the local area will be held.  One hundred years later, let us remain vigilant in our focus and in our desire to keep Canadians safe, protected, cared for and nurtured.  Let's get the message out that we are no longer in a fireproof house, but together we have Canadians' backs.  Rotarian Mark Musca thanked Colonel James for a life dedicated to lifelong service and for taking the time to speak to the Rotary Club of Belleville today.