WADS Canadian Detachment celebrates the 92nd anniversary of the RCAF

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  • By Capt. Kimberly Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCChord, Wash. -- The 92nd Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was celebrated by the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) Canadian Detachment’s annual RCAF Mess Dinner at the American Lake Conference Center April 15.

The Canadian Detachment has been working side by side with the U.S. in building 852 at McChord Field as part of NORAD since its construction in mid 1950s. WADS is a joint, bi-national organization that ensures control over all U.S. airspace, conducts air defense and airborne counter-drug operations.

Mess dinners are common to all military services and are formal occasions filled with pageantry, customs and traditions, according to Warrant Officer Richard Martin, Canadian Unit Warrant Officer. “During a multi-course dinner, toasts are proposed, music played and speeches, preferably brief, are given.”

The guest speaker, Lt. Gen. Pierre St. Amand, deputy commander for NORAD, upheld the brief speech tradition but did take the time to touch on the long history of the RCAF and he praised the long standing close relationship the U.S. and Canadian military have shared, specifically in NORAD and at the Western Air Defense Sector.

One of the long standing traditions of the mess, according to Lt. Col. Matthew Wappler, Canadian Detachment commander, is to “closely guard your seating name card since they are the preferred method of passing notes to the President of the Mess Committee (PMC).”

Unfortunately for Lt. Col. Brian Bergren, 225th Air Defense Squadron B-Flight commander, his name card somehow ended up in the hands of Capt. Stephen Buckley, the PMC. Buckley announced to the mess that Bergren was requesting to sing a song to Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Rebstock, 225th Support Squadron superintendent. With great surprise to the mess, Bergren did a great rendition of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’”.

The tables were quickly turned on Buckley when he was unable to keep in his possession the official wooden PMC gavel that gives him the authority to enforce the rules of the mess, within minutes of the mess officially starting. Col. Kristen Leist, 173rd Medical Group commander, noticed the gavel was not being secured properly and with the help of other mess attendees, to include her husband, Col. Gregor Leist, WADS commander, she was able pass the gavel secretively under the table to the Canadian Unit Warrant Officer for safe keeping.

Instead of using the customarily shoe when a PMC loses his official gavel, Buckley was able to use his reserve gavel -- a red and blue plastic Fisher Price hammer procured from his children’s toy box.

The final tradition of the night is the “passing of the port.” At the end of a mess dinner, port decanters are passed amongst the attendees so they may pour themselves a small glass for the Loyal Toast (the toast to the reigning monarch), according to Wappler.

The way the port is passed is determined by the military service. The Canadian Air Force likes to “fly over the table,” according to Wappler. Thus the port passes from hand to hand and the decanter never touches the table until it needs to be refilled or has reached the end of the table. The Navy drags the decanter across the table like “a ship floating on the sea,” commented Martin.

“The passing of the port can definitely become complicated when there are over 100 attendees representing all branches of the Canadian and U.S. military,” added Wappler.