19 May 2020: Message from the Wing Commander, COVID-19

Hello members, families, and friends of 4 Wing,

Portrait - Col Moar

Photo: LS Erica Seymour, 4 Wing Imaging

I expect that by now you are aware of the Snowbird ejection and crash in Kamloops which tragically took the life of Captain Jennifer Casey and seriously injured Captain Richard MacDougall on May 17. Thank you to our many members who immediately responded with offers of assistance and to those of you who worked throughout the night on Sunday to ensure 4 Wing was able to support the Snowbirds. We knew Jenn well from her time with the CF-18 demonstration team and her loss will be felt deeply by us all.

It has been a long 9 weeks since we first implemented our COVID-19 response plan and I know that everyone has been looking forward to getting back to normal life. I’m not sure what normal looks like in the future, or when we’ll get there, but I’m encouraged by our low infection rates and the overall trend we have observed in Alberta. That said, the nature of the virus makes it impossible to immediately assess actions we take today as we won’t see the results for a couple of weeks. For that reason it is very important that we continue to stick to the plan, don’t let our guard down too quickly, and be prepared to respond if we start to see a re-emergence of COVID-19.

Today I wanted to highlight a few common areas of concern and re-iterate some of the points I made during our virtual Honours and Awards town hall last Wednesday.

1. Operations – On 4 May the Wing increased flying to a rate which ensured that our minimum commitments to NORAD, NATO and SAR will continue to be maintained. Although it has been remarked by some that it seems like the Wing is doing a lot of flying, we’re actually conducting 50-60% of the missions that we would normally fly at this time of year. We will continue at this pace of operations until 1 June at which time, depending on direction from the RCAF and our assessment of the local COVID situation, we may increase the pace.

2. Child care services – On 19 May the MFRCS resumed limited child-care services for essential workers. This is a positive step for our families but will not address the child care needs of most of our workforce. I am asking that unit supervisors continue to work with their members to find ways to accommodate their child care needs without having to access either MFRCS or Happy House. I know this is not going to be possible in many cases – especially as we increase operations and local businesses start to re-hire spouses. Frankly, we may soon reach a point where the most significant hurdle to fully resuming operations is child care. We will do everything we can to avoid it, but I accept that we may temporarily lose missions because of child care limitations during this unprecedented time.

3. Postings – The distribution of posting messages has resumed which is great news for the Wing. As of today (19 May) House Hunting Trips and Destination Inspection Trips are still not approved but I am expecting a CANFORGEN to change that restriction soon. For members that are posted, ensure you keep your chain of command up to date with your desired plan, register with BGRS, and keep your posting administration proceeding as much as possible. If you feel comfortable volunteering your information, I would also ask that you submit your home sale details through your supervisors to MSS so that we can continue to provide Ottawa with an accurate picture of our home sale challenges.

4. Travel restrictions – Last Friday afternoon (15 May) I received authority to ease some of our local travel restrictions. This direction was issued to the 4 Wing Commanding Officers and most of you should have received the news by now. In modifying the local restrictions, I have considered our imperatives to protect the health of our members so that we can continue to operate our NORAD mission. For that reason, I have continued to place travel restrictions on those members who are actively supporting or on standby to support NORAD operations. All other members must seek the approval of their chain of command prior to traveling outside of the local area and abide by the 300 km (Edmonton) limit. I will use an incremental process to further ease travel restrictions in the coming weeks, but I see this as a very positive change for our members.

5. Alberta re-launch – On 14 May Alberta implemented stage 1 of the Provincial re-launch strategy. At this time I don’t see a reason to prevent our members from taking advantage of the re-opening of local services. I would insist that our members review the restrictions associated with stage 1 and ensure that they carry and utilize a mask in situations where physical distancing may be compromised (e.g. grocery stores, car dealership, restaurant). I would also direct that any of our members who form part of a segregated operations/maintenance/support team to not inter-mix with members of other teams during your off-duty hours as this will undermine the efficacy of our operations plan. We are placing a significant amount of faith and trust in our members to act responsibly and not create unnecessary threats to our no-fail missions by ignoring Wing and Provincial directives. Thanks for your help in this!

Thanks to our members and families for their continued patience and positive attitudes. The last 9 weeks has been a real test and I couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments of our teams here at CFB Cold Lake! I’ll let you know as soon as I hear any more news.

Stay healthy!

Idaho

Colonel Dave Moar
Commander, 4 Wing Cold Lake