Change of command at 401

401 Sqn Change of Command Parade
Outgoing 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) Commanding Officer (CO), Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Forrest Rock (left) and Incoming 401 TFS CO, LCol Reid Surkan (right) salute for the National Anthem during the 401 TFS Change of Command Parade Ceremony in 4 Hangar on June 30, 2020 at 4 Wing, Cold Lake, Alberta. Photo: LS Erica Seymour, 4 Wing Imaging

Cliff Kenyon

It was a quieter, more subdued event. It was a COVID-19 styled change of command for 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake.

Fewer spectators attended, considering the significance of the event. Those who did attend wore masks and kept their distance.

4 Wing Commander Col Dave Moar admitted it was an unusual and quiet celebration. But that didn’t in any way diminish the significance of the ceremony.

LCol Reid Surkan took over command from LCol Forrest Rock who told The Courier he was proud to have served as 401 commander for three years.

“It has been a tremendous honour for me to serve as the Commanding Officer of 401 TFS these last three years,” he said. “I will always consider myself privileged to have Commanded this great unit and to have worked alongside each and every one of you.”

“In the last three years we have upheld the Wing’s commitment to the defence of North America via NORAD, we clearly re-demonstrated Canada’s commitment to NATO’s collective defence along NATO’s Eastern Flank during our deployment to Romania last fall, we have trained all over the world, and, despite how busy we were, we still found time to uphold the great traditions of this unit as we renewed our Squadron’s commitment to community involvement and altruism through charitable events like OPERATION HOCKEY HEROES.”

“Given all that we have accomplished together, I will always look back on my time at 401 TFS with great pride.”

LCol Surkan said, “It is a great day, because today we get to say good bye to a fellow warrior, LCol Rock.

“LCol Rock’s time at 401 has been marked with countless achievements. From successful active air defence missions over the high north to aiding in the sovereignty of Romanian airspace, the Rams have meet each challenge with great success under LCol Rock’s leadership.

“I’m excited to continue this legacy of success, and look forward to working for each and every member of 401 TFS.

“I expect the Rams to maintain at the forefront of tactical proficiency and combat capability. In return I will do my utmost to enable their efforts to meet those expectations.

“Let’s get to work. Very Swift Death for the Enemy,” he said, quoting the squadron’s motto.

During the Second World War, 401 Squadron (originally No. 1 Squadron), is known for fighting in the Battle of Britain. Postwar, the squadron operated in Canada as an auxiliary squadron, reserve squadron and a helicopter and training squadron.

Surkan was born in Red Deer, Alberta. In 2005, Surkan graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with a degree in International Politics. He completed pilot training at 15 Wing Moose Jaw in 2007 and was subsequently selected to fly the CF-18. In 2008, he completed the CF-18 course and was posted to 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron.

During his first tour with the Nighthawks, Surkan participated in Op PODIUM, NORAD’s air defence mission over the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. LCol Surkan also deployed to Trapani-Birgi, Italy, in support Op MOBILE, Task Force Libeccio, the NATO campaign over Libya in support of UNSCR 1973. During his participation in Task Force Libeccio, he flew strike missions against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces as well as served as a national liaison officer to CAOC 5 located in Poggio Renatico, Italy.

In 2012, he was posted to 410 Tactical (Operational Training) Fighter Squadron, where he was employed as the Air-to-Ground Training O and Deputy Officer Commanding Fighter Operational Test and Evaluation Flight.
In 2017 he returned 4 Wing Cold Lake’s 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron. While with the Nighthawks he deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania, as the CF188 Fighter Detachment Commander in support of Op REASSURANCE. Upon return from Op REASSURANCE, LCol Surkan performed the Sqn duties of Squadron Operations Officer and Deputy Commanding Officer.

LCol Surkan has accumulated 2,200 flying hours, 1,800 of them in the CF-18. He is a graduate of Fighter Electronic Warfare Instructor Course (FEWAR), recipient of the Romanian Air Force Emblem of Honour, and holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Florida State University.

Rock joined the Canadian Armed Forces in May 2000. In July 2003, he was posted to 15 Wing Moose Jaw, in Saskatchewan, where he completed initial pilot training on the CT-156 Harvard II and CT-155 Hawk. He received his wings in October 2004 and was subsequently posted to 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron in Cold Lake to complete Fighter Lead in Training.

Following the completion of his CF-18 Hornet course, Rock was posted to 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec. In March 2009, Rock was deployed to Afghanistan as a Forward Air Controller attached to Task Force 1-09 Battle Group Tactical Air Control Party. In March 2011, LCol Rock deployed a second time as the Deputy Operations Officer and Electronic Warfare Officer for OP MOBILE ROTO 0 where he flew CF-18 missions in support of NATO operations over Libya.

In September 2011, he was posted back to 4 Wing Cold Lake as the 4 Wing Standards Officer and Officer Commanding the Air Force Tactical Training Centre.

In this capacity, he was responsible for the maintenance and enforcement of CF-18 standards at 4 Wing and for the planning and execution of Exercise Maple Flag 47 to 49 until the latter’s cancellation. In August 2015, LCol Rock was posted to 409 TFS in Cold Lake as the Squadron Weapons and Tactics.

In late 2016, Rock deployed to the 609th Combined Air and Space Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar where he served as the Deputy Director of Combat Operations and Chief of Combat Operations. In July 2017 Rock was named the Commanding Officer of 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron.

Outgoing 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Forrest Rock addresses the audience and the squadron for the final time during the 401 TFS Change of Command Parade Ceremony in 4 Hangar on June 30, 2020 at 4 Wing, Cold Lake, Alberta. Photo: LS Erica Seymour, 4 Wing Imaging 20200630CK020175D005
401 Sqn Change of Command Parade
Outgoing 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) Commanding Officer (CO), Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Forrest Rock (left), Incoming 401 TFS CO, LCol Reid Surkan (right), and the 4 Wing Commander, Colonel Dave Moar sign the official Change of Command Certificates during the 401 TFS Change of Command Parade Ceremony in 4 Hangar on June 30, 2020 at 4 Wing, Cold Lake, Alberta. Photo: LS Erica Seymour, 4 Wing Imaging