Following his attendance of a two-day Air Force Family Support Conference in Winnipeg, Man, in early June, Lieutenant-Col. Brian Bowerman, former Wing Commander of 5 Wing Goose Bay, returned with a renewed commitment to improving support for military families and to maintain stronger ties to the local community.The two-day conference LCol Bowerman attended saw Wing Commanders from across the country focusing on three key areas for improving support for military families; childcare, medical care and housing. In the company of Canadian Forces specialists in those areas, the leaders shared experiences working with their communities to try to assure access to services for the highly transitory military family.
"Isolated postings, like 5 Wing Goose Bay, come with unique challenges," said LCol Bowerman. "This applies not only to our uniformed personnel and civilian employees but also to our families who persevere while our members are away for training, taskings and operations."
Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg, Man, and host of the conference, Major-General Yvan Blondin, stressed the need for improved family support during the conference.
"Our families don't sign up to serve in the Canadian Forces, but they sacrifice stability when they stick by us through multiple postings and deployments," said MGen Yvan Blondin. "When we post or promote our personnel to a position in a Wing and community new to them, we need to be able to tell their families they will be able to find a family doctor, quickly re-enrol their children in childcare and live in affordable housing regardless of where they serve. We won't have achieved mission success until we can say that with confidence every time."
Throughout their career, Air Force personnel can be tasked to serve at Wings and Bases located in major cities, smaller urban centres or remote communities, where access to family services can vary widely. By the end of the conference, participants heard the challenges their colleagues must overcome to support their military families, established standards to strive for, and shared strategies to work creatively with local civilian agencies to build mutually supportive partnerships and make the most of limited resources.
In the case of 5 Wing, LCol Bowerman has demonstrated his commitment to the Defence Team and the community through last year's improvements to the Wing Sports, Fitness and Recreation Centre, the Canuck Club, mixed-ranks Mess and Arcturus Theatre. Also, the creation of the community gardens and outdoor aviation park has beautified 5 Wing for community members and tourists alike.
Many of these sentiments were echoed by the Mayor of the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, His Worship, Leo Abbass.
"[The types of infrastructure available at 5 Wing] are major components in any large town or city," said Mayor Abbass. "It would be unlikely that these types of facilities would be built in a town our size. Having them available at 5 Wing for our residents to use is very advantageous. If the Base didn't offer the use of these facilities to the local community, people of all ages would not have the opportunity to enjoy such activities here. The movie theatre and bowling alley are where memories are made...the gym has state-of-the-art equipment that helps to promote a healthy lifestyle for the community as a whole. However, sustaining such infrastructure is costly. By opening access to the public, at reasonable rates, it helps to assist 5 Wing in sustaining these facilities for the benefit of all."
Future plans to improve military family support include the renovation of an existing building to house the 5 Wing Military Family Resource Centre and Canadian Forces Housing Agency and to provide family-doctor services to Wing families three times per week while alternative long-term solutions are being sought.
"This proposed renovation will combine these two great resources into one-stop shopping for 5 Wing families," said LCol Bowerman. "The idea is for the new location to function as an improvement over their current offices and enable them to better offer their vital services - this is the commitment of the leadership of 5 Wing."
The new Wing Commander of 5 Wing, LCol Andrew Fleming stated he is also committed to ensuring support for his people.
"I share LCol Bowerman's commitment to improving support for military families and to maintaining strong ties with the local community," said LCol Fleming. "I will place a high priority on the renovation of a building to house the 5 Wing Military Family Resource Centre and Canadian Forces Housing Agency and the provision of family-doctor services to Wing families.
"The Defence Team at 5 Wing is a small family and a tight-knit family, and like all tight-knit families we stay strong by standing together and by standing with our neighbours in our community," said. LCol Bowerman.