But there Springate was on Monday morning, sitting alongside 15 Wing commanding officer Col. Ron Walker and outgoing commandant Lt. Col. Jody McKinnon, signing orders to officially take over as boss of the 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School.
The honour took place during a special change of command ceremony in Hangar 2 at 15 Wing and marked the latest evolution in a military career that has now spanned over three decades.
“I’m super excited to be back,’ Springate said during a post-ceremony reception in the O.B. Philp building. “Like the Colonel said, command is an important step in an officer’s progression and I can’t imagine taking over a better and more important and prestigious unit as the Big 2, the premier flying school in the Canadian Air Force.”
Springate takes over from Lt. Col. McKinnon, who is leaving the Canadian Forces to join the private sector in Ottawa after working with the school for the past year.
The new commandant’s background is relatively unique in Big 2 history – rather than coming from a background in fixed-wing aircraft, Springate is a helicopter specialist, having received his wings in on the CH 136 Kiowa in 1993.
That began a long career with choppers that included a deployment to Haiti in 1995 and two tours in Bosnia in the 2000s. Since his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, Springate has worked on staff at Canada Command in Ottawa, the Air Staff and with the Chief of Military Personnel.
Having that kind of experience – and having trained at Moose Jaw in the past – is something Springate is looking forward to putting to good use in his new role at 15 Wing.
“As an officer, I’m pleased that the air force would choose me for this awesome responsibility; he said. “Now I’m just looking forward to meeting everybody, working with everybody and going back to flying… Things have changed so much in 27 years, obviously, the aircraft is different, the construct with the contractor and the whole team partner businesses. But that doesn’t make it any better or any worse, it just makes different. And I’d like to say it makes it better as we move forward into the 21st century.”
To that end, Springate plans to take the usual route of Big 2 command change.
“I’ll have the staff brief me on the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs of the unit and what’s happening from a unit perspective. Then we’ll make any changes as required,” he said. “But I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds.”