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Wednesday , 30 September 2020

4 Wing returns to the skies in limited capacity, posting season top concern

Fighter jets have returned to the Cold Lake skies, but it’s not the same amount of noise residents would be accustomed to hearing at this time of the year.

4 Wing Cold Lake has resumed its NORAD mission in a limited way after severely reducing operations during the initial COVID-19 response.

Wing Commander Dave Moar said it is essential to the success of the mission that pilots and technicians are given the opportunity to train and maintain their skills while remaining capable and safe.

“Although the Wing has done an outstanding job of sustaining our NORAD mission while minimizing our on-base workforce and training, it is now time to increase our flying to a rate that better sustains our operational capability,” said Moar in a written statement.

“To ensure that 4 Wing can conduct operations while minimizing our risk of contracting COVID-19, we have implemented numerous changes.”

All units at the Wing have modified their work procedures to restrict group activities, increase social distancing, and institute the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as masks, face shields, protective eye wear, and gloves, said Moar.

“We have also made efforts to continue reducing our on-base activities to only those that are essential to sustaining our operation. In doing this we are able to conduct a reduced flying operation with approximately half of our normal workforce.

“As 4 Wing gradually increases essential flying operations, we remain committed to doing our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following all health directives from Federal, Provincial, and Municipal authorities as well as the Canadian Armed Forces.”

4 Wing held an online town hall last Thursday to ask questions of the Wing Commander.

He said that 4 Wing has a modest capacity to assist domestically if needed in troubled areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, but would certainly send people to those operations if priorities change.

The top concern for 4 Wing at this time is the active posting season, which has been paused until April 30.

That involves the relocation of members to and from Cold Lake.

“It involves huge uncertainty. Its disruptive whether you’re looking at schooling, jobs, financial issues, sale of a home, postings are always the most disruptive event for the life of a military family and its worse than deployments in a lot of ways as disruption goes,” said Moar during the town hall.

“As of right now we’re still waiting for the removal of the house-hunting trip restriction and for posting messages to start again. The timeline for that, you’ll recall, house hunting trips are not being permitted until after 30 April and we were expecting posting messages to begin toward the end of April.”

He dove into the situations some members are having whether their posting is underway or not, but also spoke broadly of the continued issue since 2014, a decline in property values.

“Locally, I am prepared right now that many members will not be able to sell their homes and until the system helps us with that, there’s going to be a lot more cases of members who are unable to relocate because of financial positions.

“I’m prepared to deal with that, working with the career managers, and to keep our member’s careers moving without forcing them to accept a posting that will hurt them in a dire financial way…we need to find some short term solutions to allow the system to catch up…there’s been great support all the way to CDS [Chief Defence Staff] on our issues…I’m committed to finding a solution in the next year.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.