THE LASTING IMPACT OF ONE PERSON’S EDUCATION AT RMCC
8475 Rem C. Westland – RMC 1966-1970
One of the fundamental tenets I took with me after four years in Kingston is that, in most pursuits, none of us achieve our successes alone. The exemplar for this is surely the obstacle course, where the winner could not possibly have succeeded without heavy lifting and moral support from the throng of classmates who helped carry him or her to the finish line. In my last year at the college I was responsible for the Marker and the Review. It would have been impossible to put out those publications without the support of dozens of talented volunteering cadets.
My career path was an erratic one. In my case the undertaking of the military colleges to produce well-rounded graduates served me very well. Above all, I played to the dictum from the Cadet Wing Commander who addressed my recruit class on our first day at the college: if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. For me, one professional undertaking after another was determined more because a person senior to me valued my commitment to deliver results than because I made the personal choice to jump from one job to another.
I would say, when invited to take on new assignments, “If you don’t want something to be done, don’t ask an ex-cadet to do it.” The pursuit of a goal can keep everyone on side; outcomes invite debate because too much or too little was accomplished. We ex-cadets are trained to finish what we started – whether blame or accolades then follow. I have experienced both.
In the course of forty-five years after military college I have been a junior logistics officer, a PhD student and then lecturer at Carleton University, executive assistant to a minister in the government of Pierre Trudeau, public servant at various departments in senior positions that included acting Assistant Deputy Minister at National Defence, and vice-president with a mid-sized consulting agency in Ottawa. My parting round before falling back upon pensions was a run for Parliament, representing the Conservative Party of Canada, in 2011. I published a book about that one (Running for the People? R.C. Westland, 2015) which compares the travails of a novice in the political process to the hurdles in the recruit obstacle course.
For me, there has always been a cadet senior to me lurking around the corner and ready to award circles if I did not hold up my end. My wife has referred to me as the cadet who never grew up. Across the street from us lives an ex-cadet, a DCWC in his day and former CDS of the CF. When I have trimmed the bushes and cut the lawn on our property I always nod in the direction of his home as if to say that I am ready for inspection.
I have not had mentors. I have always had seniors. Nothing pleased me more than, when with the Liberal Party of Canada, I was welcomed by ex-cadet and former government minister Charles “Bud” Drury to his task force on constitutional development in the Northwest Territories. Working at Indian Affairs as a Director General responsible for claims settlement was especially satisfying because the person I reported to was the ex-cadet Don Goodwin. At National Defence I worked with a number of classmates at the Director General and Director levels, civilians and military, and reported to the ex-cadet John Adams.
After many intense rounds of indecision on the matter, the turning point in my life came late in first year when I decided for myself – not for anyone else – that I would go the distance. I have never stopped.
My intense nineteen months as a candidate for public office, however, put an end to my interest in the competitive edge that everyone engaged in a professional life must have. Business development at my consulting firm was no longer appealing. Instead, I wrote that book about my foray into electoral politics and I have not stopped writing since.
I have completed a too-long novel on the theme of PTSD that is out there looking for a publisher and I am half way into a second novel on the subject of the rich-poor divide in Canada. I count myself among the indie-authors who belong to writers’ groups and go to writers’ retreats. A short story of mine on the war in Afghanistan will soon be published by a small press in Ontario. Because of the pensions I have earned I am pleased to be counted among the best paid writers in the country.
The unrelenting discipline it takes to wake up every morning and write for at least three hours six days in every week comes easy for me. I learned it at the Royal Military College of Canada.