KENTVILLE, NS - After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force for two decades, being appointed an honorary colonel evokes a lot of emotion in Kentville Mayor Sandra Snow.
Since 1970, more than 225 distinguished Canadians have served the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) through the honorary colonel program. Honorary colonels act as advisors to unit commanders and become key members within the air force environment. They may be former air force officers or distinguished Canadian citizens hailing from a diverse range of backgrounds, including many well-known public and community figures.
Snow has been appointed Honorary Colonel of 415 Maritime Patrol Force Development Squadron at 14 Wing Greenwood. An investiture ceremony will be held on June 22 at 14 Wing Greenwood’s VPI Centre.
“It’s beyond anything that I truly could have imagined,” Snow said.
Appointment an eye-opener
When she thinks of the honorary colonels she worked and served with, they were typically always men who had served, were senior ranks and there was something about their career that was spectacular.
“And then it’s me,” she said.
Although she never considered her own career to be spectacular, the appointment was eye-opening in the sense that Snow got to see her accomplishments written down on paper, which led to the realization, “Wow, I actually did all that stuff.”
The 415 Squadron was re-established as an amalgamation of several units in 2015, including the Maritime Proving and Evaluation Unit. Snow had worked with the unit as a civilian contractor for 15 years.
“I went to work every day and absolutely loved my job but I never thought that what I was doing on a daily basis would lead to something like this,” Snow said.
She said receiving the appointment evokes a lot of emotion and it’s “pretty incredible.” The process started last September when she was called by the commanding officer of 415 Squadron. She was told they were in the process of looking at candidates and was asked if she was interested.
Snow said she evaluated and considered the possibility and told the commanding officer she was indeed interested. There is a lengthy process involved that goes all the way up to the Minister of National Defence, who has to sign off on the appointment.
“From that perspective, it was a long waiting game and I had almost put it completely out of my mind,” Snow said.
In May, she received another call from the commanding officer letting her know they were only waiting for the final sign-off and work began on putting the appointment in place.
Snow said it’s a role that she knows she can fulfill because she has spent her life being a mentor and looking at leadership through the lens of creating an environment of improvement.
She said her first guest after being elected mayor of Kentville in 2016 was the commanding officer from Camp Aldershot. She said the town has really built a nice relationship with Aldershot and the regiments there over the last two years. Now, Snow feels that they’re bringing 14 Wing Greenwood into the fold, recognizing that a larger sense of community is being fostered.
“Sometimes our communities are bigger than the borders of our town,” Snow said.
She pointed out that retired and active service members make up a significant portion of Kentville’s population and that, from a mayoral perspective, she sees the appointment as a joining of these two elements.
Through her air force career, Snow was employed as an aircraft technician on the hangar line; a laboratory technician supporting equipment repair, an instructor of both basic and aircraft specific maintenance and in many supervisory roles. She retired in 1999 as an avionics superintendent, at the rank of Master Warrant Officer.
After her retirement from the air force, Snow worked for an engineering firm and was subsequently contracted to the Department of Defence as an operational test and evaluation suitability project officer supporting the CP140 Aurora aircraft.
In 2014, Snow was awarded the Northern Lights Aero Foundation Elsie MacGill Award for her contributions to aviation and aerospace in government disciplines. Her career path allowed her to support the CP140 Aurora air craft in some capacity for 35 years. After the completion of her contract, Snow entered municipal politics and was elected mayor of Kentville in 2016.
There are some 70 honorary colonel appointments throughout the RCAF at any given time. Some currently appointed air force honorary colonels include singer-songwriter Sam Reid, businessman Roger Demers and radio broadcaster and author J’lyn Nye.
Honorary colonels work behind the scenes and provide a much needed connection between the community and the Canadian forces. They are considered vital to fostering esprit de corps. They mentor and help build relationships with other units through the honorary colonel network and help build and develop community support for their units.