Military man back in Comox for third time — this time as commander

Col. Michel Lalumière was smiling Monday morning as he mingled with his colleagues and spoke to the media, but he admitted that it was a sad day for him.

New 19 Wing commander Col. Jim Benninger inspects the troops.

New 19 Wing commander Col. Jim Benninger inspects the troops.

Col. Michel Lalumière was smiling Monday morning as he mingled with his colleagues and spoke to the media, but he admitted that it was a sad day for him.

Lalumière handed command of 19 Wing over to Col. Jim Benninger Monday morning. Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, Commander 1 Canadian Air Division, Canadian NORAD Region, was the presiding officer for the parade.

For Lalumière, his two years as wing commander stand out as being busy.

“The (operations) tempo in the last two years has been extremely, extremely high, but it’s been extremely satisfying,” he said during the Change of Command Ceremony. “It’s been an incredible honour and privilege 19 Wing to be able to serve this with you.”

During his two years as wing commander, Lalumière has focused a lot of energy on supporting his members’ families, and he is very appreciative of the support 19 Wing has received from the community.

“Without the support of the community to our families with regards to so many things, many things that we would have tried to do right here, operations would not have been possible,” he said. “This is the Air Force. We’re not supposed to see these folks here. They’re somewhere else doing some work; we’re just a pad to launch from and then recover to.

“But the families in the back and the support side of the base will continue to make this wing function. The community for sure had a great part in helping us into that, and they welcome our requests with open arms. It’s a very, very tight family, and it makes a huge difference.”

Lalumière — who is headed to Ottawa to work with Lt.-Gen. André Deschamps, the Chief of the Air Staff, and Blondin — is sad to be leaving 19 Wing.

“Giving command is not a fun thing to do, especially when we’re going back to a very intense staff work-type job in Ottawa,” he said. “This is a great wing; this was home for us, but Col. Jim Benninger has the wing tattooed on his heart, so it’s a pleasure to be able to give the wing to somebody I know will do a fantastic job.”

During the change of command parade, Blondin told Lalumière that he has “done great” in his time as wing commander.

“What I commend you the most is what you’ve done for the families,” he said. “It’s great to do operations, but it’s about taking care of people, taking care of the families … Outstanding job.”

Benninger told the parade that he is “filled with great pride” as he rejoins 19 Wing.

“I’m indeed deeply honoured to be wing commander of 19 Wing, a wing I consider to be the crown jewel in the Air Force crown,” he said. “I’m very eager to get to work in my new role as 19 Wing commander, and I look forward to working with each and every one of you as we pull together as a team to fulfill our mandate and to get the job done to the highest standard.”

This is Benninger’s third posting to 19 Wing. He has served with 407 Squadron and has been the Wing Operations Officer.

“My family and I are thrilled to be back for our third, and undoubtedly our best, tour at 19 Wing,” he said.

Benninger thanked Lalumière for his “superb leadership of 19 Wing” and for his very personal commitment to ensure received the very best hand over possible. “Michel, we have not known each other long, but I can say without hesitation that you are an outstanding officer and a true gentleman,” he said.

As he takes over command of 19 Wing, Benninger has three main goals.

First and foremost, he would like to “continue the excellence 19 Wing has displayed in all its operations,” he said.

Benninger would also like to have 19 Wing function as a team.

Thirdly, he would like to “develop a culture of mutual support between the military members, their families and the civilian community.”

“We build on the support of our immediate colleagues, then of our larger unit or squadron, and the next layer is the community,” he said. “I know the community is very important to 19 Wing, and I also know that 19 Wing is important to the community. There is tremendous community support, and it’s a great environment to be military for a military base and great support from the community. I’m really looking forward to the Wing and myself personally being actively involved in the community.”

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com