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RCAF forces celebrate top award

November 13, 2012  By Carey Fredericks

Nov. 13, 2012, Ottawa - At a ceremony in London, U.K., Canadian Forces Search and Rescue personnel received the Award of Gallantry from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators for their heroic actions in saving the lives of two Inuit hunters stranded in icy waters near Igloolik, Nunavut, on October 27, 2011.

“This award highlights the exemplary skill, service, and sacrifice that our men and women in the Canadian Forces demonstrate every day, whether on missions around the world or across this vast country,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “Canada is proud to have the most highly-trained and capable search and rescue professionals in the world.”

From left to right: Sir George Zambellas, Fleet Commander, Royal Navy; Master-Corporal Shawn Bretschneider, Master-Corporal Max Lahaye-Lemay, Diane Pageau and Melisa Lesquir (mother and wife of the late Sergeant Janick Gilbert), Master-Corporal Marco Journeyman, Sergeant Brad Hiscock, Sergeant Dan Villeneuve, Captain Dean Vey, and Captain Aaron Noble, Master of the Guild Air Marshal Cliff Spink CB CBE.


Receiving this prestigious award were a Cormorant helicopter crew from 103 Search and Rescue Squadron based in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador: Aircraft Commander, Captain Aaron Noble; First Officer, Captain Dean Vey; Flight Engineer, Sergeant Brad Hiscock; and Search and Rescue Technicians, Sergeant Dan Villeneuve and Master-Corporal Shawn Bretschneider. The honour was also awarded to Search and Rescue Technicians Sergeant Janick Gilbert, Master Corporal Max Lahaye-Lemay, and Master-Corporal Marco Journeyman from 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron, Trenton, Ontario. Tragically, Sergeant Janick Gilbert perished during the rescue and will receive this award posthumously.

“I am extremely proud of our Search and Rescue Technicians and Aircrew who have been presented with this international award for gallantry. They deserve our deepest admiration and appreciation for their service to Canada and their unwavering commitment to saving lives,” said the Chief of Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk. “The men and women of the Canadian Forces' Search and Rescue teams are the truest embodiment of service beyond self. In keeping with their motto, everyday they do their best so 'That others may live'.”


This Search and Rescue mission was a collaborative effort that included Search and Rescue aircraft and crews from 8 Wing Trenton, 9 Wing Gander, 14 Wing Greenwood, and 17 Wing Winnipeg, and was coordinated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton. Searchers located the two local hunters who were stranded in an open boat and dropped a radio to them.  The condition of one hunter was deteriorating and when communications were lost, the three Search and Rescue Technicians from 8 Wing conducted a parachute insertion into the high seas and strong winds from a CC-130 Hercules to render assistance. The CH-149 Cormorant helicopter from 103 Squadron, 9 Wing Gander, arrived on scene after a long and demanding transit, airlifted the two local citizens and the three Search and Rescue Technicians from the area under extreme weather conditions, and transported them to the medical centre in Igloolik. The mission itself resulted in the rescue of the two local citizens with only minor injuries.

The Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators was established in 1929. Its main objectives are to sponsor and encourage action and activities designed to ensure that aircraft are piloted and navigated safely by aviators who are highly-competent, self-reliant, dependable, and respected. Each year, the Guild recognizes the heroism and professionalism of aircrew around the world and across the whole spectrum of aviation. These awards for courage, achievement, and the highest standards of airmanship are regarded among the world’s premier aviation accolades.


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