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Canadian Flag Lowering Ceremony: Component says goodbye to founding nation

The E-3A Club is usually a setting for historic and celebratory moments. As keeping with this tradition, another symbolic moment took place; however, this one was bitter-sweet. After more than 30 years, the E-3A Component had to say good-bye to one of its 12 founding nations.

The Canadian Flag Lowering Ceremony at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen on July, 11, 2014, marked Canada’s official withdrawal from the NATO AWACS program.

"As we pay our respects and lower the Canadian flag today, we signal the end of our official duty with the NATO AWACS fleet,” said Maj. Nicole Schur, the narrator for the ceremony. "This flag lowering ceremony symbolizes the departure of Canada from the 17 comrade nations with whom we have served with over the past 34 years. As our flag comes down today, we look back on our contributions to the Component and NATO surveillance with pride; knowing that through our efforts we have made a large contributions and positive impact to airborne surveillance, command, control and communication for a multitude of NATO operations.”

For the past three decades, Canada has provided the third largest contribution in terms of financial support and personnel to the Component. Canada’s military service and support to the Component commenced in August 1980 with the arrival of Maj. Tessier.

"On Aug. 29, 2014, the last Canadian military members will leave the base after many years of proud, professional and dedicated service to the Component,” said Lt. Col. Douglas J. Fairley, commander of the Canadian Contingent – NATO Airborne Early Warning Force (CC-NAEWF).

Canadians have participated in every NATO AWACS operation, since the Component was declared fully operational capable (FOC) in December 1988 by Maj. Gen. Holmes. Colonel Fairley highlighted two operations in particular: Operation Unified Protector (OUP) and Operations Afghan Assist (OAA).

"During the 221 days of OUP, from March 2011 to October 2011, Canadians contributed 1,961 days in theatre in direct support of this mission,” he explained. "Since January 2011, Canadians have contributed a remarkable 6,897 days of direct in-theatre service of OAA at Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.”

Canada made the decision to withdraw from the NATO AWACS program in 2011. At that time, the CC-NAEWF worked with the Component to develop a three-year transition plan to mitigate the loss of Canadian experience, instructors and evaluators.

"Our remaining personnel are still important to the mission and are continuing to provide support,” Colonel Fairley said. "We committed to the base that Canada would finish strong, finish proud and finish professional.”

More than 950 Canadian military members have served at the Component since 1980; however, only a few are still here.

"As 30 proud Canadians, we stand strong and professional, and we represent all those Canadians that have served at the Component,” Colonel Fairley said.

The colonel added that up until the end, the CC-NAEWF will deploy to the Component’s forward operating bases and location and conduct missions as directed.

"As proud military officers and NCOs, we continue to hold our heads high, completing the necessary tasks with the detail and precision of our predecessors,” Colonel Fairley said. To ensure a smooth transition for the Component, the Canadian team will maintain all their basic qualifications as well as their instructor and evaluator qualifications.

"Once the last Canadian military boot leaves the base, the 16 remaining nations will carry-on the history and heritage of the Component long into the future,” he continued. "We hope as Canadians, we have left a lasting legacy at the Component and you will remember us fondly.”

After 34 years, the Canadians have left the Component with countless accomplishments and achievements to look back on.

"There have been challenging times, there have been long deployments, there have been short deployments, but when all is said and done, we will all remember the good times, the good comrades and the good friends that we made at the Component,” Colonel Fairley remarked.

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