103 welcomes new CO

Matt Molloy
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Maj. Johnson replaces Maj. Mowbray as CO of 103

There’s a new man in charge of the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron.

Gone is Maj. Clinton Mowbray and in his place is the new Commanding Officer of 103, Maj. Byron Johnson.

It isn’t Maj. Johnson’s first go around in Gander, but it’s his first time back as the man in charge.

“I’m an Ontario boy,” said Maj. Johnson, noting he grew up in Peterborough. “I went to school in Ontario, joined the military, did my military flight training and my first tour was actually here in 1996. This is where I started my military flying career, so it’s nice to come back. I was here for five years the first time, was away for about 10 in Trenton, Ont., where I did an exchange down in the States with the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Major Johnson went on to spend a few years in British Columbia before returning to Gander.

While speaking to The Beacon last week from his new office, Maj. Johnson said he doesn’t have a lot of say when it comes to picking a particular posting, but when he heard there would be a vacant CO position in Gander, he immediately put his hand up.

“There’s kind of limited ability to say where you want to go. Then it’s kind of timing and opportunities,” said Maj. Johnson. “This position was opening up a couple of years ago and they were looking for somebody, so I spoke to my family about it. A couple of my daughters were born here, so it was a nice opportunity for us to come back here and a good opportunity for me to show them what it’s like. They don’t remember when we were here last, really. They were very little when we left.”

Having been gone for a few years, Maj. Johnson noticed a different town of Gander when he made his return, but not a lot changed at 9 Wing. He did say 103 doesn’t go through a lot of changes, but according to the new CO, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“The nice thing about 103 is that it doesn’t change a lot. There’s always excellent people working here, great service ability and nice, challenging missions to keep everyone on their toes,” said Maj. Johnson. “From a town’s perspective, one thing that changed is the number of new homes. The place has exploded. It used to be people coming in would go straight into a PMQ (Personnel Married Quarters) or military housing, and now more than half the people are buying houses, I’m sure. The community’s vibrant and alive…it’s a great place to live.”

Maj. Johnson was asked if an incoming CO would do things differently than the outgoing CO, but the new man in charge said that wasn’t necessarily the case.

He said each CO has a duty to make sure their Search and Rescue squadron is “highly functional and prepared,” so if the CO is doing that, they’re doing their job.

“Our primary job is always the same: to keep a highly functional and prepared SAR squadron.” Maj. Byron Johnson

Maj. Johnson did say, however, he’ll continue supporting the families of military personnel.

“Our primary job is always the same: to keep a highly functional and prepared SAR squadron. So, if that’s all anyone does, they’ve succeeded,” said Maj. Johnson. “There’s all kinds of different things you can work on. There are infrastructure things, administration…it all depends on your focus. That’s to be decided, still, what direction I plan on going. My first job is to make sure we’re prepared and proficient.

“I think families are super important to the squadron and to the military. Our families support all of us. We move them around every couple of years so it can get difficult,” added Maj. Johnson. “All of the previous COs have taken great care of our families and I’m going to maintain that focus, for sure, and make sure people’s families are taken care of.”

Going out with a bang

Maj. Johnson officially signed the change of command certificate during a ceremony at 9 Wing on June 28.

It was during that time the base said good-bye to Maj. Mowbray in a way only the military knows how — by having a little fun at the expense of the outgoing CO.

“It’s a nice reminder to plant us back in the military,” said Maj. Johnson of the change of command ceremony. “Being a SAR (Search and Rescue) squadron, we work shift work, so we don’t see each other that often, so something like this brings everyone together for a few days…getting the military tradition back. I think everyone enjoyed it. It was a good day.

“They brought in a side-by-side with moose antlers on the front because he wasn’t the most successful hunter while he was here,” said Maj. Johnson with a chuckle. “We always try to find something funny and unique to send them off.”

Maj. Johnson is in Gander with his wife, Jennifer, and children Mya, Keily and Nora.

“My wife, Jennifer, came with me the first time, and we had two daughters here: Mya, 14; and my second daughter was also born here, Keily, 12. Our other daughter, Nora, just turned 10, and she was born in Ontario. She loves it, and she’s already picked up most of the accent. We have lots of friends in the neighbourhood, so she’s settled in really well.”

mmolloy@ganderbeacon.ca

Twitter: @BeaconSports12

Organizations: U.S. Coast Guard

Geographic location: Gander, Ontario, Peterborough Trenton British Columbia

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