2 Field Ambulance welcomes back CO 0
CFB PETAWAWA - From the passenger seat of a Second World War-era box ambulance, Lt.-Col. Sean Blundell Friday saluted the nurses, surgeons and medics he has led over the past three years.
Standing in front of his new unit, Lt.-Col. John Crook called the men and women of 2 Field Ambulance to present arms as his predecessor drove off Worthington Parade Square marking the end of a command tour that has stretched from the volatile Kandahar province to Petawawa where he undertook the responsibility for critical post-war care of soldiers and veterans.
Change of command marks a significant event in the life and vitality of any military unit and this was no exception as 2 Field Ambulance said goodbye to the face of their unit while welcoming back a medical officer who began his career there 30 years ago.
Soon after taking command three years ago, Lt.-Col. Blundell prepared his unit for their eventual deployment to Kandahar as part of Task Force 1-10, Petawawa's last major combat mission to southwest Asia. During that tour, he served as commanding officer of the Heath Services Unit and as task force surgeon.
"I'm very grateful to have had three years," said Lt.-Col. Blundell, who will be assuming the position of senior staff officer primary care for the Director of Medical Policy. "I had the opportunity to see the confidence that was given to the rest of the troops by knowing they were both accompanied and cared for when required by our medical team. Our medics, nurses and surgeons who accompanied 2 Field Ambulance increased the morale of our troops."
They also suffered tragedy, he noted, alluding to the losses of Master Cpl. Kristal Giesebrecht and Pte. Andrew Miller. Lt.-Col. Blundell thanked the family of Pte. Miller for their support during his tenure.
The outgoing commanding officer praised his troops for ensuring the cycle of care is complete with the daily and primary care, rehabilitation, mental health and clinic services they provide at the base.
After inspecting the troops and officiating the signing of the command scrolls, Capt. (Navy) J.R. Young, commander of 4 Health Services Group, lauded the presence of 2 Field Ambulance medics on current international assignments, including Operation: Attention in Mazari-Sharif and Kabul, Afghanistan, and the unit's recent success on Operation: Mobile in support of the Canadian Forces involvement in Libya. During this time, they maintained the readiness of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) medical platoon and the Major Air Disaster Exercise (MAJAID).
"You are deservedly proud and highly motivated," said Capt. Young. "Top quality health delivery remains the focal point of all activities and initiatives at 2 Field Ambulance and this is no more evident than the outstanding care and support you have provided to the troops who have returned from Afghanistan."
During Lt.-Col. Blundell's tenure, the unit increased the standard of medical care through the consolidation of staffing at Petawawa and designation as an operational trauma stress support centre. He praised them for providing comprehensive primary and operational readiness care through a nationally accredited and innovative team of civilian and uniformed personnel at the base's medical clinic which saw improved patient flow and decreased wait times.
"The fact that you have chosen to a part of the Canadian Forces speaks volumes of your dedication and devotion and desire to serve Canada," he said. "Thank you for being here for the Canadian Forces members under your care. Your triumphs and good works are recognized and they are appreciated."
The 286-military and civilian personnel have played major roles in not only deployments but in supporting 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, the formation that the unit belongs to once more. Brigade commander Col. Simon Hetherington thanked the medics for their hard work and dedication despite a high operational tempo.
"You have universal respect," said Col. Hetherington. "This is based on you doing the hardest thing you could have ever done and that's provide what you do in combat operations. In Kandahar, the members of 2 Field Ambulance were alongside the soldiers as they were fighting. You were beside them giving them care. You mourned with them. You had your own fallen. You were wounded beside them and that is why you have that respect."
Coming from the ranks, the new CO was first posted to 2 Field Ambulance as a private where he was employed as a medical assistant, ambulance driver and signaller. He deployed to Cyprus in 1989 as a unit medic with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. After taking his commission, he returned to 2 Field Ambulance where he served as a platoon commander and second-in-command of Medical Company. He has deployed to Honduras with the DART and served on missions to Bosnia and Afghanistan. He was previously deputy commanding officer of 1 Field Ambulance and commanding officer of the Canadian Forces Health Services Centre in Cold Lake, Alberta.
"When I was told in November that I would be commanding this unit I was speechless," said Lt.-Col. Crook. "I've heard about the things that this unit has accomplished over the years and I was never surprised at all because of the leadership it had."
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist