By Spencer McBride, The Guard –
“Loyalty, labour, courage, commitment, and honour.” These five values define service to one’s country, leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and the mission behind the John Brant Award.
The award is named for John Brant, (in Mohawk, Ahyonwaeghs) a Mohawk Grand Chief whose leadership proved crucial to victory at the Battle of Queenston Heights in the War of 1812. The first Native American to sit in the Upper Canada Assembly, Ahyonwaeghs was a respected leader who devoted his life to leadership in his community through these same five qualities. In recognition of his values and accomplishments the Robert Land Academy, a private military-themed boarding school for boys in grades five through twelve, now awards The John Brant Award to community leaders who demonstrate exemplary dedication to loyalty, labour, courage, commitment, and honour. After the inaugural John Brant Award was presented to Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly Dave Levac in 2018, the honouree in 2019 is General (Retired) Walter Natynczyk.
Gen (ret’d) Natynczyk’s service began when he joined the CAF at the age of 18, after spending five years as an Air Cadet. Gen (ret’d) Natynczyk served in numerous operations including peacekeeping in Cyprus; Chief of Land Operations in Croatia; command of The Royal Canadian Dragoons during the Winnipeg flooding in 1997 and the Ottawa ice storm of 1998; and as an exchange officer where he served as Deputy Commanding General, III Corps (US) in Fort Hood. He later deployed with III Corps to Baghdad, Iraq as Deputy Director of Strategy, Policy and Plans, and then as the Deputy Commanding General of the Multi-National Corps (Iraq) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Gen (ret’d) Natynczyk has also commanded the Canadian Army’s Doctrine and Training System, served as Chief of Transformation responsible for implementation of the Forces restructuring, and as Canada’s Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. He was promoted to full General and appointed to the top job in Canada’s military, Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008. Following his retirement from the CAF in 2012, he served as President of the Canadian Space Agency before beginning his current role as Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs in 2014.
“Honour and the military have always been deeply connected, with the idea that those who serve our country and are willing to go to battle do so with honour,” says Kevin Wendling, Headmaster of Robert Land Academy. “This is why General (ret’d) Natynczyk was chosen as the 2019 recipient of the John Brant Award. He has lived the majority of his adult life in service to Canada, and has done so resolutely.”
Decorated with the Commander of the Order of Military Merit, the Meritorious Service Cross, the Commander of the Legion of Merit (USA), Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur (France), Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit (Poland) and the Medal of Merit in Gold (Netherlands), General (ret’d) Natynczyk has demonstrated labour, loyalty, courage, commitment and honour throughout his career.
“General Natynczyk’s military service may have followed generations after Brant’s, but the two men have much in common in the way they served their country – and how their service reflects the Academy’s values,” commented John Swettenham, Chair of Robert Land Academy’s Board of Governors. The winners of the John Brant Award are those that also serve as role models to the boys in the boarding school, which provides a highly structured living and learning environment that helps young men reach their true potential. The values they demonstrate in their lives provide a clear path to success, service, and dedication to the five values of the school.
Gen (ret’d) Natynczyk was recognized at the Robert Land Academy Gala last Saturday, 6 April at the National Club in Toronto. For more details on the event, visit the RLA Gala website, or email the organizer directly.
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