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Bi-national cooperation

Canadian detachment gets new commander

Canadian Brig. Gen. Alain Pelletier (center), deputy commander Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Region-First Air Force, presides over the Canadian Detachment Joint Base Lewis-McChord change of command. Photo credit: Capt. Kimberly Burke

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The Canadian Detachment from the Western Air Defense Sector shows how bi-national cooperation can work. But, as with nearly all military units, every three years, it is time for a new position - often in a different place.

In a ceremony Wednesday at the WADS headquarters on McChord Field, Lt. Col. M.G. Roberts handed over the position of commander for the Canadian Detachment to Lt. Col. L.M. Wappler. Roberts had served in the position of commander since July 2012.

Deputy Commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region Brig. Gen. Alain Pelletier remarked on how unique and important this bi-national agreement was to both the United States and Canada. He went on to congratulate Roberts for succeeding in bringing new focuses, such as on family support and raising money for local charities. He added that he expected Wappler, with his experience, to have an easy time carrying on the torch.

Rather than exchanging flags, as is the American military custom, Pelletier, Roberts and Wappler signed new command officer contracts.

Roberts said, as he looked out at the representatives from Canada, civilians and the active-duty, Reserve and National Guard Air Force members attending the ceremony, that the diversity within WADS and Joint Base Lewis-McChord made his time here great.

"Bi-national cooperation is real, genuine and important," he said. "You can see it in spades here in this room with all the different groups gathered here."

He went on to thank the units, communities, servicemembers and civilians who worked hard every day. The many events, including Snowball Socials during Christmas time, softball and hockey matches, and raising money for Habitat for Humanity causes, brought them closer together.

Roberts and Wappler are no strangers to each other. Roberts recalled one time in which Wappler did not wear a goalie mask during a floor hockey game. During the game, a hockey ball made contact with his face. Instead of taking himself out of the game, Wappler stuffed tissue up his nose and continued to play.

As a parting gift to his detachment, Roberts had a neighbor help put together a table with broken hockey sticks for legs with a glass top supported by hockey pucks. He presented the gift to Warrant Officer Chantele Anderson, president of the mess committee for the Canadian Detachment, to put in the mess hall.

Roberts' family, including his wife, Erin, and daughters Sarah, Gillian and Amy, were set to leave the day of the event. Instead of flowers, gifts to be enjoyed during the moving process were given. Those included shoes for Erin and baskets of candy for each of the girls.

Wappler said this is not his first time in the Pacific Northwest. He was part of the unit aiding with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"I spent three months going between JBLM and Vancouver," he said. "I jumped at the chance to take this position located in such a beautiful area and look forward to continuing on working closely together with all our allies."

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