3 Canadian Forces Flight Training School welcomed its new Honorary Colonel Mrs. Paulette Connery last week to her investiture in Southport Aerospace. Connery hails from Delta Beach, and says the big day was May 23.

The Portage la Prairie area has had some firsts for women this year, with the School Division's two top positions held by women for the first time. Connery is Southport's first-ever female Honorary Colonel.

She outlines her connections and experience with Southport.

"I was involved with Southport as chair of the board. I was on the board from 2009 to 2018. However, you get nominated for this title. I went through an interview process with the Commandant and the Deputy Commandant, and they asked me to come out for this interview. Then it goes up to the Minister of National Defense for approval."

ConneryConnery in new uniform

She notes the name of the person who nominated her was not divulged, adding they informed her that she was recommended.

"You don't have to have military experience. At the Honorary Colonel's conference that I was at in Halifax, I just discovered that many have. But they're looking for someone that has roots in the community, has been involved in a variety of ways, willing to get involved with the school, act as a liaison, and be willing to learn about the military, too."

She says Jason Virtue, the Lieutenant Colonel who is currently Commandant of the school, has informed her that her perks include coming in and out as she sees fit.

"I can wander into the classrooms or out, and I actually go around on Fridays to the mass briefing," continues Connery. "That was something that former Colonel Andy Fletcher had told me about; just to get to know the students, as well. It's to have a better understanding of what they're going through. I've done that a few times. It's about going to the graduations, just learning about the military, and learning what I can do to help them."

She adds the biggest perk was being nominated and becoming an Honorary Colonel.

"It is a tremendous honour to be able to do that. It's also a tremendous honour to be the first woman of 3CFFTS. There are other female Honorary Colonels, but this is the first for out here."

Connery says the event was extremely formal and her friends and family attended. 

"You get piped in. Then there's a ceremony where Andy Fletcher, who was the Honorary Colonel, signs off and I sign on, along with the Commandant. There was a scroll signing and then we each did speeches, Lieutenant Colonel Virtue did a speech about how important this is, and presented Andy and Jody (Fletcher) with a lithograph of some planes, as well as Jody got flowers; and well-deserved for her to have them."

She notes it's for a three-year term, and there's a possibility of continuing another term, where a person either applies or is requested to do so.

"Just going to the Honorary Colonels conference and learning way more about the military, in itself, is a great honour. In my investiture speech, I was given the book from the Canadian Armed Forces, "Trusted to Serve;" their ethos. And in it, their number-one principle is to treat all persons with respect and dignity. What a wonderful number-one ethical principle. If we all lived in a world that did that, it would be amazing."

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