408 THS honoured by Alberta artist
Dec. 9, 2010
|LCol Jeff Smyth receives the original sketch of “Right Gun, Ready” from artist Robert Bailey during a medals and awards parade held at the Edmonton-based Squadron’s hangar on October 28. Credit: MCpl Pat Wilkins.|
By A/SLt Noelani Shore
It doesn’t take deploying overseas to do your part in honouring Canada and the Canadian Forces, as one Alberta artist has spent a lifetime proving through his work.
“I have great admiration for all Canadian Forces, especially those who have fought in Afghanistan and who are still there fighting,” said world-renowned artist Robert Bailey, who honoured 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS) by presenting them with an original pencil sketch of “Right Gun, Ready”.
The sketch is of a Griffon door gunner poised and ready for action. It was based on the continuing efforts of 408 THS in Afghanistan.
“I’ve heard many first-hand accounts from these men and women,” he said. “It takes a special kind of courage to face sneak attacks and road side bombs. I do not know how I would react in such stressful circumstances.”
1 Wing Kingston’s 408 Squadron, located in Edmonton, has deployed to Afghanistan twice as part of Op Athena, and is currently ramping up for a third deployment in March 2011. Not only has the main body of 408 THS has been on back-to-back deployment schedules, but they have also been involved with domestic operations like Op Podium, Op Cadence, supporting the Grey Cup, and the Calgary Stampede.
“It certainly made a lot of folks proud to see that their contributions to Afghanistan have been ‘immortalized,’ so to speak, in a bona fide piece of fine aviation art,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Smyth, commanding officer of 408 THS.
Although this was Mr. Bailey’s first parade, he is no stranger to the military environment, as he has been focusing on the CF since 1958.
“I was very impressed with the obvious self-discipline of all present, and their smart turnout,” he said. “It was a great honour not just to be there and give the presentation, but to observe those people receiving well-deserved decorations. There has always been something very attractive and heroic for me in military scenarios, which came mostly from watching Second World War movies in the 50s and 60s.”
There is a history of military members in his family as all of his uncles were in the military in some capacity, and his father drove a Sherman tank with the Queen’s 9th Lancers, 6th Armoured Division.
“He was in North Africa fighting Rommel’s Afrika Korps, and later in Sicily and Italy,” he said. “I heard most stories from him.”
When asked how he thinks this sketch will inspire its viewers, Mr. Bailey replied that he hopes “one of the enemies sees it, and becomes very frightened! Maybe prints of it should be dropped behind enemy
positions,” he suggested.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jeff Smyth, who commanded the Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan (CFH(A)) from October 2009 to August 2010, says he feels privileged to receive this sketch as it reflects the hard work being done by all members of 408 THS.
“Everyone worked extremely hard and it showed,” he said. “We moved just under 30,000 troops and over 1,000 tons of supplies, reducing the Improvised Explosive Device threat by helping to keep troops off the roads. We also provided essential eyes and firepower overhead our ground troops and those of our allies. I have no doubt that we saved lives there almost every day. The sketch reminds me that sometimes we need to be prepared to fight for what we think is right.”