OTTAWA — Lt.-Gen. Tom Lawson, a former fighter pilot, has been named as the next chief of the defence staff, the country's top military post.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Lawson, the current deputy commander of Norad — the North American Aerospace Defence Command — will formally succeed Gen. Walt Natynczyk within weeks.
"Lt.-Gen. Lawson is the right leader for the Canadian Armed Forces and will bring a clear vision and strong values to the role,'' Harper said in a statement.
"His experience, team-building skills and collaborative approach will help position the Canadian Armed Forces for the future.''
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Lawson has shown strong leadership in the military.
"He's had a diverse and storied career within the CF, which has included ... time as a fighter pilot defending our skies and those of our allies, as commandant of the Royal Canadian Military College in Kingston and most recently as deputy commander of Norad, North America's Aerospace Defence Command,'' MacKay said.
"In my time as minister of National Defence, I've heard time and time again from all personnel of all ranks the extremely personal bonds that he has developed with colleagues, staff and former military college students and about the lasting, positive impressions that he has made on all of those who have had the privilege of serving with him.''
Lawson, a 37-year veteran of the Forces, said he is honoured and delighted to be taking over command of "an organization in which I have quite literally grown up.''
The controversial purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter has dogged the military and the government for months. Lawson has strongly supported the program.
He said he'll take his lead on the F-35 from the government.
"It will continue to contend for the replacement for the CF-18.''
The new chief and MacKay both praised Natynczyk's work over the last four years.
"Gen. Natynczyk will pass to me a CF that has been carefully nurtured and one that displays a tremendous professionalism in all areas,'' Lawson said. "Whether at home or abroad, our men and women reflect the best that Canada has to offer.''
In a speech to military members last week, Harper offered similar praise for Natynczyk in a sign that change was coming:
"Let me use this opportunity in front of so many of your people here to thank you and congratulate you on over four years of fine service as chief of the defence staff of Canada,'' he said.
Lawson graduated from the Royal Military College in 1979 and also commanded an air squadron and Canadian Forces Base Trenton during his career.
He flew both the CF-104 Starfighter and the CF-18 fighter jets as well as the Challenger executive jet during his flying career.
He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering, as well as a master's degree in public administration.
His career included flying jobs as well as staff work at senior levels.
In 2009, he was promoted to major general and made assistant chief of the air staff. In July 2011, he was promoted to his current rank and appointed deputy commander at Norad.
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