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Alumnus heads up Canadian Armed Forces

On the ground in Afghanistan in early 2004. Memorial graduate Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier became the new head of the Canadian Armed Forces this past year.

On a warm July morning in 2000, more than 4,000 Canadian troops assembled on the gigantic parade square at Petawawa in Ontario. Standing in formation they covered an area twice the size of a football field. They were about to embark on a mission to Bosnia and awaited an address from their mission commander. As Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier stood on the podium and began to address the soldiers he asked them to break ranks and gather round - much to the chagrin of the logistical team who had assembled the troops.

Soldiers recall to this day the inspiration they felt sitting together informally on the warm asphalt as Lt.-Gen. Hillier talked directly with them about the importance of their work on behalf of Canada.

This type of openness and sensitivity - which cuts across the grain of the tough-guy image of military commanders - has marked the stellar military career of Lt.-Gen. Hillier. This year, he undertook the most important and distinguished mission of his career when he became the new head of the Canadian Armed Forces including the Army, Navy and Air Force. He was appointed Chief of the Defence Staff on Feb. 4, 2005.

A graduate of Memorial University (B.Sc.'76), Lt.-Gen. Hillier led the NATO security forces in Afghanistan for six months in 2004. That posting followed a string of impressive appointments. He served in 1998 as deputy commanding officer of the Texas-based U.S. Third Armoured Corps. He commanded a multinational division in Bosnia in 2000.

On returning to Canada from that mission he assumed the duties of assistant chief of land staff until he was promoted in May 2003, to Commander of the Army. In October 2003, he was selected as the Commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier's successes have not gone unnoticed by his fellow alumni. In 2003 he was awarded the Alumni Tribute Award for outstanding professional achievement.