The commanding officer of Canadian Forces Base Shilo died May 13 after recently being diagnosed with cancer.
Lt.-Col. Jeff Lyttle, 46, is survived by his wife, Janet, and their four daughters.
The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery announced Lyttle’s death on social media late last week, ushering in a wave of condolences.
This support continued through emailed correspondence with a few people who worked with Lyttle during some of the 26 years he served Canada.
"As the base commander, he truly had everyone’s best interests at heart, even if that meant more work for him," chief warrant officer (retired) Jim Doppler said. "He did a lot for this base and our people, but due to COVID much of this was not visible, yet still the community is in shock and know that his passing is a great loss."
Lyttle was "a great soldier, a greater leader and a great friend," Doppler said.
Born and raised in North Bay, Ont., Lyttle joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1994.
He graduated with a bachelor’s of engineering in 1998 and has served on numerous overseas deployments, including humanitarian relief in Turkey and operations in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Within this career have been a handful of postings to Shilo, including his most recent stint upon assuming command in July 2019.
"He and his family saw Brandon as a second home and were rooted in the community," Doppler said. "Because of this, I know his loss is felt not only in Shilo, but in Brandon as well."
Maj. Howie Nelson served as command team partner with Lyttle, and describes him as "a true professional and well-respected leader with the ability to work through problems for the greater good of all."
His time as commanding officer is perhaps best highlighted by his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, regimental Sgt.-Maj. Jeremy Abrahamse said, crediting Lyttle with setting them up for success early on.
"Not only did the success of his early planning and guidance mean that little needed to be done every time new restrictions were issued, but the base was in a great position to support the base units as they deployed on multiple domestic operations to northern communities as part of Op LASER and Op VECTOR."
A "kind and approachable" leader, Nelson said Lyttle "was able to see situations for their bigger picture and was able to bring those around him into that frame of mind. When things seemed difficult, he was able to get people to focus on what was truly important. He made leadership seem easy, even when it wasn’t."
"Grave sorrow" is being felt throughout CFB Shilo and the surrounding community as a result of Lyttle’s death.
"Lt.-Col. Lyttle’s expectations would be to keep carrying on and continue to work together for the benefit of the greater (Canadian Armed Forces)," Nelson said. "I believe I can speak for all when I say he will be sorely missed and his legacy will never be forgotten."
At top of mind right now is Lyttle’s wife and their four girls, who range in age from four to 17.
"Jeff’s family meant everything to him, as he always talked about how each of them was doing and what was next for them," Doppler said. "When we were dealing with personnel matters, we often reflected about how we would react if that particular situation was our own family."
The Lyttle family is being given the utmost support by the military, Abrahamse said, adding the local community has rallied around them as well.
"Military friends and family from across Canada are also reaching out to assist as they can in their time of need."
Planning for Lyttle’s funeral is underway, with the military lining up a tribute in conjunction with his family.
Their goal, Nelson said, is to ensure the respected leader receives "the most professional attributes in accordance with Canadian Forces policy, wishes of the family, and provincial health regulations."
In a release by National Defence, it’s noted that Lyttle’s family has requested privacy to mourn.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB