First Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery’s change of command ceremony will be making history today as the whole thing is conducted virtually.
"It’s a first," said CFB Shilo public affairs officer Lori Truscott.
"These are all done in a very formal parade where the troops all gather up and it’s a chance for the commanding officers to address the troops in a personal way," Truscott said Wednesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed all that this year.
"We can’t do that at this time, so we found a way like everyone else has to make this work," Truscott said.
Outgoing unit commander Lt.-Col. Ryan Stimpson is in Ukraine, while incoming commander Lt.-Col. David Brassard is in Ottawa. The reviewing officer is in Edmonton.
The ceremony will be broadcast on a big screen in one of the rooms at 1RCHA and broadcast on social media.
"There’s going to be a few people in the room, all socially distanced, watching this taking place, and then we are going to be livestreaming what you’re seeing on the screen," Truscott said.
The change of command normally happens every two years. Brassard will remain in Ottawa before coming to Manitoba, likely in August, Truscott said, adding that under current Canadian Forces requirements, he will have to self-isolate for 14 days after he arrives.
Technically, though, Brassard will formally take over command of the unit today.
"The papers will be signed virtually," Truscott said.
Brassard grew up in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Montreal, and commissioned in the Royal Canadian Artillery in 2000, according to his official biography.
He spent his first regimental tour with 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, in Petawawa, Ont. During that time, he deployed to former Yugoslavia as a gun troop commander with the NATO Stabilization Force. He then spent a year as a gun position officer before deploying to Afghanistan as a forward observation officer-forward air controller (FOO-FAC) with 3 RCR Battlegroup in 2003.
After earning his parachute wings, Brassard served two years as a FOO-FAC with 3 RCR’s Parachute Company. In 2005, he returned to Afghanistan as an operations officer with the Afghan National Army.
During his career, Brassard served as squadron commander, mentoring more than 90 officer cadets at Royal Military College, and in 2010 was seconded to Global Affairs Canada for six months to provide planning capacity in support of the Canadian earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. He was the lead planner at the strategic level for the standup and close-down of more than six overseas missions.
In 2012, he was posted to the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) in the Plans Branch and deployed for six months in support of the Congolese military, returning to regimental duty in 2013 as battery commander with the 4th Artillery Regiment.
In 2016, he was appointed as a military assistant to Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan. After being promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 2017, Brassard was posted to army headquarters as the head responsible for International Training for the Canadian Army.
Brassard was appointed last year as executive assistant to CJOC Commander Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau.
The new unit commander is a former member of the CAF Triathlon Team and enjoys competing in road cycling events at the Elite level. In 2016 and 2018, he was selected to represent Canada at the World Amateur Road Cycling Championships with the Canadian National Team.
The change of command ceremony starts at 10 a.m. and can be viewed on the 1RCHA Facebook page at facebook.com/1RCHA/ or on the Shilo Stag Facebook page at facebook.com/ShiloSTAG/.