MOOSE JAW – At five years old, Maryse Carmichael was watching pilots of 431 Squadron – the Canadian Forces Snowbirds – soar overhead as part of the Bagotville Air Show in Quebec. It was a formative moment.
“They were probably in just their first five years of existence at the time, but I distinctly remember seeing the nine red and white jets in the sky,” the lieutenant-colonel said Tuesday.
“That’s how it all started.”
Carmichael said the daring aerobatics she witnessed that day, and several years with the air cadets as a teenager, provided the spark that propelled her into a career with the Canadian Forces.
Now Carmichael, who has logged more than 3,300 hours of flight time in a 22-year career with the air force, is weeks away from concluding her third tour with the Snowbirds, ending her run as the skipper of the aerobatics team.
“It’s normally a two-year tour as the commanding officer of the squadron, but I was fortunate enough to receive an extension last year, to be able to do a third year,” Carmichael said.
She was the squadron’s first – and thus far only – female commanding officer, and she departs on July 10. She will be replaced by Lt.-Col. Christopher England.
Carmichael noted that her role as first female skipper of the Snowbirds was “certainly an achievement,” but she is prouder of becoming the first female Snowbird – a feat she achieved when she joined 431 Squadron for her first tour in November 2000.
“I was the first female (aerobatic pilot) not only in Canada, but also among other military jet teams around the world,” she said.
The job has given her plenty to be happy about, but she said her greatest point of pride is the professionalism and dedication of her team of pilots, technicians and other squadron members.
“Every time I see our squadron members working long hours and long days … I’m just really proud of what they have accomplished.
It’s really a mirror of what all members of our Canadian Forces do on a day-to-day basis.”
While running operations for 431 Squadron has been rewarding, she said, “now the time has come for me to do something different.”
For Carmichael, that involves a trip to Florida where her husband, Lt.-Col. Scott Greenough, is being posted to Tyndall Air Force Base.
“We’re moving there at the end of August, and we’ve made a family decision that I will actually retire from the Canadian Forces and go to take care of our young family,” she said.
“I’ve been in the Forces, now, for over 22 years. It’s been a wonderful career. I’ve had some dreams come true, and some great challenges I was able to overcome and master.”