Alberta native Lieutenant Colonel Riel Erickson is blazing a trail up the command structure of the RCAF by taking over as commander of 15 Wing’s 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School at CFB Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan.

“I can’t wait until we run out of firsts,” LCol Erickson said last week. “I think it’s great that young women starting their career will see their first commanding officer is female. It’s the chance to normalize it.”

Erickson was inspired to become a military pilot by her uncle, who flew CF-18s in the Gulf War. After graduating from the Royal Military College of Canada, she went on to train on the CF-18, becoming only the fifth Canadian woman to do so.

“At the time, I remember really wanting to downplay it and say, ‘I’m just one of the boys’, but I realized this is it,” Erickson said. “There is just five and I wanted to see 105. The only way that was going to happen was to have more women putting themselves out there for people to see.”

2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, also known as the ‘Big 2’, trains more than 150 pilots per year through the NATO Flying Training in Canada program. The training fleet comprises the CT-156 Harvard II and the CT-155 Hawk and is run in collaboration with CAE Inc. of Montreal. The school is also charged with the training of the air force’s flight instructors.

Pictured in the photo are LCol Riel Erickson (l), Col Ron Walker – Wing Commander (c) and LCol Jason Tuckett (outgoing Commandant). Back row, Chief Warrant Officer Bill Doman – 2 CFFTS (l) and Wing Chief Warrant Officer Marlene Shillingford.

Photo courtesy of LCol Riel Erickson