General Rick Hillier received a ceremonial branding iron from the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group yesterday in recognition of his work as the Chief of Defence Staff.
“I have a few choice targets I can put this on,” Hillier quipped.
But Hillier, who was in Edmonton to honour ten local soldiers with the Chief of Defence Staff Commendation, was not in a branding mood. Canada’s popular top solider was all smiles two days after announcing he would step down from his post in July.
The commendations Hillier presented reward Canadian soldiers who have performed deeds that are beyond the demands of normal duty. The Edmonton soldiers received the honour for a variety of reasons, from saving the life of another soldier who was choking, to acting as a medical mentor in Afghanistan.
Hillier said it was a privilege to present the awards, especially because he knew and had served in military operations with some of the recipients.
“It’s one of the [parts of my job] that touches the heart,” Hillier said. “To be able to be here and recognize them is incredibly satisfying.”
In a news conference after the ceremony, Hillier denied speculation that he is leaving his post after three years due to frustration with political leaders.
“I’ve worked for political leaders who have been incredibly supportive,” he said. “So that wasn’t a factor whatsoever in my decision to leave.”
Hillier added that he is confident the Canadian military is heading in the right direction, even as its personnel are aging and it faces a mission in Afghanistan that will last at least until 2011.
“We’ve got an incredible pool of leaders behind me,” he said. “The next leader that is selected by the government of Canada … will provide the leadership that these men and women here in Edmonton and across the rest of the Canadian Forces will need.”