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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15838

Mr HARTSUYKER (9:15 PM) —Last Saturday I attended the retirement dinner for Flight Lieutenant Toby Tyson and Warrant Officer Leo Channels at the Coffs Harbour Aero Club. These officers formerly commanded 331 Squadron Australian Air Force Cadets at Coffs Harbour. Flight Lieutenant Tyson served the unit for over 20 years and Warrant Officer Channels served for 13 years. Despite having attained the age of 60 years, these two men are extremely fit, strong and as tough as teak. In fact, I would say that they strongly represent the image that is expected of our miliary service men and women.

It was with some disappointment that they greeted forced retirement upon reaching the age of 60 years. At a time when we are analysing the Intergenerational Report, which dictates that we must work longer as an economic necessity for this nation, it seems somewhat ironic that these two highly energetic officers, who are keen to contribute to the unit and to the community, should be forced to retire upon reaching a particular chronological age.

The evening was very well attended with a large number of the cadets, former cadets, serving officers and members of the veteran community, bearing witness to the contribution of officers Tyson and Channels. The evening was capably MCed by Corporal Michael Barr, who serves with the Air Force Air Lift Group at Richmond. Corporal Barr is a former cadet of 331 Squadron. The respect awarded these retiring officers was reflected in the large attendance, and a number of cadets paid tribute to the strong leadership provided by these men. In addition to those in attendance, there was a long list of apologies from former cadets, comprising current serving RAAF pilots, flight crew and ground support staff stationed around the country.

Being a cadet at 331 Squadron means learning to be self-reliant, mastering survival skills, taking measured risks and accepting nothing less than the highest standards on the parade ground. It is also an adventure. The experience offered by being a cadet of 331 Squadron is indeed a great experience. I guess that is why so many people attend this unit. The unit has an accredited strength of some 36 cadets but has always averaged around 50 cadets. Many cadets at 331 Squadron travel to the unit each Monday night from outside the area, such is the experience offered.

I believe that, if more young people were involved in the cadet movement, we would have a more stable society. Flight Lieutenant Tyson and Warrant Officer Channels provided strong male role models to the young cadets, an attribute sadly lacking from many families today. These officers demanded discipline from their cadets. During the evening, several young cadets recounted that Warrant Officer Channels would let any cadet who dared to challenge his authority know that there was one singer, one song and that he was singing the song.

At the conclusion of the evening, Flight Lieutenant Tyson handed over command of the unit to the incoming commander, Pilot Officer Gavin Heatherington-Tait, by presenting him with the unit's sword. While I am sure the unit will be in capable hands, it is unfortunate that the careers of Toby and Leo will conclude whilst they still have so much to offer. The cadets of 331 Squadron are fine young Australians, a credit to their families and the retiring officers.

I believe that all those in attendance agreed that Flight Lieutenant Toby Tyson and Warrant Officer Leo Channels sang a pretty good song during their command of 331 Squadron Air Force Cadets at Coffs Harbour. I wish them well in their retirement. They should take pride in their contribution to the youth of our region. I wish Pilot Officer Gavin Heatherington-Tait well in his command of 331, and I thank the members of Coffs Harbour Aero Club for their fine efforts in catering for the evening.