Master Cpl. Stacey Blackmore got a special homecoming last week when his wife, RCMP Const. Cyndie Blackmore led home the military convoy from the international airport.
Blackmore, a flight engineer with the 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, returned from a five-month tour of Afghanistan early Friday morning.
When he arrived he took a spot in his wife’s RCMP pick-up at the head of the convoy.
Since soldiers first began returning from Afghanistan they have been given a police escort to the Edmonton Garrison from the international airport.
Cyndie said she knew of the long-standing practice and thought it only made sense to lead her husband’s convoy.
“[Edmonton police] have always done the escorts, so I was a member and he was coming back and I thought it would be pretty cool to do it,” she said. “He was really proud of me going through depot and I figured it would be really nice to meet him at the airport.”
The special escort came as a complete surprise to Stacey who expected he wouldn’t see his wife until they returned to the garrison.
“I turned and Cyndie was standing there in her serge and it just blew me away,” he said. “She was looking for the tears and I am surprised they didn’t come, but I think I was just so shocked.”
The couple led the way in the RCMP vehicle as a full contingent from the helicopter squadron made their way back to the base.
“I just threw my gear in the back and played with the sirens,” said Stacey.
On the route back, firemen, other police and ordinary citizens often come out to wave and show their support. The Edmonton officers block traffic at intersections allowing the convoy to quickly travel through the city, which was the case Friday.
Blackmore said she was happy to see several fellow Morinville officers line the road to welcome her husband back.
“A lot of my guys were standing there and they had all the cars lined up and they were saluting. It was pretty nice to see.”
This was the first rotation of Canadian helicopter pilots and crews into Afghanistan.
Troops now have several Griffon attack helicopters and Chinook transport helicopters at their disposal.
Blackmore said he believes the helicopters are doing a lot to protect troops on the ground.
“When we are flying right over our guys the bad guys don’t poke their heads up,” he said. “For our soldiers there is nothing better than looking up and seeing a Canadian helicopter above your head with a big gun to cover them.”
As a flight engineer, Blackmore is responsible for manning the “big gun” on the side of the Griffon.
He said he is particularly proud of what the helicopter support can do to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices.
“When we are flying at 100 feet above or 700 feet above anything going on along the side of the road we can see,” he said. “Anytime that we were doing over-watch they were never hit.”
While Canadian soldiers derive much of their job satisfaction from interactions with Afghans, airmen don’t get the same interaction, he said.
“We leave the wire, we fly and we come back and that is pretty much our day,” he said. “We see the culture, but just from 15 to 50 feet above screaming at 120 knots.”
Cyndie has been on the force just over a year and half. Her recruit training, combined with five months of preparation prior to the five-month rotation, added up to a lot of time apart.
“In the last two years we have been around each other for about six months,” she says.
Stacey said he spent the last weekend catching up with his family including the couple’s two teenaged daughters, who changed so much he initially had trouble recognizing them.
Cyndie said Stacey’s absence combined with night shifts and the other challenges of RCMP life were tough on the family, but they got through it.
“It worked out, but it was a lot of work and I am glad it is over,” she said. “Thankfully my kids are older so they are a little bit more independent.
Beyond both being armed Stacey said he does see some similarity with his wife’s line of work, as both are responsible for public safety, but he credits his wife for taking on that task all the time.
“Every day, people are dependent on her for what she does and we don’t really feel that feeling until we are over there.”