Home CFB Borden 16 Wing Crafting Unity: ACS Techs Forge Unique Rapier as a Symbolic Farewell Gift...

Crafting Unity: ACS Techs Forge Unique Rapier as a Symbolic Farewell Gift for Outgoing CO

The ‘Power Team’ consisting of 400 Squadron ACS Techs (left) Cpl Johnathon Doucette, (center) MCpl Andrew Gagnon-Denis and (right) Cpl Brandon Peddle (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

ACS Tech ‘Power Team’ Trio Handcraft Personalized Sword Gift for Outgoing CO in 400 Squadron’s Change of Command Ceremony

Gift giving in CAF has been a common practice during Change of Command ceremonies for eons, but these three 400 Squadron Aircraft Structures Technicians (ACS Techs) came together and honed their skills to craft a one-of-a-kind rapier for their outgoing Commanding Officer.

Master Corporal Andrew Gagnon-Denis, Corporal Johnathon Doucette and Corporal Brandon Peddle were responsible for various components of the sword and its case, created using materials found within the walls of Hangar 18.

MCpl Gagnon-Denis sparked the swords creation after finding inspiration in a rapier held in the 400 Squadron Museum and telling both Cpl Doucette and Cpl Peddle that he wanted to re-create it for their former CO 400 Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Lyle Holbrook.

MCpl Gagnon-Denis holding a traditional rapier used as a measurement reference for the gifted sword in the 400 Squadron Museum (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

“I think [the sword] is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever done,” MCpl Gagnon-Denis said. “Big time, hands down, but it’s not the first time I’ve done a gift for a CO either.”

Cpl Peddle and Cpl Doucette agreed that this sword represented some of their best work yet with respect to making gifts for departing members.

“For me, this was a chance for us to prove to the entire squadron, officers, NCMs, everything what an ACS Tech is actually competent and capable of doing,” said Cpl Doucette. “How far we can take our creativity, how versatile we are, especially with hand tools and raw materials.”

Starting as a simple sketch, it took about two weeks to complete the project with the trio taking turns using their own free time to create and adapt the design as the sword was crafted. With each member having a background in welding, none of them had ever created a sword of this quality before.

A diagram of both the sword and textiles inside the case, drawn by Cpl Doucette and MCpl Gagnon-Denis (Courtesy of MCpl Gagnon-Denis)

“[The sword] does allow us to show what we can do and put forth,” Cpl Peddle said. “Just seeing the look on [LCol Holbrook’s] face afterwards, that really brings it all together.”

The blade itself was created from a steel tread plate that was designed, cut, filed and sharpened by Cpl Peddle. According to Cpl Peddle, the sword itself is a combination of both a rapier and a saber due to its unique shape but, could be categorized as a rapier. The blade is purely decorative and was dulled prior to the Change of Command ceremony.

MCpl Gagnon-Denis utilized the wooden handle from a broomstick to construct the hilt, a twisted brass rod to form a handguard that wraps around the grip and leftover steel to create the pommel which secures the blade to the hilt.

Using a display case initially designed for a baseball bat and materials like air force tartan, CADPAT (CAF uniform camouflage) and blue Distinctive Environmental Uniforms (DEU), Cpl Doucette was able to line the back of the case with these fabrics in a diagonal pattern and encompass the many uniforms worn by the 400 Squadron.

The leather straps in the case and leather wrapped handle of the sword were courtesy of Cpl Doucette’s mother who works with leather and had some extra material available. Incorporated to celebrate LCol Holbrook’s service as a pilot, a paracord strap and life preserver beads were fastened to the base of the handguard as another personal touch.

Laser etched into the blade was the 400 Squadron motto “Percussuri vigiles” which translates to “On the watch to strike”.

The rapier presented to LCol Holbrook at the 400 Squadron Change of Command Ceremony (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

According to Defence ethics commentary ‘The joy of giving’, farewell gifts are meant to reflect the importance placed on esprit de corps, also known as morale.

“It was awesome to see the morale that it brought to people,” said Cpl Doucette. “Especially to be a foot away from the CO to see the look on his face and his reaction when he saw the signatures and the sword itself.”

MCpl Gagnon-Denis said he didn’t want to give LCol Holbrook a picture frame of a CH-146 Griffon helicopter, but instead something that spoke to the whole unit. Not only was the former CO’s reaction priceless, so was everyone else’s.

The back of the sword’s case signed by fellow 400 Squadron ACS Techs, NCMs and the ‘Power Team’, along with a laser etched ACS logo (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

“Even going around to collect the signatures afterwards… it’s a very proud moment,” Cpl Peddle said. “Just seeing the reactions of other people and they’re like, ‘I want to sign that!’.”

After hearing praise from the Wing Commander, the former CO’s wife and many other in attendance at the Change of Command Ceremony, Cpl Doucette thought of the trio as a “Power Team”.

“I’ve been in the military as a whole for quite a while,” he said. “But this is top tier, one of the best experiences I’ve had with some of the two best guys I could’ve experienced it with.”

According to MCpl Gagnon-Denis, the “Power Team” has even started hearing from people who wanted their own sword or to purchase one.

“It’s a good sign when every time I do something I want to bring it home,” said MCpl Gagnon-Denis. “If I would put it on my wall, it’s good enough.”

To see the full 400 Squadron Change of Command Ceremony, including the gifting of the sword, click here.

BY: Caleb Hooper