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Rules of Engagement

Heroes Remember

Interviewer: In war, there's always a clearly defined set of rules of engagement Can you tell me about the rules of engagement during a peacemaking mission? Well, if you're in a, you know that kind of environment, if you're doing an air defence mission, for example, and both sides would test the other side's air defence all the time, that's just part of what you did, you know. Nobody would fire unless they were fired upon, at least on our side. If, if one of us strayed across the border, they would of shot us down. If one of them strayed across the border, then we would attempt to get them to turn around or, or land. If there was, if there was a hostile act committed then, you know, you would be cleared to, cleared to fire, but you would never, I mean if you were under direct threat, then you always had the, the ability to react. If it was anything other than somebody was actually shooting at you, then you would have to get authority from (inaudible) command, the command in control system who's sitting down in, in, in, you know looking at the bigger picture, and may have information that you don't have. And you would always get that authority from, from somebody else. If it was a, like in NORAD, for example, where I flew the F-18, and, and we did a lot of, our squadders in Canada, did a lot of ops like that, we used to intercept Russian Bears routinely. I didn't personally do one, but I know many, many guys did. And the rules were very clear, I mean there was no, you know, there was no threat to, because we were not at war, there was no threat to shoot them down. If we were in a state of war, then it's, you know you're cleared to, you're cleared to fire. So, the rules of engagement change as the level of intensity builds up to, to actual combat. the rules of engagement are much more, they're still very well defined, but they're much more liberal, I mean you are there to take it to the enemy, you are there to kill him, and don't let him do it to you first. Interviewer: Was there ever a time when it was difficult to follow the rule? Not for me personally. When our folks were in Afghanistan, in, in Kosovo, and I'm jumping ahead here a little bit, you know to past the Starfighter era, because with the F-18, with the CF-18, of course we became involved in, in many more things. The air plane was much more capable than the Starfighter and so we got involved in a lot of things like Gulf War I and, and Kosovo and so on. I do remember and the guys sent it to me ‘cause I knew most of them, all of them. There was one mission in Kosovo where they were sent out to drop to, to knock out a bridge, and when they got there, and they had precision guided weapons, and they were going to drop the bridge, there was no question. There was a vehicle parked, on in the middle of the bridge and there was two choices, he was either just a dumb guy who was parked in the wrong place, or it was parked there intentionally knowing that we had rules of engagement that probably limited our ability to, to attack a target if we thought there was going to be civilian casualties and, you know, the truck on the bridge was probably civilian. So the guys spent, and I've listened to the tape and seen the video, they spent about a half an hour on station talking through AWACS, the Airborne Warning Control Aircraft and, and various folks, and they had every right to drop the bridge. That was the mission they were sent on, had they dropped the bomb they would have taken out the bridge, they would have taken out the truck on the bridge with it. They decided not to, and they brought the bombs home and then they, you know, went back out another day and the truck wasn't there so the bridge, the bridge was dropped. A lot of discipline is required by, by folks in that environment because you are carrying so much firepower, you can do so much damage that you need to be, you know, especially when it's not an all-out declared war, kill everything you see kind of environment, it takes a lot of discipline.

Mr. Hawn explains what rules of engagement are, using his experience in West Germany as an example. He then describes an instance that occurred in Kosovo (which he was not involved in) where the rules of engagement caused a mission to be halted.

Laurie Hawn

Mr. Hawn was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1947. After finishing High School, Mr. Hawn opted to join the Air Force in order to further his education, with an ultimate goal of becoming a pilot. At the age of 18, Mr. Hawn flew for the first time, and by the age of 19 he became a flight instructor. First with T-Birds (T33's), then with Starfighters (CF104's). After instructing for 5 years in Cold Lake, Alberta, in April 1972, Mr. Hawn accepted a 3 ½ year posting with NATO in West Germany. After finishing his tour in West Germany, Mr. Hawn returned to flight instructing in Cold Lake, but was regularly posted to West Germany for a few weeks at a time. In 1988, Mr. Hawn was made Commanding Officer of 416 squadron. He held the position for 2 years, relinquishing it only weeks before the start of the first Gulf War, having only just stepped down, Mr. Hawn severely disappointed when he was not chosen to accompany the squadron when posted to Iraq. After a 30 year career, Mr. Hawn retired from the service. He now resides in Edmonton, Alberta, with his wife and family.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Laurie Hawn
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Peacekeeping/Peacemaking in West Germany
Air Force

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