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Senior Air Force officers charged over ‘inappropriate’ fighter pilot nickname

The Royal Canadian Air Force says two senior officers have been charged for allegedly failing to stop a group of fighter pilots from assigning an inappropriate nickname to another member in June.

Col. Colin Marks and Lt.-Col. Corey Mask each face one charge of failing to effectively carry out their responsibilities and will face disciplinary hearings, according to the Air Force.

Air Force spokesman Maj. Trevor Reid says the charges are not criminal in nature, and that their hearings will be conducted by other officers and not open to the public.

The charges stem from an informal meeting in June at one of Canada’s two main fighter jet bases, 4 Wing Cold Lake in Alberta.

During the meeting, several fighter pilots proposed, discussed and assigned what the military has only described as an inappropriate call sign for another pilot.

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Many people would know call signs from the blockbuster Top Gun movies, in which Tom Cruise’s character is nicknamed “Maverick.” That call sign is a reference to the character’s refusal to follow orders and play by the military’s rules.

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Canadian fighter pilots also use call signs. Anyone who has been to an air show in Canada and got a close look at a Snowbird or CF-18 might have seen the pilot’s call sign written with their real name near the cockpit.

While call signs aren’t the exclusive domain of pilots, and such nicknames are also often assigned to the weapons officers who also fly on two-man CF-18s, they aren’t widely used in other parts of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The air force says call signs help build a sense of team and identity among fighter pilots and break down barriers between different rank levels. They also benefit communications in the air.

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Neither Marks nor Mask could be immediately reached for comment.

—With files from Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press