cochrane-trenton-rally

Col. David Cochrane is leaving CFB Trenton later this summer for a posting in Australia. ((Kimberly Gale/CBC))

A year and a half ago, soldiers at CFB Trenton saw the last of a base commander who had doubled as a sexual predator, shaking the south-central Ontario base and its surrounding community to its core.

Now, in complete contrast, the base is sending off a man who made the best of incredibly trying circumstances.

In February 2010, Col. Dave Cochrane became CFB Trenton’s base commander, forced to pick up the pieces left by Russell Williams's betrayal.

Williams, originally charged with several crimes including first-degree murder and forcible confinement, was later convicted and sentenced to serve two life sentences at Kingston Penitentiary.

"As you can imagine, last February it was a very stressful time," said Cochrane, who will soon leave the base for a new posting in Australia.

"The community has been wonderful, where people are buying some of the men and women in uniform coffees at Tim Hortons, saying thank you as they walk down the street," he added.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay lauded Cochrane's work when he visited the base Aug. 10 to announce a Canadian Forces deployment to Jamaica.

"[He] stepped into a circumstance that required tremendous leadership, sensitivity to the local community," MacKay spoke from the tarmac.

"Col. Cochrane worked closely with families that were affected by a tragedy."

tp-trenton-march

People march in support of CFB Trenton in February 2010 as news came out about Russell Williams's criminal behaviour. ((CBC))

Cochrane refused to stand in the spotlight and credited a change in people's attitudes toward the men and women in the Canadian military.

"We're quite proud to walk around this community, in our uniform and what we do, the operational success that we've enjoyed, and people are moving forward."

Cochrane is reluctant to talk about the shock and fear people felt about the Williams case, but he does see the community taking positive strides.

"I truly believe the community is behind the military 100 per cent. We have turned the page."

With files from the CBC's J.C. Kenny