Tom Lawson grew up in Etobicoke, Ontario. He graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He completed wings and fighter training and was posted to Germany where he flew the CF-104 Starfighter. He then returned to the Royal Military College to complete a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering to serve as a lecturer at RMC.
Lawson attended the United States Air Force Staff College in Alabama and completed a Master’s of Public Administration at Auburn University. He then completed CF-18 Hornet training and returned to Germany to fly operationally until the base closed. Lawson then returned to CFB Cold Lake to instruct on the CF-18, where he was in charge of the Fighter Weapons Instructor Course.
Appointed Commanding Officer of 412 Squadron, he flew the Challenger aircraft in the VIP role. Lawson was then placed in charge of career management for Air Command, during which time he completed the United States Air Force Air War College.
As a Colonel, Lawson joined the CF Transformation Team and led the stand up of the Strategic Joint Staff. He was then posted to CFB Trenton as the Wing Commander before being promoted to Brigadier-General and appointed Commandant of his alma-mater, the Royal Military College of Canada.
Promoted to Major-General, Lawson was appointed Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, then was promoted to Lieutenant-General and appointed Deputy Commander NORAD in Colorado Springs.
In 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of General Lawson as incoming Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) to replace outgoing General Walter Natynczyk. As CDS, Lawson oversaw the completion of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, the deployment of Canadian troops to Eastern Europe following Russian aggression in Crimea, and the Canadian Forces contribution to the coalition effort against the self-named Islamic State. He completed his term as CDS in July 2015.
General Lawson speaks passionately, and with gratitude and humour, of his 40-year military career, the experiences of his four-generation Royal Canadian Air Force family, of the critical importance of developing leadership qualities, and of his time as CDS in command of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Remarks by General Tom Lawson: Reflections on 40 Years of Service to Canada