General Ray Henault was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1949. He enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1968.
General Henault served his early tours as a pilot and flight instructor, accumulating 4,500 flying hours mostly on the T-33 Silver Star, CF-101 Voodoo, and Twin Huey and Kiowa helicopters. In addition to flying, he served as an air traffic controller, an aviation staff officer in a brigade headquarters, and as project director for the acquisition of light helicopters. From 1987 to 1989 he was the Commanding Officer of 444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at the Canadian base in Lahr, Germany.
As Base Commander in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Gen. Henault headed Canadas premier flying training centre, with lead responsibility for primary, helicopter and instructor training. A number of command and staff appointments in the air force followed, and in 1996 he was posted to Ottawa, beginning a series of jobs at National Defence Headquarters including in military planning and operations. In 1998 he was promoted Lt.-Gen. and appointed Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, or head of operations. Gen. Henaults three-year tenure was highlighted by the Canadian contribution to the Kosovo air and ground campaigns and other significant NATO missions, including the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In June 2001, Gen. Henault was promoted to his present rank and appointed Chief of the Defence Staff, a position he held until February 2005, and a period marked by the highest operational tempo for the Canadian Forces in 50 years. Since September 11, 2001, more than 17,000 Canadian Forces personnel have deployed abroad: in addition to the major and sustained commitment to the International Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Canada has been active in coalition and United Nations missions including in Haiti, Ethiopia-Eritrea, the Golan Heights, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.
It was under Gen. Henaults leadership as Chief of the Defence Staff that ambitious efforts took shape to remake, remodel and reform the Canadian Forces into a more flexible, more responsive and more capable military.
General Henault was elected to the position of Chairman of the NATO Military Committee in November 2004 and assumes that position at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, in June 2005.
Fluent in both English and French, Gen. Henault is a graduate of the cole suprieure de guerre arienne (ESGA) in Paris and Canadas National Defence College. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Manitoba. In 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy (Military Science) from the Royal Military College of Canada. In 2006, he was awarded Honorary Professor at the University of Pcs, Hungary.
General Henault also holds the rank of Commander of the Canadian Order of Military Merit (CMM), Commander in The Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Commander of the French Légion d'honneur, the United States Legion of Merit in the degree of Commander, and the Czech Cross of Merit (1st Degree).