Captain John Pickford, a native of Halifax and Dalhousie graduate, joined the Canadian Forces in 1974 as a naval officer. In 1976, upon completing qualification training, he was posted from Esquimalt, British Columbia, to the navy’s east coast base at Halifax. During his years in Halifax, he served as a Navigating Officer in HMCS ANNAPOLIS and HMCS IROQUOIS, as a Combat Officer in HMCS SKEENA and HMCS ALGONQUIN, and as an instructor at the Canadian Forces Fleet School. During this period, he also attended the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College in Toronto.
In July 1990, after a year as Executive Officer of HMCS PROTECTEUR, Captain Pickford was appointed to the command of the destroyer, HMCS ATHABASKAN. Later that year, when the Gulf War began, he deployed with the ship to the Arabian Gulf-Arabian Sea region where, for more than seven months, ATHABASKAN was the flagship of the Canadian Naval Task Group conducting maritime interdiction operations in the region as part of Canada’s contribution to the war against Iraq.
In 1991, upon his return to Canada, Captain Pickford was posted back to the Fleet School in Halifax, this time as the Combat Division Commander. In 1993, he assumed the position of Executive Assistant to the Commander Maritime Command and, in 1996, he moved to National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa as Director of Naval Personnel Production (Training) for the Chief of the Maritime Staff. In June 1999, Captain Pickford returned to Halifax to take command of the Fifth Maritime Operations Group. In August 2000, he returned to Ottawa as the Director of Maritime Major Capital Projects; in October 2001, he was appointed Director General, Maritime Force Development.
In July 2002, Captain Pickford was attached to the headquarters of the Canadian Joint Task Force South West Asia at Mac Dill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida as J3 and then as CO of the National Command Element and Task Force Chief of Staff. In May 2003, he re-assumed the appointment of Director General Maritime Force Development until January 2005 when he was appointed the Project Manager Canadian Naval Centennial 1910-2010 and remained in that position until 2011 when he retired.
In 2012, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his efforts with regard to the Centennial.
He is a member of the Order of St. George in the rank of Knight, affiliated with the Naval Association of Canada, a Board of Director with the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, honorary member of the Royal Military College Ex-Cadet Club (S129), member of Sigma Chi International Fraternity and the Crows Nest Club of St. John’s, NL.