Friday, April 19, 2019

It's a wrap...

This past week I finished nearly 39 years of military and federal public service. There were days when I didn't think retirement would come soon enough but now that it's here it's kind of bittersweet.

I joined the Canadian Forces after graduating from university with a Bachelors of Science in Biology.

I was enrolled as a Logistics Officer and after completing basic training in Chilliwack BC, I did the Basic Logistics course and the Supply Specialty course.
Company Sports Competition

Drill Competition

On exercise
Before my Logistics and Supply course, I was posted awaiting training to Toronto where I met an officer who had been selected to do the Ammunition Technical Officers (ATO) course in Australia.  That was my first introduction to the ATO course although I found out later that most candidates went to England for the course, I still thought the course would something that I would really be interested in doing.

I had a few years to wait as you had to be a captain to apply for the course. I applied the first time as soon as I was promoted to Captain but my boss refused my application.  That was fine as that summer I was to be posted to the year-long French course and that was followed by a posting to a radar station in British Columbia called Baldy Hughes.  Canadian Forces Station Baldy Hughes was part of the Pine Tree line that was being shut down since radar technology had advanced so much that the stations were no longer required. I was the Station Logistics Officer (SLogO) responsible for Supply, Transport and Maintenance and one of only eight officers on the station.

After Baldy Hughes I was posted to a project in Ottawa where I again applied for the ATO course. This time my application was supported and I was selected to attend the ATO course at the Royal Military College of Science (RMCS) Shrivenham and the Army School of Ammunition (Kineton). I was only the fourth woman that the Canadian Forces had sent. The British Army had not yet sent a woman on course.  At RMCS, my ATO course was combined with the Naval Ordnance Officers course, of the almost 30 students on the two courses I was the only woman.  There were other women on the Masters of Science - Explosives Ordnance Engineering (EOE) program. The year I attended there was a post-graduate diploma offered for the RMCS portion of the course. It meant you had to write two exams for each subject, an ATO course exam and the diploma exam.  The diploma exams were tough; on one exam, the chemistry of explosives, only a single officer from Singapore managed a pass mark. I missed passing by about 5 marks, roughly about 2%, The college decided that they would bell curve the marks and I did indeed pass; it was the only exam I failed on the course. Diploma candidates also had to do a viva voce exam (oral exam) on our syndicate project, that was a bit nerve wracking to go in front of a panel to defend your project results. But in the end I was awarded a Diploma in Explosives Ordnance Technology. I was the only one on my ATO course to receive the diploma although two of the ATO officers worked toward and received their Masters (EOE) degree.

The next phase of the course was at the Army School of Ammunition in Kineton near Leamington Spa. There we studied all types of army ammunition, how to store and transport them and also how to dispose of them by demolition. I didn't think I would like the demolition phase but it was actually fun to blow things up.   We also studied how to render safe improvised explosives devices (bomb disposal). Most of the officers on my course wanted to do bomb disposal, that didn't really interest me. The exam for this phase of the course was a practical exercise, usually I'm really nervous about that type of exam but since I wasn't too worried about my standing in that subject area I was actually quite relaxed. It must of helped as I finished first in this phase, overall I finished fourth on the course.

ATO Course 1991

My posting after course came as a bit of a surprise, I had been assigned an Air Force uniform and expected to be posted to an ammunition depot but instead and somewhat at the last minute, I was posted to 5 Service Battalion in Valcartier Quebec.  I came home from England via Edmonton, Alberta as my car had already been shipped out west (I was originally posted to the ammunition depot in Saskatchewan) and I drove back across the country to my first posting with the Army.

Ammo Platoon field storage

Ammo Platoon

Canadian Forces Decoration

EOD Flag

I really enjoyed my time in Valcartier. It was difficult to work in French at first but I think I did fairly well by the end.  I enjoyed being on exercise but that's probably because ammo platoon was never located with the Service Battalion so you kind of got to do your own thing. I also never had to pull any command post duties that all the other Captains had to do, primarily because my platoon was so far away and also perhaps because I was Air Force and didn't have the required field training. I did two more Army postings one as the ATO in Gagetown and then as the Quartermaster at Armour School in Gagetown.  It was while I was in Armour School that I applied to change to an Army uniform but only after I was granted credit for Phase II Infantry.  Once my transfer to the Army was approved I agreed to wear an Armoured back beret something I had always refused before as it wasn't part of Air Force dress.

After Armour School, I was posted to Borden to the Logistics School as the operations officer but I was soon promoted to Major and was appointed the Division Commander responsible for Transport, Supply (which included ammunition training) and Cooks training companies then later on Officer Training Company; it was a full circle now being back as an instructor at the Logistics School.

In Army Mess Kit
My last posting was back to Ottawa to another project where I met another Major who was doing civilian federal government job competitions. She encouraged me to start doing them for the experience even if I wasn't ready to get out. I did a number of procurement group (PG) competitions but the jobs I really wanted were with the newly created  Directorate of Ammunition and Explosives Regulation (DAER) I did two competitions for DAER. I was successful in some of the PG competitions as well as the DAER competitions where I accepted a job offer in an Engineering Support Group (EG) position.

Mess Dinner with DAER
My last job with DAER saw me as Canada's representative to NATO and to the UN for explosives safety, primarily for safe storage.  What an experience and not just for the travel, the work as well was really interesting. And that's what is kind of disappointing is that both organizations are in the middle of revising and updating their explosives safety storage guidelines and I'm leaving before the work is finished.  I would have really liked to see that work through to the end.

UN Technical Review Board 2018
I've met so many great people over the years and had many great challenging and interesting jobs; all in all, it's really been a sweet ride. So it's a wrap on that chapter of my life but the new chapter is just beginning; I hope to do more travelling and will continue to do agility with my dogs.


  1. Wow! What an amazing career! I look forward to reading about your retirement!

  2. You have had a wonderful career for sure, and we thank you for your service. Enjoy your retirement - you have certainly earned it.

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber and Mom

  3. Wow - what a fabulous career you have had! Enjoy your retirement - every single day of it.

  4. Now that you've had a little time....what are you enjoying most about retirement? I suppose I'm making an assumption there...that you ARE enjoying it...I hope so!

    1. So far it just seems like a vacation but I think what I like best is no schedule. It will really feel like retirement when I go down east this August without having a set return date. No alarm clock is nice too but the dogs make sure I don't sleep in too late.


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