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Guylaine Lamoureux

Finding a place as a woman in the military

Kingston, Ontario

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A portrait of Guylaine Lamoreux during her interview in 2019

Joined

Enlisted in Calgary, Alberta: 1997

Trade

Dental Technician

Postings

  • HMCS PROVIDER: 1997
  • HMCS VILLE DE QUÉBEC: 1998-2001
  • Halifax, NS: 2001-2004
  • Bagotville, QC: 2004-2008
  • Ottawa, ON: 2008-2013
  • Valcartier, QC: 2013-2015
  • IPSC Ottawa and Kingston, ON: 2015-2017
HTML5 Transcript/Captions

Veterans Affairs Canada

Guylaine Lamoureux

My name is Master Warrant Officer Guylaine Lamoureux.

I served 21 years with the Canadian Armed Forces.

I began my career as a bar agent or steward.

Then, in 2001,

I went on as a dental technician for the Army.

I did two deployments.

As a woman in the Canadian Armed Forces, I faced a number of challenges.

One, among other things, was the fact that I was a single mother.

I did not want to be set apart from the others, so I did what I had to do.

I went back to school to be more competitive with my peers.

I volunteered to teach at school, to do exercises, to do deployments

to show that just because I was a woman or a single mother

didn’t mean that I could not achieve my goals.

My transition,

when I had my mental health diagnosis, my transition, was extremely difficult.

I was extremely disappointed with myself.

I was ashamed to say that I was not feeling well

because this had put a stop to my career.

I was hoping to go further than the rank of Master Warrant Officer.

It’s like grieving.

ou’ve been doing the same job for 21 years,

and then all of a sudden they don’t want you any more.

Then, I entered the civilian world.

It’s something completely different.

You’re not used to it.

You’re used to being told what to do, what to eat, how to dress.

Overnight, no one is there for us anymore.

The advice I could give to help you through the transition, is to go one day at a time.

Accept the help around you. Get to know yourself,

because you have to live with the new person you have become, with your wounds, with anger.

Learn to direct anger towards something else.

Then take care of yourself.

veterans.gc.ca

Government of Canada

Introduction

Guylaine Lamoureux joined the navy in 1997 when she was 26 years old. A dental technician by trade, Guylaine—Gee for short—saw military service as an opportunity to use her training in new ways. The next 21 years were in turns inspiring, challenging, rewarding and heartbreaking.

Guylaine’s basic training graduation photo, 1997, St-Jean, Quebec

“I was in my element,” Gee says. “When I went through basic training in 1997, our platoon started with 20 women and 40 men. We were the platoon with the most women and we were all helping each other—the women and the men.”

After basic training, Gee was posted to HMCS PROVIDER. During that time, she became pregnant and gave birth to her son, now 22. It was then she began to realize how military life differed for men and women.

Guylaine with her son Max (1-year-old at the time) on her return to Halifax from a 3-month NATO deployment to the Adriatic Sea in 1999

“Expectations for women are very different,” Gee says. Over her military career, she “volunteered to teach at schools, to do exercises, to do deployments. I wanted to show that just because I was a woman, or a single mother, didn’t mean that I could not achieve my goals.”

Doing good work through service

Gee transferred from the navy to the army after four years. She deployed three times: once on HMCS VILLE DE QUEBEC for a three-month NATO mission in the Adriatic Sea; once in 2006 on the United States Navy Ship MERCY to perform humanitarian aid in Indonesia; and once in 2010 to provide aid in Haiti.

Guylaine with her fellow sailors in Puerto Rico on an Adriatic Sea NATO Deployment, 1999

While each mission brought challenges, Gee looks back on those times as special. In an article she wrote about her Indonesia deployment for Le Vortex de Bagotville, Gee said: “This mission, I will cherish in my heart forever.”

But the good that came from the work she did continued to be counter-balanced by the challenges she faced as a woman in the military.

Climbing the ranks

Gee rose through the ranks quickly. “But it was a constant battle,” she says. “When I first transferred to dental, it was very male-dominant. I found the only way I could equal myself was by doing extra.”

Gender often factored in her career advancement in subtle ways. There were also more overt ones.

Guylaine’s official portrait, 2013. Taken in Vaclcartier, Quebec

“I took online training courses through the Royal Military College,” she explains. “I remember during that time, a gentleman—a rank higher than I was—said to me, ‘Oh, I don’t have those courses.’ And I replied, ‘No, because you don’t have to.’ I had to make my file appeal even more to whoever was evaluating me on the board.’” Gee also pursued her bachelor’s degree in psychology while posted in Ottawa and Valcartier from 2008 to 2015.

Receiving a diagnosis

In 2014, after almost 19 years of service, Gee was diagnosed with an operational stress injury. An operational stress injury is a relatively recent classification for mental health issues related to military service and trauma. The diagnosis prematurely ended her service and impacted her educational pursuits.

“My transition was extremely difficult,” she says. “I wasn't ready to let go. I've always been driven to move forward and would tell myself: ‘Suck it up, princess.’ I had that embedded in me. I was like, ‘This is ridiculous—you're not missing a limb.’”

Guylaine receiving her Canadian Forces’ Decoration from the Surgeon General, 2009, Ottawa, Ontario

Her diagnosis meant she could not return to her dental unit. Despite her additional training and language profile, reassignment proved almost impossible. She fought for two years to find a new position, but nothing panned out. She felt abandoned by the system where she had spent the past two decades.

“A lot has improved in the last four years, but when I started this process in 2016, it wasn’t the greatest,” Gee remembers. “There wasn’t a lot of information, and there was a lack of knowledge from the transition centre. I thought the best thing for me was to rush back to work. I was pushing myself, even though I wasn’t ready. That whole period was like a grieving process.”

The power of family support

After years of struggle with her diagnosis and efforts to be reassigned, Gee and her family moved to Kingston, Ontario, where her husband—also in the military—had recently been posted. The change in environment and a transfer to a new Integrated Personnel Support Centre brought new light to her situation.

Guylaine during her Veteran Story interview, 2019, Kingston, Ontario

“The irony is, when I got my letter saying ‘You’re releasing in seven months,’ I was so happy,” Gee says.

The support of her family and a more positive outlook on life after service helped Gee make peace with her transition. And despite the ups and downs, she believes the military is a valuable career, particularly for women deciding their future.

Words of advice for other women

“I would definitely encourage anyone—man or woman—to join,” Gee says. “It gives you a purpose, especially when you go on deployment. It’s something you can’t explain to a civilian who has never done any of that. And things are changing. From the time when women joined in the 70s or 80s until today, a lot of changes did happen. They’re trying to make amends for everything that’s happened in the past.”

And what is Gee’s advice for those women who choose to follow her path?

“To all these strong women who have chosen the Canadian Armed Forces for a career, or to help you through the transition to life after service: go one day at a time. Accept the support around you. Accept your family, the people around you who will support you. Find something that makes you smile. Get to know yourself, because you have to live with the new person you have become.”


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