Natacha Dupuis

Natacha Dupuis served as a Coyote Gunner in Afghanistan, one of the only women in her unit.

Longeuil, Quebec


Afghanistan Balkans

Enlisting

Ms. Natacha Dupuis was born May 25, 1979, in Longueuil, Quebec. Throughout her youth, she wanted to join the military. In 1997, at age 18, Ms. Dupuis joined the reserves and enlisted with Armoured Corp as a tanker.

After completing basic training in Montreal and the Crewman course in Valcartier, Dupuis joined the British Columbia Regiment, where she completed an advanced reconnaissance course. Years later, she joined the Regular Force Leopard tank and Coyote Gunner/Driver training course.

natacha dupuis at invictus games

Natacha Dupuis competing at the Invictus Games

Pressure

Dupuis remembers enlisting in the regular forces, recalling the initial pressure she felt.

“All the men were trying to discourage me [from] join[ing] the regular force, saying it was more of a male job,” she said, “but I didn't let it change my mind and I joined.” Ms. Dupuis would go on to serve three tours in the regular forces, one in Bosnia and two more in Afghanistan.


Heroes Remember interview

View all of Natacha Dupuis' videos
A devastating event on duty - HTML5 Transcript/Captions

An event, of course, I can tell you

is the 20th of March 2009 at around 8

in the morning we got up.

We were in an operation and we got up,

we got into our vehicle, rolled down a

mountain and then one of our vehicles hit an IED.

It was the vehicle on my back and

so I was in the LAV at the time,

troop carrier vehicle, and so the ramp

came down and then I saw the coyote

upside down and in very bad shape and

then it's on, you know,

you are thinking what's up?

So you go out, we were five

in the back of the vehicle.

We went out, I walked down to find

out one of our guys were killed.

The vehicle fell on him and

so he was dead there.

And then I am looking for the driver and

the driver was nowhere to be found

so the driver got, I guess exploded.

So he was nowhere to be found,

so that was a hard day.

That was a hard day.

There was three people badly injured too

so you got to put that behind your mind,

you know, the two that passed on and

you have to… this is really hard to talk about.

And so you have to go and help the ones

that are injured so that's what we did.

I mean we did the first aid on the people,

you know, get them down for the helicopter

to come and pick them up.

And all the way you are thinking too,

sometimes there is an IED but

there are secondary IED's,

device to hit the first responders.

But anyway, so ya that's what we did

so we got the injured down the hill.

It lasted for me maybe twenty minutes in

between the hit and the helicopter

to come and pick them up and

we get relief from the

quick reaction force and stuff like that.

But it's a twenty minute that to

me it seemed like an hour.

I couldn't believe when I looked back and

I got to know the timings and stuff and

I was thinking, twenty minutes is so short

but it seemed so long.

So that was a sad day, of course,

losing two of our guys and

then you have to go on.

The mission is not finished.

We had another two months to go so

it makes for a hard two months because

from there for me it got tougher,

my mental health got…

it affected me a lot and right away

because it was a really harsh moment.


Brothers and sisters

Before long, she felt at home in the Canadian Armed Forces. She spoke of her time in Afghanistan, being the only woman and sleeping in a big, open tent filled with cots for her and the other soldiers.

“I see it as brothers and sisters, even though you are not always on the same page,” she said. “At the end of the day you have this bond.”

Coyote gunner in Afghanistan

Dupuis describes a regular day as a Canadian Coyote Gunner in Afghanistan as a series of different roles which could include setting up road blocks, patrolling villages and visiting locals, or clearing routes of IEDs.

“I am very proud of what we did, and hopefully we did help the people over there,” she said while reminiscing of the times she would read the good news stories in the papers and seeing Afghani girls being able to go to school for the first time.

“Not too long ago, I saw there was a female contingent of [the] Afghan army and I was thinking, ‘Wow, there was nothing like that when I was there.'”

Moving forward

Suffering from PTSD, Ms. Dupuis was medically released from the military. She now has a positive focus on her future and maintains pride for her service years. She is involved with the Canada Army Run and is a proud member of the Soldier On organization.

In response to whether or not she would take the same path if given the choice, Dupuis affirmed that “I really liked my job… I'd do it all over again.”


Where they served

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