CAF Firsts: Captain of the Queen’s Guard

Captain Couto
Captain Couto, from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, poses for the media at Wellington Barracks on June 26, 2017. Photo: Corporal Jay Ekin

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This week, to mark International Women’s Day, we are showcasing some of the firsts for women in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

On June 26, 2017, Captain Megan Couto, a member of 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), became the first woman infantry officer to serve in the role of Captain of the Queen’s Guard. This milestone, which occurred when she was given the opportunity to step into her Officer Commanding’s boots, was a role she recalls as a privilege.

“I knew it was possible that it would be a first, but never realized that it might become a reality, or how much media attention it would attract,” Capt Couto said. But once the media interviews started, she realized how many people would be watching. “It certainly made me aware that I was representing more than just myself – my boss, my soldiers, and the Regiment!”

In recognition of Canada 150, her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II requested that a Canadian unit be given the honor to act as her guard during the summer of 2017. A contingent of 80 soldiers, and 35 members of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band travelled to the United Kingdom to watch over the sovereign’s official residences, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

As Company Second in Command, Capt Couto was responsible for administrative requirements, as well as coordinating deployment and redeployment of personnel and equipment. Her secondary duties included serving as the Inspecting Officer on parade, and as understudy of all of the officers who held other parade positions.

Looking back, Capt Couto will always remember the feeling she experienced as she walked down The Mall, the iconic street between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. “The parade was nearly over, and all I could think was “we pulled it off”! I was immensely proud of all the soldiers on parade in that moment.”

When asked what her advice is to other female CAF members who are considering putting their name forward for unique opportunities is to go for it. “Even if it’s challenging, or if nobody like you has yet to do a similar task before, you are well trained and well equipped. Don’t let self-doubt or what anyone else says get in your way, just be your excellent self. No matter the outcome, you will come out the other side knowing you rose to the occasion, tried your best, and learned a few lessons along the way.”

To read more about the 2 PPCLI Canada 150 special posting, read the Army article Canadian is first female infantry officer to lead Queen’s Guard.

Image gallery

  • Military staff in ceremonial attire walk in front of Buckingham palace as a crowd watches on the sidewalks.
  • Two military staff in ceremonial attire stand in front of a gate at Buckingham Palace.
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