‘Swift, Skilled, Alert’ – mother and soldier Sergeant Melissa Walcott’s story
Article / May 10, 2019 / Project number: 19-0023
By Captain Nicholas Kaempffer, The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School
Mother’s Day honours mothers and mother figures and their influence on family and society. It has been celebrated annually on different days in more than 40 countries around the world since the 1800s .
Oromocto, New Brunswick — Sergeant Melissa Walcott isn’t just “any other soldier,” as this mother of three is continually seeking challenges to push herself mentally and physically – all the while balancing the demands of being a soldier, signaller, leader, wife, mother, and role model!
Currently serving as the Regimental Signals Sergeant within The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School at 5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown, hers is a career worth sharing.
Born on May 14, 1980 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, she is married to Corporal Ian Walcott, an Electric Generator System Technician currently posted to 4 Engineer Support Regiment, also at 5 CDSB Gagetown.
Proud mother of three
They are the proud parents of three children, Liam (15), Abigail (8) and Ryan (4).
With 21 years of service within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), this Senior Non-Commissioned member has deployed nationally and internationally on operations, moved all across Canada, and embraced the challenges of three different trades.
Army Reservist at 17, deployed to Swiss Air Flight disaster
At the age of 17, Sgt Walcott joined the Army Reserve as an Infantry Soldier with 1st Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders. There, she participated in two domestic operations, including Operation PERSISTENCE (1998), where she was part of the shoreline search team for Swiss Air Flight 111 (which tragically crashed into St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia, with no survivors).
Assisted with humanitarian aid for Kosovo refugees
She was also part of Operation PARASOL (1999), in which she assisted with camp security for Kosovo refugees who were brought to Canada as a part of an international emergency effort to provide humanitarian assistance.
It was during this operation that Sgt Walcott had the opportunity to work with medical teams, and seeking a new challenge, she transferred to Medical Technician.
“Having a family background in the medical field, I thought it would be great to follow in those footsteps so I could better help others,” she said.
Transferred to Regular Force and chose third trade
After several years of working as a full-time Reservist Medical Technician at the 5 CDSB Gagetown hospital, Sergeant Walcott decided to transfer to the Regular Force in 2003, as she desired additional challenges, along with the inherent job security offered by this change.
It was there that she changed her trade again, joining the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS) as a Signal Operator (now known as an Army Communication and Information Systems Specialist).
There, she worked hard to epitomize the RCCS motto of Velox Versutus Vigilans (“Swift, Skilled, Alert”), as she completed many courses in rapid succession, and went on to instruct communication skills to students with the Combat Training Centre at 5 CDSB Gagetown.
Deployed to Operation ATHENA in Afghanistan
In 2007, she deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group on Operation ATHENA Roto 3.
Upon her return to Canada in 2007, Sgt Walcott was posted to numerous bases and units, including the Canadian Forces Joint Signals Regiment in Kingston, Ontario, the Headquarters and Signals Squadron in Petawawa, Ontario, and 36 Signals Regiment in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
About being a woman in the CAF
Sgt Walcott has often been asked to speak on her experiences of being in the CAF, specifically as a woman.
“When I first joined the military, I never saw myself as a woman. I didn’t understand or see what that meant in the bigger picture. To me, I was a soldier,” she said.
“I quickly learned the struggles that women in a male-dominated environment faced and they have been both mental and physical. But it has also helped me grow. I learned how to show my strengths and ask for help when required.”
Family ties and strong friendships key to success
In 2018, Sgt Walcott was posted to 5 CDSB Gagetown, where she and her service spouse hope to finish their careers, as their budding family continues to develop and grow.
With such a dynamic, diverse career, when asked what keeps her going, Sgt Walcott had an answer ready and waiting – family and friends.
“I find faith in the friendships I have made over the last 19 years with the people I’ve met along this incredible journey,” Sgt Walcott said.
“Having to uproot your ‘home’ every few years or going on course or a deployment with people you have never met before, you learn to trust. You learn to open up, provide support and help. You’re with people who have been through what you have gone through, who have heard and saw the same (or similar) things you have.”
“These friendships are strong and there’s a connection no one else could understand. The support system during the trying tough times are what gets me through,” she said.
‘Been to war, seen trauma … but have training, resources and support’
“I’ve been to war. I’ve been shot at. I’ve seen trauma. I’ve experienced loss in ways people can’t imagine both overseas and here in Canada. But I have had the training, resources and support necessary to get through it.”
Being away from family for duty is biggest challenge
“The most challenging thing about being in the military is being away from family!”
“As a wife and a mother of three, working full time, it is so tough finding the time to appreciate what we have. We get called away at any time and the only option is to go,” said Sgt Walcott.
Through it all, “My kids, husband and family are what keep me going. They show me every day that life is worth living, how to enjoy it and that when things are difficult, you still have to keep going. They remain my constant, and I theirs,”
Challenges deliver rewards
“Despite the negativity and challenges, I have faced over the years, I have had so many positive experiences. I have done things I have never imagined being able to do. I’ve gone places I never would have or imagined I could.”
“The military has made me strong. I am proud of my accomplishments. I have made huge sacrifices to support Canada, but I have done it because I’ve wanted to. The pros have most certainly outweighed the cons.”
The Nova Scotia Highlanders (North)
Electrical Generating Systems Technician
Army Communication and Information Systems Specialist
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