Lieutenant-Colonel Krista Bouckaert aims to inspire women and men

Article / March 8, 2017 / Project number: 17-1032

By Lynn Capuano, Army Public Affairs

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Oromocto, New Brunswick — Be Bold for Change is the 2017 motto of International Women’s Day, and Lieutenant-Colonel K.L.A. (Krista) Bouckaert finds it fits her personal experience as a female senior leader in the Canadian Army (CA).

Be Bold for Change is a tremendous reminder to use my position and experience to inspire soldiers, officers and youth to find their passion in life and pursue it with fearlessness and to speak with confidence in themselves,” she said.

LCol Bouckaert became the first female Commanding Officer (CO) in the history of the CA to lead a Regular Force artillery regiment on June 7, 2016 when she took command of the 4th Artillery Regiment (General Support) Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA). She said it is “hands down, absolutely the best day of my career in the Army thus far.”

The Edmonton, Alberta native joined the Army Reserve in 1998 as an Artillery Officer with 18th Air Defence Regiment, RCA. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Lethbridge in 2000, she transferred to the Regular Force and was posted to 128 Air Defence Battery in Gagetown, New Brunswick.

She has completed two deployments:

  • In 2002, she was Command Post Operator for Operation GRIZZLY during the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta; and
  • From October 2009 to May 2010, she was Military Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff Plans and Projects as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command Corps Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Increasingly senior postings in Canada followed, including a 2013 posting to the Strategic Joint Staff (SJS) as part of the ISAF Joint Command Headquarters in Ottawa as the planner for the Middle East, working as part of the Coalition team that set the framework and operation design for Operation IMPACT.

LCol Bouckaert has been awarded the Canadian Decoration; a Chief of Defence Staff Commendation for her work as the Middle East planner with SJS; and a United States Meritorious Service Medal for creating and spearheading the first multi-national Strategic Campaign Planning Conference during her deployment to the ISAF Joint Command Corps Headquarters in Afghanistan.

She earned a Master’s degree in Defence Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada while attending the Joint Command and Staff Program at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto from 2012-2013, among a number of other training programs.

‘Never let my size determine the limits of my success’

“I joined #42 Air Cadet Squadron in 1992 with my best friend while in high school, and absolutely loved it – the discipline, the drill, the opportunity to fly in gliders, and the chance to go away to summer camp,” she said.

Her younger brother had joined the Reserves at age 16 while she was in university. When he described what he was learning and the opportunities that existed, LCol Bouckaert thought, “I could totally do that, and I can do it better than my brother!”

“So I joined 18th Air Defence Regiment, RCA as an Artillery Officer in the Primary Reserves in 1998, where I served as a Troop Commander until my graduation from university.”

She still vividly remembers walking up to the large, male recruiter during a job fair at her university. She recalls him saying, “No offence, miss, but aren’t you a little concerned about your … petite stature?”

“Having been raised by my mom to never let my size determine the limits of my success, I merely smiled and told him ‘Not a chance!’”

She still remembers her very first day of work as a new Troop Commander at the Regiment in April 2001; while walking up the stairs in her Battery’s lines, she was mistaken for the Battery Commander’s daughter.

“It is surreal to walk up those very same stairs today as the CO.”

“I could not be more honoured or proud to be at its helm as we enable CA operations,” stated LCol Bouckaert.

Inspiring young women and men

“As a woman leading men and women in a male-dominated work environment,” LCol Bouckaert said, “I believe I also play a critical role and need to leverage my position to inspire young women as well as young men to work together.”

“From my perspective, especially having a 14-year-old stepdaughter, I think it is important for school-aged girls to see women in professions like my own, and to encourage them to be confident in who they are, to find their voice and use it fearlessly.”

A bright future for female military leaders

LCol Bouckaert said, “Women are, more and more, filling senior leadership positions in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). And while at times in the media I sense impatience for more women to achieve more senior positions faster and in greater numbers, I firmly believe that time and experience is required before taking more senior appointments, as respect, operational credibility and professional excellence are critical to success in command appointments.”

“Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan was the first woman to command a Regular Force combat arms Regiment – in her case a Combat Engineering Regiment – and performed brilliantly both here at home and on deployed operations in Afghanistan,” she noted.

“I am now the second woman to command a Regular Force Combat Arms unit, and the first woman to command a Regular Artillery Regiment, but I would be remiss if I did not point out that this will quickly become the norm in the RCA. Some brilliant female Artillery officers are slated for command in the near-term. The Artillery is, from my perspective, extremely progressive and leading the charge to diversity in a very male-dominated trade.”

“I also believe it is important to acknowledge the true trail-blazers like Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett and BGen Carignan paving the way for those of us reaching the unit command levels,” she continued.

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have their incredible examples to emulate, as well as the professional and personal support of some superbly talented colleagues, both male and female alike.”

Women in the combat arms

“The Combat Arms is certainly not for the faint of heart, and there are also many men who cannot do the job. During my initial training, the failure of women was much more pronounced as there were so few of us. But no one ever commented on the large numbers of men who failed to make the cut.”

“I believe myself to have been extremely fortunate to work with groups of men who – even in the early days – progressively accepted me as one of their own.”

“Perhaps it’s been my farm upbringing and fearlessness of hard work or because I have served with men who have been raised by or around incredibly talented women who have challenged traditional norms and worked as highly successful engineers, police officers, fire fighters, politicians, lawyers and traders.”

“Whatever the reason, I am honoured to have served and continue to serve alongside some incredible men and women who have celebrated my successes and been there to encourage me when I have faltered.”

“I certainly wish to be judged in my capability as a Commanding Officer, not in my capability as a female Commanding Officer. From my perspective, respect is everyone’s to lose, regardless of gender.”

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