Wanting to experience new opportunities and adventures, now retired Sergeant Wanda G. Beaudoin joined the Canadian Armed Forces in August 1974 with her parents’ permission and blessings.
Comrade Wanda has enjoyed many ‘firsts’ in her military career; her first train trip from Barrie to Belleville; her first airplane trip from Trenton to Greenwood, Nova Scotia. She recalls these adventures as nerve-wracking yet exciting and commented that she felt that she accomplished more in her eleven weeks of basic training at Cornwallis, Nova Scotia than in her previous eleven years of schooling. From Cornwallis she transferred to Canadian Forces Base Borden for her trade's training followed by a posting to Ottawa; then Cold Lake, Alberta, back to Ottawa and again to Borden from where she retired forty-one years later.
During recruitment in Toronto, all applicants complete an aptitude test and Comrade Wanda showed a propensity towards the ‘technical trades’. She was offered the Photographic Technician’s training and reports that in those days, there were still very few women employed in that trade or throughout most of the Canadian Forces. While posted to Cold Lake, she travelled with 410 Squadron to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to cover the Canadian participation in Combat Archer (air-to-air combat focused on missile firing) where she captured the first photographs of CF-18s firing AIM 7 Sparrow missiles over the Gulf of Mexico. Sitting in the back seat of the noisy CF-18 airplane, she felt exhilarated and remembered she was just a kid from Coldwater, experiencing this incredible event!
Homesick at first, Comrade Wanda focused her energies on learning the full scope of her trade as a photographic technician responsible for taking photographs, the processing and printing of film, maintenance of all photographic equipment plus the mixing and quality control of the necessary chemicals. Another first for Comrade Wanda was her work behind the scenes; she worked for the Intelligence Branch and along with her crew, created the briefing material for the then Minister of the National Defence during the Persian Gulf conflict.
While in Cold Lake, Comrade Wanda worked closely with the CF-18 fighter squadrons and together with her crew, photographed and documented five fatal crashes. In addition, she worked with the Military Police on issues such as accidents, disputes, etc., which occurred on Crown Land – Crown Land is held by government as public land.
In the early years, Comrade Wanda wrote numerous letters to the family as telephone calls were expensive. She reports that they were well provided with equipment to perform their job and it was a gastronomical pleasure at meal time. There was no want for anything. But it wasn’t all work and no play…Comrade Wanda managed to transfer her sewing machine to her barrack block room and pursued her passion of sewing.
After twenty-seven years in the Regular Force and not wishing to accept future postings away from home, Comrade Wanda transferred to the Reserve Force where she continued with her military career for the next fourteen years at Camp Borden. She is recipient of The Canadian Decoration with two Clasps; the Decoration is awarded after twelve years of service; a Clasp is awarded after each succeeding ten years of service.
Asked for additional comments to support this interview, Comrade Wanda remarked that military personnel are a strong proponent for peace and that the mandate of the Legion is remembrance…to remember and honour those men and women who have served and continue to serve. She is very proud of our Branch as we are an integral part of the Coldwater community.
In closing the interview she said, “Leadership is influencing by example”.
We thank you for your service.