The “First 32”

14451 Theresa Towns (RMC 1984)

“Basic training wasn’t bad; it was more of an eye-opener for me as to what I could really do for myself and how I could rise to challenges never before considered.”

The “First 32”

By 15566 Helga Grodzinski (RMC 1986)

14451 Theresa Towns works as the circulation clerk for the Ottawa Public Library and is the proud mother of two grown daughters.

What prompted me to attend RMC? My father and maternal grandfather were both service men and I grew up in a military family and I was familiar with the military life. When it came time for me to make the decision of where to apply for university, one of the university presentations I attended concerned the military colleges and what they could offer. I think at that time in my life the biggest selling point was that I would get paid to go to school, I would get to travel for the summer to BC where I had never been before and my expenses would basically be paid and I would make money going to college! Along with applying to RMC, I also applied to a few civilian universities – Queen’s, Western for various programs. I was accepted at RMC and so began the adventure of leaving home and becoming more independent than I had ever been.

When I look back and try to put myself in the same mindset, I really think that I didn’t have any real expectations, other than the fact that I was going to get paid and have a guaranteed job after graduation. The real implications of what I was doing never really were considered, naïveté would definitely have been one of my characteristics at that time in my life as I think it is for most teenagers. I was only 17 when I left home and probably quite a bit less mature (from a worldly knowledge perspective) than the others I started out with. I think this fact actually helped me get through the first year. Basic training wasn’t bad; it was more of an eye-opener for me as to what I could really do for myself and how I could rise to challenges never before considered. I think too that it was a more realistic view of women in the military as I am sure women had been trained through Chilliwack before so it was not a new thing for them. On the other hand, when we got to RMC, women in the ranks was a novelty and it had not been experienced before, not to mention there was probably some animosity from the old boys club being invaded.

I have to say, that other than the pranks pulled on us generally as a group, I was never really subjected to any direct animosity. This observation is, however, directly related to my naïveté and that I took things as they were dealt to me without letting them really affect me. I think also that reminiscing 25-plus years later, things are forgotten or toned down in their affect that they may have had on me. When I really try to remember back, I can not think of too many direct events that happened other than the fact that we were referred to as “Sweats” and there was one incident where they had mounted a “Sweat relief station” on a wall and it consisted of a toilet paper roll with a conical end attached and it was mounted in such a way as to be lewd and its intent was clear.

In the first year Theresa is in the third row, second from the left and in the 4th year she is right in the middle of the second row.

There were a lot of good memories from RMC too. There were the friendships that kept you going and the people you could rely on to help out or be a listening ear. I can remember looking forward to exam routine (especially in the first two years) when the rules were slackened – no making the bed everyday, less structure to the routine, a lot more freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted. I remember Civy U day when we could wear regular clothes for the whole day-to classes and around the college. The squadron parties were fun, too and evoked a good camaraderie amongst all the years in the squadron. The things that we had to do, pushing an open can of shoe polish with our noses down our hallways, the races with the mattresses complete with mattress covers where one person goes in one side and you go in the other to see who emerges from the opposite side first, the morning runs to Fort Henry, the obstacle course (for which I have that to thank for my back condition now), the 2-minute showers, waking up to the blaring “I’m not Living in a Real World” by Blondie and going to sleep to “Nights in White Satin”, and all the other little “spirit-building” adventures were just that. Spirit-building and, 28 years later, actually funny to think about!

I remember one of out first runs to Fort Henry when my bra strap broke halfway through the run and having to hold up one side for the rest of the way home. I still hate running to this day! I also enjoyed how the females were given the one day a month grace for the cursed “time-of-the-month” blues. I know that excuse came in handy a few times!

Where I am today probably has a lot to do with what I learned in the military. After 16 years as a supply officer (CFB Trenton, NDHQ, Air Command HQ in Winnipeg and then back to NDHQ) I retired in 1996 and became a home daycare provider so I could be home with children-two daughters, now 23 and 21. I also realized that I no longer wanted to be part of the military. My husband had moved with me and, after watching him sacrifice his career for me for 16 years, I wanted to give him the opportunity to concentrate on his career. They were making early release offers so I jumped at the chance. I have to say that I really never missed the military life and was quite busy with my new career choice. Today I work as the circulation clerk for the Ottawa Public Library, which I find tremendously satisfying and enjoyable. At 46, and with the experiences I have had, I now know where I really want to work and that is within the library system. The qualities of being proud of my job and wanting to do the best I can was instilled in me from when I was young but also, the requirement to pay attention to detail, to do the required preparations, how to be an effective member of a team, were some of the many skills that were taught through military training. I think too, having gone through basic training and the antics at RMC really taught me what I can do and that the limitations that we feel are not necessarily insurmountable. That alone has helped me through many a situation and has allowed me to be successful at a lot of things including wanting a job in the Library system and getting a job there.

As far as what I think women entering RMC now should know… it is hard to say because it is now such a different atmosphere. I remember returning to RMC a number of years ago and seeing women in cadet uniforms everywhere and no one pointing or gesturing to single them out as was custom whenever there were events at the college when we were there. I really don’t think that the young women starting there today would be faced with near the challenges that met our class. It does make me proud to feel that it was our class that helped get RMC to the point it is at now. My advice would be applicable to anything in life, be true to who you are and allow for new experiences to further that development of your character and enjoy. Know that the things that happen to you now that seem monumental become little blips in life in the future and unless you are asked to reminisce about them they usually remain buried in your past!

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14510 Sue Wigg: Update

e-Veritas published a “First 32” article on the 16th of March featuring LCol Sue Wigg.  We have been informed that from her posting to SHAPE, she has been deployed in Afghanistan since September 2008.

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