By Second Lieutenant Maxime Cliche, 38 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs
The theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019 is “Balance for Better” and Corporal Jessica Bonner demonstrates this in her dual career as an Army Reservist and as a civilian registered nursing student. IWD has been celebrated each year since 1909 with the goal to achieve equal rights for women around the world.
Regina, Saskatchewan — When you ask members of the Canadian Army why they joined, one of the most common answers is, “to see the world.” This was the reason that pushed Corporal Jessica Bonner to become a Mobile Support Equipment Operator (MSE Op).
Trucker in the Army Reserve, nurse in civilian life
MSE Ops are the backbone of logistics in the Canadian Army. They operate and maintain a variety of vehicles needed to move troops, equipment and supplies.
Cpl Bonner has been a proud Army Reservist for four and a half years, serving as an MSE Op with 38 Canadian Brigade Group Service Battalion in Regina.
On the civilian side, she has just completed her registered nursing program at the University of Regina and is in the process of getting her nursing license.
''I do not intend to transfer as a nursing officer. If I ever go officer, which I might consider after accomplishing a few things I’d like to do in this role first, I would still likely want to stay in logistics. My plan, as of right now, is to be a nurse only in my civilian career.''
Calgary born and raised
Cpl Bonner grew up in Calgary, Alberta. When she was a teenager, she looked for a job where she could push herself and challenge her limits. Seeing the world was one of her priorities, but not many jobs offer that kind of opportunity. Knowing the military was one of the few that did, she went ahead and sought out a recruiter for more information about the military world.
“I wanted to push myself and liked the idea of the training and discipline the military offered. I thought it was a noble thing to do and would offer me lots of chances for personal growth. The training was designed with students in mind, and that was perfect for me at that time.”
After submitting three different applications, Cpl Bonner finally received the answer she was hoping for. “I was bound and determined to get in and try this since I had wanted to for so long,” said Bonner, who officially joined in 2014 at the age of 22.
She first enrolled in the Service Battalion with the idea of becoming a clerk because posting opportunities were available throughout the country. It was during her Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) course that she discovered that she wanted something different.
A clerk, then a ‘trucker’ for 41 Service Battalion
“I was already working as a clerk for the Immigration and Refugee Board, before and during my BMQ. I was very intrigued by the idea of doing something completely different than my civilian studies and work because I was aware there were many possibilities. It is rare to be able to get trained and employed in very different roles.”
“I asked the platoon warrant officer of my unit about other 41 Services Battalion trades, and he made sure that I got to speak to different people within the battalion who described their jobs and training.”
In the end, she chose to be an MSE Op because like most service battalion trades, it offered the ability to be posted with different units and it was in high demand. The qualification level training also worked perfectly with her schedule for that year, so she requested a trade transfer to MSE Op.
Deployed on many exercises and operations north, south and west
“I’m very happy to have become an MSE Op. I have gotten to go on exercises and operations with different units and see a lot of different trades at work. I’ve been able to not only use my trade but also participate in some training of the groups I’m transporting or working with. I’ve also had a lot of support within my unit, as I find my chain of command will fight for opportunities for us if we put in the time and effort to make use of our training.”
“I have been able to go on Operation NANOOK in Nunavut, Operation GOLDEN COYOTE in South Dakota/Wyoming, and most recently Exercise PALADIN RESPONSE in Chilliwack, British Columbia. I have been able to travel to these different places, work with various units such as infantry and engineers, and sometimes I have been able to participate in their training or events while also completing my role as an MSE Op.”
More challenges as a woman in other workplaces than in Army Reserve
MSE Ops are often referred to as “truckers,” which is, as on the civilian side, a job mostly represented by men. For Cpl Bonner, this wasn’t an issue at all.
“I’m not sure there has been much difference for myself being a woman in the military. Most women in my unit have been clerks, but I can’t think of a time that it’s ever caused problems or challenges. I think I’ve run into more challenges in other workplaces than I have in the military. I think the culture in the Armed Forces has come a long way and I’ve been fortunate to work with very good people,” said Cpl Bonner.
As she reflects on her time in the Army and the reason that pushed her to join, she underlines what she wishes she would have known when she was a teenager.
Highly recommends joining for the skills and experience gained
“I highly recommend joining the CAF [Canadian Armed Forces], whether you are uncertain about your future or a student/worker pursuing something else entirely. The training is unique, and there are so many things you can learn and experience. The military will push you to do to a lot of things, some of them are challenging or difficult, but the teamwork makes it easier and you will learn so much about yourself and what you can do. Most members I have worked with are doing something different out of uniform, and come together to make the most interesting teams.
“The training and experience will follow you no matter what else you do in life; it can be the chance to learn something completely different, enhance what you already do, and no matter what, it will give you personal and professional skills to bring with you anywhere.”