Edmonton, Alberta — In the Canadian Army, Master Warrant Officer Suzanne McAdam has found a career that fits both her strengths and interests.
For a short while, it seemed to MWO McAdam that her Army uniform might never be comfortable. Back in 1992 and just two days after her high school graduation, Basic Training was the biggest challenge she had ever faced.
MWO McAdam is a current member of 15 Field Ambulance, a Canadian Forces medical unit that provides health service support to 41 Canadian Brigade Group and to Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) domestic and international operations. Her original unit, known as the 16 Medical Company, was a Canadian Army unit based in Saskatoon.
“It [basic training] was tough; there is no doubt about it. There were many times that I thought about picking up the phone and going home.”
That phone call was never made, though MWO McAdam’s first steps towards a military career were not favoured by her family.
“When I first thought to join, my parents were reluctant. I grew up following Filipino traditions,” she explained. “They wanted me to choose a professional occupation and the military didn’t fit this ideal.”
This was despite the fact that initially MWO McAdam saw joining the CA as the most practical route to her end goal of a medical degree because the Army offers financial support for continuing education related to military employment.
“The idea was I was going to follow in my father’s footsteps,” said MWO McAdam, whose father first practiced medicine in the Philippines and re-certified after arriving in Canada.
It took just two years in that Army uniform for MWO McAdam to see that her future was with both the Army Reserve and the Royal Canadian Medical Service (RCMS). She is currently responsible for facilitating the annual medical training requirements for CAF medical professionals for the territory spanning from Victoria, British Columbia to Thunder Bay, Ontario.
“I play an important role by helping to provide the best training. Medical personnel are often deployed and they must be able to save lives. That is why I choose to be here,” explained MWO McAdam, who now has 24 years as a Primary Reservist with 20 of those years on full-time contract with RCMS.
MWO McAdam has frequently faced derogatory remarks during her time with the Primary Reserve. “There are times when that gets tough,” she admitted.
She credits a couple of factors for the gradual dissipation of the racial slurs. “The numbers of visible minorities in the Army have increased so that I am no longer the only one in the crowd. Also, the employment equity advisory groups, which provide leadership with advice and identify barriers, have made a difference.”
Those disheartening remarks convinced MWO McAdam to add another aspect to her multi-faceted career: a mission to improve conditions for other visible minorities in the CAF through three advisory positions. She is the 3rd Canadian Division representative and the National Military Co-chair of the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group, and is the Edmonton Military Co-chair for the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization.
“The biggest thing about this work is that it is a part of me and it is about respect for all people.”
There is also her strategic choice to remain in an advisory role as a non-commissioned officer, providing younger military members with a role model. “My ultimate goal is to be a Chief Warrant Officer. I don’t see a lot of Chiefs who are visible minorities so if I can be that person, I want to be that person.”
Looking forward to leadership training that will take her to the next rank level, MWO McAdam mentioned the gift of a recent drawing titled, “I want to be in the Army when I grow up,” when talking about her place in the CA.
From one of her three daughters, the drawing seems to reflect her career. “It has helped me to be who I am. I am well-accepted by my peers and employers and heavily relied on. I don’t know that I could have done what I have, if not for the Army.”
It seems that MWO McAdam has found her perfect fit: it’s in CADPAT – the camouflage pattern worn by all CA members.
“I didn’t think I would stay as long as I have. The Army was going to be a tool to get through school. But then there was the self-realization that this is what I was meant to do. I found myself excelling in the military, to the surprise of me…and my parents who now fully accept my career.”
By Anne Duggan, Army Public Affairs,Canadian Army News