Giving back to the Aboriginal Entry Program

Navy News / June 4, 2018

By Ryan Melanson

When Able Seaman Bridgett Doucett signed up for the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program (CFAEP), she knew she was interested in a military career, but the environment and culture were foreign to her. An introduction to the military, in the form of a paid three-week program, was a welcome way to ease that transition.

Just a few years later, she’s now a trained Naval Electronic Sensor Operator (NESOP) and Fire Control Operator. She’s sailed overseas to NATO exercises, toured Cuba and South America, and recently got her first promotion to the rank of Able Seaman. There have been plenty of challenges along the way, but the experience of getting paid to travel the world, learn new skills and bond with shipmates has been an overwhelmingly positive one, she says.

“It’s about the things you get to see and do, and the special moments that you experience at sea. It’s just something that I don’t think you can get with any other job.”

Now, she’s giving back to the program that introduced her to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), serving as a mentor with this year’s CFAEP participants.

“I’m really happy to be a part of the program again,” AB Doucett said. “It helped so much in preparing me for basic training. We learned how to make our beds, we learned how to do drill, and we just started to get some understanding of the military.”

Participants also tour different units and get a taste for each CAF environment with activities like day sails, helicopter and LAV (armoured vehicle) rides, a day spent living in field conditions, and more. In AB Doucett’s case, meeting serving members through the program helped her decide on her eventual trade after speaking with a NESOP.

“He explained all the different aspects of the trade and we talked about it and that helped me make an informed decision. That’s another amazing part of what the program can offer.”

AB Doucett grew up in Cape Tormentine, N.B., and is a member of the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq First Nation. While her Indigenous heritage hasn’t always played a large role in her life, the opportunity to connect with her background among a group of peers was also a highlight of the CFAEP.

“It was really nice to meet other young Aboriginal people from different backgrounds and form a strong connection with them. We did things like sharing circles every couple of days, we talked about all kinds of things and really got to know each other,” she says, adding that she still stays in contact with some of her CFAEP colleagues and that she hopes to find more ways to connect her Mi’kmaq heritage with her CAF career in the future.

She’s also been able to draw inspiration from her family history. Her great-grandfather, Michael “Island Longboat” Thomas, was the first Prince Edward Islander to run the Boston Marathon in 1911, completing the race while dealing with racist taunts and discrimination, a fact highlighted by a statue of Mr. Thomas erected on the Island in 2014. Her great-aunt Virginia Doucett, now in her 70s, served as a naval officer nearly 50 years ago, which is also a point of pride for AB Doucett.

“Her story is always in the back of my mind. It inspired me to join and it still inspires me. She’s a very strong person.”

AB Doucett has helped this year’s group get their footing in the CAF environment, and passed on her advice to those who decide to join the CAF following the three-week introduction.

“I let them know they need to be fully committed to what they’re about to do, because it’s not always easy, but that they’ll also have some amazing experiences.”

Courtesy of Trident Newspaper