"For me, everything was a team effort."
Hailing from Sydney Nova Scotia, Karley Rossignol is leadership personified. She has taken the skills gleaned from her time with The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and woven them into all aspects of her life. A self-admitted “Type A personality,” her strong will has aided her throughout her time as a path finder in Girl Guides and throughout her basic training in the Canadian Armed forces.
It was a privilege to sit down with Karley to reflect on her past experiences as a Duke of Ed participant and how they shaped and informed her future ambitious – one of which is to become a combat medic in the Canadian Armed Forces. Karley is living proof that with a little perseverance (and a lot of endurance) you can do anything when you put your mind to it.
How have your experiences with The Duke of Ed helped to shape your identity?
I’ve always been a very outspoken, loud, leader. I’m a type “A” personality. I found that the program kind of helped me simmer down a little bit. It helped me be a more of a group leader, and helped me to listen to other people’s ideas and form them into a bigger idea instead of just a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of thing. That’s how I used to be.
What inspired you to join the army?
Well my Dad has been in the navy for 27 years now and it was kind of always a side thing. As I was growing up he’d say,
“Make sure you get good grades, because the military is going to look at your grades. Volunteer, because the military will look at that.”
Throughout my whole life I thought that there was no way I would join the military. Then, I went to university for a year. That was…not for me. I was just doing basic science and I wasn’t working toward anything that I really wanted. So I applied to Holland College for para medicine and I applied to the military. I got into Holland College, and I also got into the military. I weighed the cost benefits and all that and chose the military. I love it. I’m really glad I chose it.
Can you talk a bit about your basic training experience for the Canadian Armed forces?
Basic training was really difficult because it pushes you to the brink of when you’re going to give up, and a little bit past that so it really…it’s grueling. Basic training is grueling. You really need to have your head in the game in order to make it through that. Because they push you to your mental limit and your physical limit all at the same time where a lot of people aren’t used to being pushed past them. I am still working on it. I actually just completed my para-medicine diploma. I graduated as a military medic in September.
I’m looking to be posted to Petawawa. They’ll be about 25-30 infantry or armoured combat engineered guys and I’ll be with them and a senior medic. Basically we will just be the medic for those guys. If they go on an exercise and get blisters all over their feet or sprain their ankles or they fire their gun when they’re not supposed to – we’re their medics. So that’s how I’ll be working after training.
How did the Duke of Ed prepare you for being in the military?
We do a lot of hiking and backpacking in the military. I had never really done a lot of that until I had to for my Adventurous Journey. That definitely helped me to see how difficult it is and how much you need to train in order to do things like that.
Are there quite a few women in this field, or is it still dominated by men?
There are definitely more women in this trade than in a lot of trades, but of 30 people in my class, only 6 of us were women.
Why do you think there’s still so few women in the Canadian army?
I’m going to assume because it wasn’t so many years ago that we weren’t allowed to join. And I think some women have trouble going to work knowing that they might be the only woman there all day. I would like to see more women branching out and joining. I think it’ll happen in the future.
For your service, you volunteered as a life guard at the Canadian Coast Guard College. What drew you toward this particular vocation, and how do the lessons you learned while life guarding carry forward into your life now?
I started swimming and working to become a lifeguard when I was really young. A woman that my Dad went to university with was in charge of a swimming gym program and they needed a lifeguard for it, so I would volunteer for the gym part and then also lifeguard the swim part. It’s a program for kids with mental disabilities and their siblings and they basically just play in the gym for an hour and they swim for an hour. It’s a really good program and the kids love it. I definitely learned patience a little bit better dealing with that because some of the kids don’t understand that you can’t run around the pool because you are going to get hurt. You have to be very patient and say over and over again, “you cannot run.” You can’t lose your cool because they can’t help it. That program definitely helped me learn patience.
You were a pathfinder with the Girl Guides. Can you speak a bit to that experience?
I was in Girl Guides for 15 years. My mom was my leader the entire time. I was really lucky to have my mom as a leader because she is an awesome, awesome leader. It’s an awesome organization. It teaches girls to grow and be healthy and to travel and be leaders. I can’t wait until I get posted so I can find a group and start being a leader again. It’s one of those things, where if you stick it out and go all the way through you realize how awesome it is and how much of an impact it’s made on your life. I want to do that for other people.
Do you have a particular memory that sticks out in your mind?
I did my Gold Adventurous Journey with the Girl Guides. It was very difficult because in my group we had two girls that were doing the silver and one girl doing the bronze. The girl doing the bronze left when she was done, and then the girls doing silver left when they were done. And then it was just me and my Mom and the other leader doing the rest of my journey. A whole other night and way more kilometers. It was a lot to deal with, especially since my friends got to go home because they were done. I’m not sure how people do it when they’re on their own. For me, everything was a team effort.
Was there a moment during the Duke of Ed challenge where you wanted to give up? What motivated you to continue?
I am probably the world’s best procrastinator. I am a last minute, get everything done quickly and to the point kind of person. I found that I struggled with that throughout the entire program, because it was a lot. It was a lot to keep track of and a lot to do. It’s very difficult to keep track of, and I found that I probably wouldn’t have finished it if it weren’t for my Mom helping and guiding me. I don’t know if I would have been able to complete it if I didn’t have her there pushing me to keep going.
What message would you like to give to young people to encourage them to do the Award?
My message to young people is that even if it seem like a lot, just sit down with somebody and schedule everything out. That way you’re not at the end with nothing completed. I actually took four years to complete my Award instead of three because I am such an awesome procrastinator. It seems like a lot more than it actually is because at first you look at everything at the same time. You just need to break it down and say okay – what do I want to do for my service?
"Pick something, and then schedule it into your life."
Any final words of wisdom?
Break it down. Don’t look at it all at the same time because that is very overwhelming. Just breathe and schedule it into your life. Its things you’re already doing. You have a hobby? That’s a skill. You’re already doing it. A lot of the things in the program, you’re already doing. If I could go back and tell myself to get off my lazy butt and not be such a procrastinator, I probably would. Because it would definitely help because there were a lot of times where I was frustrated and overwhelmed but it’s very worth it in the end. Even just the memories. I met so many new people. And these people are all like you. They’re all motivated, young go-getters. It’s really cool to meet people and have that sense of accomplishment.