A Mother, Leader & Soldier: An NCO’s Story for IWD

Article / March 8, 2024 / Project number: 24-0025

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Lt(N) Andrew McLaughlin, Public Affairs Officer, 33 Canadian Brigade Group

Master Corporal Afton David is a mother, a lawyer, and a leader in the Canadian Army Reserve infantry with the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh's Own). We’re proud to tell her story on International Women’s Day.

A former varsity rugby player and a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s Civil Law and Common Law National Program, she started with a bachelor’s degree in International Development and Globalization from the University of Ottawa, and is currently taking a master’s in Public Administration from the Royal Military College of Canada. She was also recently awarded a prestigious Women in Defence and Security Fellowship with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Afton joined the Army Reserve in her second year of law school in 2016, and she joined the infantry because her “love of physicality,” as reflected in her athletic endeavors. She has been deployed domestically three times; Op LENTUS (2017 and 2019), and Op LASER (2020), where she helped Canadian communities in need.

“It was always a matter of ‘when,’ and not ‘if’” she would join the Army, she says. “I actually tried to join the Regular Force twice over the span of a decade, but those did not pan out for various reasons,” she explains.

“Never one to accept defeat, I tried to join a third time, this time in the Reserves, since I was in law school and needed a good part-time job. I joined the Camerons because a rugby teammate was serving there, and she said, ‘they’re the best.’ And I agree with her!”

MCpl David says she’s “always been inspired by women who are mentally and physically strong, intelligent, assertive, and unapologetically feminine. In my mind, Lieutenant- General Carignan is someone who embodies this.” Of course, LGen Carignan, Canadian Armed Forces Chief of Professional Conduct and Culture, has inspired many women in the CAF, with her long record of dedication and service both domestically and on international operations.

What would she tell a woman that's considering joining the Army Reserve? “If you’re interested in a challenge, being part of a team, and regularly being taken out of your comfort zone, this is for you.”

Leadership is something new to MCpl David, who serves as a Section Second in Command (2IC), with various responsibilities within her Infantry Company’s chain of command. “NCOs are the heart of the military; they make things happen and adapt as situations change,” she explains, referring to the Non-Commissioned Officer ranks.

“I’m grateful that I ultimately chose to be an NCO, because the leadership and management skills I have honed from this level are very special. I also love the job itself, which is being a proficient infantry soldier who can shoot, move, and communicate while guiding and managing a section of soldiers towards mission success.”

Being a leader is critical to MCpl David. “To me, being a leader means being proficient at the job itself and gaining as much experience as possible so I can share skills and experience with the next generation. Leading by example is a style of leadership I try to emulate, so as a leader in the infantry, I believe I’m required to be both mentally and physically fit so I can do the job alongside my fellow soldiers.

“Ultimately, I think being a good leader is being a good human, who’s genuinely concerned with their colleagues’ and subordinates’ mental and physical well-being; and helping others wherever possible.” We couldn’t agree more.

Photos: Submitted by MCpl David, CHofO (available in higher resolution)

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