| Sep 10, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - September 10, 2009 Deb Lovegrove soldiers through to retirementBy Julie Druker

Master Seaman Deb Lovegrove retires after 36 years of service in the Canadian Forces

Master Seaman Deb Lovegrove of Verona will soon be retired from the Canadian Forces after 36 years of service. For Deb it was an exciting time, when she learned a lot and also managed to thrive in an environment that for women was definitely not what it is today.

Deb joined the Canadian Forces (CF) in 1973 when her father, a weapons technician in the Air Force was posted to Chatham, New Brunswick. Deb chose a career in the forces since it offered considerable more job security than her two other options: waitressing or working at Zeller’s. She also thought, “What a great way to make a living.”

She originally joined the CF as a supply technician and was told that her desire to be a mechanic was not an option for women.

At that time women joining the CF had a choice of five jobs: cooks, clerks, drivers, working in the finance department, or with supplies.

Back then women’s basic training was different from the men’s. Women shot pistols but not rifles and though they cleaned and assembled the men’s guns it was generally believed that when things got dangerous the men would protect the women.

Deb explained, “If it was bad enough women would be given a pistol to carry in their purses.” At that time purses and gloves were part of women’s military uniforms. For their physical training women wore green jumpers which Deb laughingly described as “the kind you would put on a toddler, with a collar and puffy sleeves and elastic around the arms and waist which gave us all a puffy bum. Pretty ugly.” When on parade the women would stand at attention while the men did their weapons drills.

After basic training Deb was posted to Toronto and worked in a supply depot and learned to drive some of the heavy stock machines. When staff tried to stop women form entering certain male-only mess areas, Deb refused to be segregated and along with other women instigated some changes.

When women were finally allowed to participate in United Nations international tours of duty Deb volunteered to go to Egypt for six months and the experience for her was an eye opener. She took her UN leave in Tel Aviv and visited Jerusalem while there.

Subsequent postings landed her in CFS Gypsumville, north of Winnipeg, in 1976, then to CFB Moncton in 1977 and CFB Borden in 1978. Never one to take unfair treatment, when stationed in Moncton Deb refused to be denied membership in the Legion there and fought until she was admitted as a full-fledged member.

It was in Borden, where Deb met her husband Doug, that she became the first female corporal to remuster into the vehicle technician trade, which had become open to women, and was able to accomplish her original goal of becoming a full-fledged mechanic.

Over the next 15 years Deb worked as a mechanic in a number of male-dominated shops at various postings. The experience was extremely rewarding but came with it share of difficulties. Deb recalled, “I loved the trade but sometimes it was difficult putting up with the comments and treatment I got from my male military counterparts. They often judged me and went out of their ways to make life miserable for me. The fact that a lot of men could not understand that my plumbing had nothing to do with my job capacity was difficult to deal with. Sometimes it would get me down but for the most part I would not put up with it.” Deb is a strong and tough woman but is also thankful for the support of her husband Doug for helping her get though those tough times.

After Borden she was posted to Kingston and learned how to forge steel. She ran the small engine shop there for two years.

Next in 1988 came a posting at 1 Service Battalion in Calgary. While there Deb volunteered to go to Namibia, Africa for a seven-month tour where she took a 12-day leave that included a safari. After a second posting in Calgary as a mechanic she volunteered for a flight attendant position and traveled the world over for 5 years and 8 months. It was then that she came to understand “why the rich like to jet-set.”

In 1997 she retired from the Canadian Forces but later decided to join the naval reserves in Kingston as a supply technician. After retraining she is now working as a civilian supply technician/store man with 2 Electronic Warfare Squadron in Kingston.

After 36 years of service Deb has no regrets. It is the good times that she remembers most. She recalled the words of her mother, which inspired her to press on and accomplish her goals through the thick and thin of life in the forces: “If you want to do something, you just get out there and do it.”

Deb Lovegrove did it and also came out of the experience full of funny stories and a lot of good memories. 

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