As an ultra-shy teen lacking self-esteem and earning average grades on a Saskatchewan reserve, Nicole Shingoose took a chance on military training to bring her out of her shell.
And she’s out.
Now a confident, capable naval officer, Shingoose gave a keynote address Thursday at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt during celebrations marking National Aboriginal Day.
In January, she became the first graduate of Royal Military College’s Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year Program to become an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Having grown up on the Plains Cree Moosomin reserve near North Battleford, the 24-year-old is familiar with the challenges facing aboriginal youth. “They’re intimidated, they’re not very sure of themselves,” said Shingoose, an acting sub-lieutenant in the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Saskatoon. The people in her community have asked her to attend school powwows in her naval uniform to help spur interest in military opportunities.
She hopes she can encourage some of them to explore the discipline, skills, and pride that military training can instill.
“I really just want to inspire and encourage not only aboriginal youth but aboriginal adults that it’s never too late to join the military,” she said.
“It’s a career you can never go wrong with. You can always go up in the ranks, travel the world and [get] experiences.”
The military gave her self-confidence and taught her how to face her fears, she said. She’s still shy, but as a reserve officer, she can lead a platoon and make and execute orders.
“Aboriginal peoples have a proud history of serving with distinction within the Canadian Armed Forces-Royal Canadian Navy,” said Rear Admiral Bill Truelove, Commander Maritime Forces Pacific, in a statement.
“On National Aboriginal Day, we commemorate and thank our aboriginal brothers and sisters for the contributions and sacrifices they have made for our nation.”
Shingoose’s military career is rooted in the six-week Raven program for high school students.
“The challenges, discipline and structure was all so new to me, but I actually really enjoyed it,” she said.
Shingoose is heading home to HMCS Unicorn in Saskatchewan with the navy reserve.
She’s looking into classes so she can apply to veterinary school, but she plans to remain in the navy reserves.