Recent years have brought with them some transformational experiences. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) figures prominently among them.

Two years ago, almost to the day (September 21, 2017), about 40 people gathered outside Cartier Drill Hall in downtown Ottawa. It was still dark; about six o’clock in the morning. There was a buzz of excitement even before they all boarded a coach bus bound for CFB Petawawa.

The group was about to participate in OPERATION COLLABORATIVE SPIRIT, part of the Canadian Forces Liaison Council Executrek program, an initiative to build a stronger connection between the military and business communities with the goal of expanding participation in, and support for, the CAF Reserve Force.

Participants in the September 21, 2017 OPERATION COLLABORATIVE SPIRIT Executrek ready to board the coach to CFB Petawawa.

I was among that group of people.

We mingled, exchanged professional histories and business cards, and uncovered degrees of separation without the help of LinkedIn. There was buzzing about the military and the day ahead, and dread about the forecast; 35 Celsius before the humidex.

The sun was barely casting long shadows when we arrived at CFB Petawawa. Anticipation was high as we pressed against the windows to gaze at groups of soldiers doing their morning run, and the military vehicles that line the main road into the base.

I’m feeling that same anticipation right now. I’m on the first of two flights en route to Prince Rupert, BC. In a few hours I’ll meet nine other participants of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Canadian Leaders at Sea (CLaS) program—the Navy’s version of Executrek—and some senior Navy leaders who will host this “CLaS of September 2019” for five days aboard HMCS Calgary, a Canadian warship.

I was introduced to the incredible wealth of knowledge and the rich history of the Canadian military long before I even knew of Executrek and CLaS.

One of my former clients is a CAF veteran. He enrolled my professional services as a volunteer communication director for the Hill 70 Memorial Project. This privately created and run project was overseen by a group of military veterans and historians who wanted to build a long overdue memorial for Canadians who lost their lives during Canada’s Forgotten Victory, 1917’s Battle of Hill 70. The team succeeded. There is now a beautiful monument, amphitheatre and park grounds in Loos-en-Gohelle, France, built entirely with private funds.

Hill 70 Memorial Park site opening ceremony, August 22, 2017, in Loos-en-Gohelle, France.

Another former client became my boss (after his persistent encouragement) just over two years ago. Captain(N) Harry Harsch, OMM CD RCN (Retired), is Chief of Staff of Canada’s largest private sector employer of veterans—Commissionaires. Among the impressive list of manager-mentors I’ve encountered in my professional career, Harry is tops. I’ve been synthesizing his generous guidance with lessons and experiences accumulated throughout my own career. As a result, I’m producing meaningful work of which I’m incredibly proud.

In fact, all of my exposure to military leadership style, strategic thinking and tactical approach has influenced what I do and how I do it. On occasions when I resort to doing things my way, I often look back and consider how things might have turned out if I had incorporated “this” or “that” element of the military approach.

It was through Harry that I was presented with the opportunity to participate in CLaS five months ago. It seemed such a long way off. Anticipation has been growing since, particularly as I discussed it with colleagues who served in the Navy.

And just like that, I’m mere hours away from yet another immersive military education.

Ready to board my flight to Vancouver en route to Prince Rupert for my CLaS deployment.