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It can be lonely, sometimes

Christine Kay
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 19/02) - Samantha Cakebread joined the Canadian Armed Forces just after she turned 17. She's now Coxswain of HMCS Goose Bay.

She says being in a senior position can be lonely sometimes -- lots of hours and responsibilities -- but it's worth it. Cakebread was also in Iqaluit at the beginning of August aboard the ship. She was happy to meet the director of Atanarjuat and hopes to come back soon.

NNSL Photo

Samantha Cakebread is coxswain on HMCS Goose Bay, which visited Iqaluit at the beginning of August. She loved Iqaluit and she loves her job. - Christine Kay/NNSL photo

News/North: When did you join the Canadian Armed Forces?

Samantha Cakebread: I joined three days after I turned 17 years old.

N/N: Where are you from?

SC: Windsor, Ontario. That's where I grew up. This is my seventh year on this boat. I've been on since January 3, 1996, for between five to six months a year.

N/N: Why did you join?

SC: I needed a summer job and I was a sea cadet. They were hiring. I used the summer to pay tuition and rent and I worked part-time during the school year to pay for food and bills. I took political science at the University of Windsor in Ontario.

N/N: How many days would you say you are at sea per year?

SC: This year, I spent about 189 days away from home. When I'm on land I know I'm always about to be on the boat again.

N/N: Do you think there are still challenges for women in the Canadian Armed Forces?

SC: There's still a lot of firsts for women to be had. The first females who went to sea on the naval reserve ships were in 1979. I don't think there are systemic limitations any more. I think it's got to do with staying in the forces long enough. The more senior you get, the less women you see.

N/N: How long have you been in the forces?

SC: This is my 18th year.

N/N: What are your responsibilities on the ship?

SC: I'm the ship's coxswain. I'm responsible for discipline, morale and day-to-day routines. I also make recommendations like if I notice the guys are beat, I'll ask that we do something about it. The coxswain's nicknames are often sheriff or vice-principal. But I try to focus on helping people. I've got a really open door. When the door shuts and someone comes in, they sit down and we work out the problem. If I go out of my way to help, they respect me and they know that the help is legitimate.

N/N: What's the hardest part of the job?

SC: I can charge people under the National Defence Act, that's where the sheriff term comes from. The small charges are done to keep things contained. You have to do it fairly. You have to make sure that your hand is not too heavy, but still heavy enough. If they deserve it, they're going to get it, but it's not my favourite thing to do.

N/N: Do you find this aspect of your work transfers over into your civilian life?

SC: My little sister always says, "This is not the navy, Sam." She's 19 years younger than me.

N/N: Who is your role model?

SC: Judge Judy. I really like her and she tells the truth. I wrote to her and she sent me a signed picture.

N/N: Do you like what you do?

SC: I think that when I'm old, if I live to be 80 or something, I think this will have been my finest time. This is a very special type of life.

N/N: What is your goal?

SC: My immediate goal is to either go home or to Quebec City. I may also go back to school. Either way, I know it will work out.

N/N: What will you remember about your trip to Iqaluit?

SC: I saw the movie Atanarjuat. It gave me an idea of the old culture and it was great to get up here. I met the director (Zacharias Kunuk) at the reception in Iqaluit and that was great. I got my picture taken with him. We're going to buy it and take it on the ship's next trip.

N/N: What do you like about being on the ship?

SC: Going to new places that I've never been to is always exciting. We've had great port visits -- France, Norway, England, New York and Iqaluit.