Canadian is first female infantry officer to lead Queen’s Guard
By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
London, England — A Canadian Army (CA) officer who on June 26, 2017 became the first woman infantry officer to serve in the role of Captain of the Queen’s Guard is calling the experience a privilege.
Captain Megan Couto, a member of 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), is part of a contingent that is in the United Kingdom at the Queen’s request to act as her guard from June 18 to July 3. The contingent includes 80 soldiers and 35 members of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band.
The Queen’s Guard is charged with watching over the sovereign’s official residences, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Commonwealth military units have periodically been asked to take on the role since 1916. Her Majesty requested that a Canadian unit be given the honour in recognition of this year’s sesquicentennial celebrations.
Though Capt Couto is second in command of the contingent, she stood in as Captain of the Guard for officer commanding, Major Jason Hudson, on June 26.
Capt Couto downplayed the significance of the event.
“There haven’t been very many female officers in the Canadian infantry,” she said. “By the nature of the situation, a lot of the things I do, I’m the first to do it. For me personally it’s just part of what I do. I was surprised and honoured to be asked to be Captain of the Guard. And definitely it’s a privilege.”
“Megan is a hardworking officer and she deserves it,” said Maj Hudson. “It’s a great opportunity for her. It’s also significant in that the UK Ministry of Defence is currently in a transition to allow females within their combat arms.”
Both officers said preparing for the job, which consists of five mounts and dismounts – taking over guard duties from their British counterparts and then handing them back – presented the soldiers involved with something of a challenge.
“We’re definitely not a ceremonial unit,” said Capt Couto. “So it was a bit of a learning curve but I went to military college for four years so I have some training in drill and ceremony. It wasn’t too bad – it was mostly getting the kinks out and remembering my training.”
“Since I have been a Patricia, and in the recent past, we have not been really renowned for our ceremonial drill,” Maj Hudson added. “We actually asked some drill instructors from the UK, specifically the Coldstream Guards, to help us prepare. Within a week we had all the moving parts down, then another week to refine our drills under the watchful eyes of the Coldstream Guards. Obviously there’s pressure on my shoulders given the world stage and that there’s a lot of people watching. End of the day, I’m just like any soldier in the ranks. I’m looking at the guy’s head in front of me. I just need to remember my commands.”
Capt Couto is marking seven years of military service in 2017. An avid athlete through her high school and military college years, she sees the CA as an ideal place to combine her passions for physical fitness and public service.
“It was never planned,” she said. “None of my family had been in the Army, but what really attracted me is that it’s challenging, it’s constantly changing, and you’re never doing the same job for any length of time. It’s physically demanding and you get to serve others. And that’s really big for me. I get to serve Canada, which is important. Both my parents are immigrants [Brazil and South Korea] and Canada’s really important to me.”
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry
Canadian Army Mounting the Queen’s Guard in London
The Queen’s Guard
Royal Canadian Artillery Band
Canada’s Military Takes Their Part in Queen’s Guard
Article / June 26, 2017 / Project number: 17-0172
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