Keen Reservist blends civilian professor and military skills, benefiting both

Captain Odartey-Wellington, Public Affairs Officer

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By Lynn Capuano, Army Public Affairs

February is Black History Month, a time to honour Black Canadians past and present who have served in uniform and as civilian employees in the defence and service of Canada since before Confederation.

Sydney, Nova Scotia — In his working life, Captain Felix Odartey-Wellington happily juggles and blends two very different yet complementary careers, one requiring a Canadian Army (CA) uniform and one for which he wears a suit and tie.

Captain Odartey-Wellington, Public Affairs Officer with the Army Reserve

Living and working in Sydney, Nova Scotia, he trains at least one evening a week and one weekend a month to be ready to help with the defense and security of Canada and its Allies. The captain has participated in a number of exercises in the last seven years.

“In Canada, I’ve been involved in exercises like STAGED RESPONSE in Nova Scotia and STRIDENT TRACER in New Brunswick. Outside of Canada, I’ve been on SOUTHBOUND TROOPER in the United States and TRADEWINDS in Jamaica,” he said.

Capt Odartey-Wellington has served with 36 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters (36 CBG HQ) for the past three years and with The Cape Breton Highlanders from 2010 to 2015. As Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for 36 CBG HQ, he works with another PAO to cover all of the brigade’s 11 units, whose functions include signals, artillery, infantry, combat engineering, combat service support and armoured reconnaissance.

“I’m looking forward to MAROON RAIDER in New Brunswick in the last week of August,” he said. Exercise MAROON RAIDER is the new name for the 5th Canadian Division’s largest annual exercise. Previously called STRIDENT TRACER, it gives Reservists from all units in Atlantic Canada the opportunity to train shoulder to shoulder with United States National Guard elements in a realistic setting.

Capt Odartey-Wellington received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012. The citation read, in part: “in recognition of the outstanding contribution you made to your unit, Land Force Atlantic Area and your community.”

Dr. Odartey-Wellington, professor at Cape Breton University

When he is not in his Army uniform, which he first donned at the age of 39, he is known as Dr. Odartey-Wellington. An Associate Professor of Communication at Cape Breton University (CBU) in Sydney, Nova Scotia since 2009, he brings a wealth of education and life experience to both sides of his identity.

“In my native Ghana, I trained and worked as a lawyer and broadcaster before immigrating to Canada in 2002,” Dr. Odartey-Wellington explained. He pursued his interest in communication by earning a Master’s degree in Media Studies at Concordia University in Montreal and a Doctorate in Communication and Culture from Ryerson and York Universities in Toronto before moving to a faculty position at CBU.

He has also taught at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, at Ryerson University and puts his broadcasting background to good use as the faculty and regulatory advisor for CBU‘s campus radio station.

His academic research interests include corporate communication, political communication, race and media, news and public affairs, as well as communication law and policy.

A review of an anonymous “Rate my Teacher” website shows one student bemoaning the fact that this professor is “a hard marker,” while another enthused, “By far the best prof I ever had. I would take any course that he taught. He’s funny, and very easy to pay attention to, he clearly loves his job and he made me look forward to going to class for the first time in my life.”

Putting it all together and coming up with many positives

Capt Odartey-Wellington found the university was very supportive of the Canadian Armed Forces and he soon joined the Canadian Army Reserve (ARes) after meeting like-minded colleagues.

“Being a Public Affairs Officer in the ARes gives me current real-world experience that I’m able to bring to the classroom for the benefit of my students,” he said. “I also have the flexibility to pursue my passion for communication both in an exciting military context and in a rigorous academic environment.”

“My teaching and research help me hone the critical thinking skills required for my demanding tasks as a Public Affairs Officer. I’m exposed to the most current Communication concepts needed for my military work.”

“Many professionals worry that being in the Reserves could negatively impact their careers,” he observed. “But there are flexibilities worked into the Reserve system, and the time management skills you gain in your military training come in handy too.”

“Being active in the ARes did not affect my opportunities to be awarded tenure and promotion at CBU, nor has it affected my research and teaching. If anything, it has positively impacted my research and teaching.”

When people ask Capt Odartey-Wellington if they should also join the Army Reserve, his response is, “Do it. For so many reasons – for one, it will give you so many opportunities for career development. Two, it will give you an opportunity to serve your country while staying in your community.”

He continued, “I also would encourage people who have recently come from other countries, to also join. They should know that these opportunities exist and make the most of them.”

Capt/Prof Odartey-Wellington thoroughly enjoys his dual working life. His day job finds him in dress shoes on polished floors, while his ARes career requires Army boots in muddy terrain.

“There is never a boring weekend or summer!”

About Ghana

The Republic of Ghana is a democratic country led by a president who is both head of state and head of the government. Situated along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean on the northwestern coast of Africa, it spans 238,535 square kilometres and has been permanently inhabited since the 11th century. The British took control in the late 19th century and Ghana became independent of the United Kingdom in 1957. With about 27 million people and a variety of ethnicities, languages and religions, Ghana’s growing economic prosperity and democratic political system have made it a regional power in West Africa. Canada and Ghana enjoy strong bilateral relations based on more than sixty years of cooperation on the global scene, including collaboration in international peacekeeping.

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Related Links

36 Canadian Brigade Group
The Cape Breton Highlanders

Image gallery

  • Captain Felix Odartey-Wellington
  • firing a 9 mm pistol
  • The graduating class of the Canadian Army Reserve Basic Public Affairs Officer Course
  • rappeling from a tower
  • Military personnel briefing

Article / February 14, 2018 / Project number: 18-0022

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