Military recruits spread wings as Seneca grads
“By nature of it being a bachelor’s degree program, you learn about critical-thinking and analytical skills. The military taught me how to fly. Seneca taught me how to think and become a more well-rounded person. You do amazing things and you make a difference.”
Jan. 17, 2019
They are used to the stares. Dressed in military uniforms, they stand out from the crowd at Newnham Campus and turn heads as they walk down the hallway in small groups of five or six. From time to time, they get asked about what they do or who they are. Their answer — “We are in the military” — often sets them further apart from the rest of the student body.
“People are very curious about us and we tell them the truth,” Capt. Max Watson said. “We are in the military and we are students at Seneca.”
Watson joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2014 to be a pilot. He received his Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) wings in 2017. Last Friday, only four years after he joined the military, Watson also graduated as class valedictorian with an Honours Bachelor of Aviation Technology degree from Seneca.
“It’s a concurrent program and everything exceeded what I expected,” said Watson, who is now posted to 402 Squadron in Winnipeg, his hometown, where he will fly the CT-142 Dash 8 and train the military’s future air combat systems officers and airborne electronic sensor operators.
The Seneca-RCAF pilot training program in the School of Aviation is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a college and a branch of the Canadian Armed Forces, which requires its pilots to have a bachelor’s degree. Created due to the need for skilled pilots to fly jets, helicopters and multi-engine aircraft, the Seneca-RCAF program graduates highly qualified pilots with a degree three years faster than it’d normally take.
“By nature of it being a bachelor’s degree program, you learn about critical-thinking and analytical skills,” Watson said. “The military taught me how to fly. Seneca taught me how to think and become a more well-rounded person. You do amazing things and you make a difference.”
On his way back from a recent deployment in Kuwait, Watson took in all the sights over the Mediterranean Sea and the Swiss Alps.
“It was an eye-opening and hands-on experience,” he said. “Being 30,000 feet up and looking down, just truly admiring the view, I know I have one of the best jobs in the world. I’m 23 and going into a fully setup career that’s more than just a job. I get to be part of something bigger, whether it’s training navigators or dropping cargos in the Middle East.”
Capt. Taylor Brocanier is a trained pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force. She is also a graduate of Seneca’s Honours Bachelor of Aviation Technology degree.
Capt. Taylor Brocanier knows just the feeling. One of 17 graduates from Watson’s class, she will be flying the CH-146 Griffon, a utility helicopter, with 408 Squadron in Edmonton where she is posted. Her job will include transporting troops, executing medical evacuation and assisting the local police with drug operations, as well as search and rescue.
“The tactical helicopter world is fluid and hectic,” Brocanier said. “I wanted to fly a helicopter because it’s more hands and feet and you get to fly low to the ground.”
Brocanier began flying when she was in Grade 11. She took lessons at her local Tillsonburg Regional Airport and went on to learn about the Seneca-RCAF program at a recruiting centre.
“It’s a great program for someone who wants to finish quickly and get flying with the military,” she said. “The fact that they cover your tuition is another major plus.”
The Canadian Armed Forces pays for a recruit’s university or college tuition, books and academic equipment, in addition to providing a salary and benefits while they attend school.
“Both of my parents were in the military, that’s where they met. They loved the military and encouraged me to pursue a career with them,” Brocanier said.
Her journey so far has included basic officer training in Quebec, where Brocanier learned to shoot a rifle, to flight training in Moose Jaw, where she met her boyfriend, to spending five semesters at Seneca, where she learned about calculus, mechanics, physics, airport planning and so much more.
“I love to fly and the opportunities I’ve gotten so far have been amazing,” Brocanier said. “I’ve seen a lot of Canada through the military and I’ve had a lot of survival training at sea and on land. And it never ends. The learning never ends.”
Check out our photo gallery of the Seneca-RCAF Convocation.