She recognized the colour orange and what it represented from an early age, and now Master Corporal Ashley Barker can don the brightly-coloured jumpsuit herself.
Barker, along with seven others, graduated from the Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue based at CFB Comox last Thursday morning, one of two women to wear the bright orange rescue jumpsuits and receive their master corporal rank.
“I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s a long year. It’s a mentality that’s attracted to this trade,” she explained after the ceremony, which saw the Search and Rescue Technicians parachute to the base.
“It just so happens that I came in the female form. It’s one hundred per cent (equal ground).”
The air force para-rescue specialists are responsible for saving the lives of Canadians every year in a variety of situations over land and sea.
Barker said she knew she wanted to join the trade from an early age.
“(My dad’s) military. I’ve always been to air shows growing up. I always knew what the orange was and I’ve always known about it since I was a little girl,” she noted.
“If you like adventure… and I like medicine – that’s my passion – so it seems like where I was supposed to be.”
She added she was initially unsure if she was ready to apply to the program, which sees students attend a gruelling 11-month training course for rescue in remote, inaccessible areas of Canada for the purpose of rendering immediate and life-sustaining medical care to casualties.
“I remember when I saw pictures I thought that would be neat to do and wasn’t sure if I could do it, but like they always say, you put your mind to anything and you can achieve it,” she said.
Each year, about 24 to 30 personnel are selected to attend a pre-selection course, and from there 12 to 16 students attend training to become SARTechs.
Now posted to Greenwood, N.S., Barker said she wants to hone her skills and eventually give back to the program.
“I definitely want to be back at the school (for instructing). Just seeing what these guys do, I’d love to have a shot at that.
“For now, I know a little bit about a lot, and now I have to go and fill in those pieces.”