In her sixteen years of service in the CAF, Master Cpl. Karen Austin has witnessed the aftermath of a plane crash, helped resettle refugees and proven herself as a female leader. Currently, Austin, following her passion for helping others, is going back to school to earn a degree in nursing.
The only female in her battalion with the North Shore Regiment, Austin joined the military in 1999, in pursuit of her love for helping others and see the world.
“I always wanted to help people, and I wanted to go overseas, and I wanted to do a combat tour,” stated Austin.
As an infantry instructor she is challenged physically through the training and exercises in various environmental conditions she conducts with the soldiers she leads.
Now, more than a decade into her career, Austin made the decision to become a nurse for the same reasons she joined the military and to enhance her abilities to help others saying “now I want to learn to heal people too.”
Sixteen years in a predominantly male dominated field doesn’t bother her in the least. And she’s learned to adapt to various challenges like proving herself each time she’s leading a new team.
For Austin, the Army is like a second family who’s constantly supporting one another in times of crisis, realizing that “the support and help you receive is unlike any other.”
She’s carried these values as she’s helped various people throughout her career. Austin was part of the team that helped to resettle refugees from Kosovo by providing them with food, clothes, and place to get back on their feet as they settled in a new country.
“They really appreciated what we did for them. The Kosovo refugees were in pretty bad shape when they arrived. They were so happy just to have clean water and food. They were always saying thank you to us, and I found they were really respectful,” said Austin.
One of the most trying experiences of her career came in 2014 when the Master Cpl. was amongst the first on the scene after a fatal airplane crash in Nunavut. Dozens were killed in the accident. Austin and fellow soldiers were on the scene to pull survivors out of the wreckage and quickly clean the jet fuel to prevent it from leaking into nearby bodies of water.
“We had to react very fast, and I wanted to make sure everyone was alright,” remembered Austin.
Austin also had to ensure her troops were alright after witnessing such a traumatic event.
“I was taking care of my boys there I did make sure they all had help after if they needed it,” said Austin.
Austin finishes her nursing degree in 2017. The only thing that she believe is missing in her career is a deployment overseas that she hopes to do in the infantry or as a military nurse.
As an experienced member of the military and a woman, Austin believes women can achieve anything their male counterparts can.
“Never quit and prove yourself. Everybody is equal. Women are able to do the same job as a man if she’s willing to do what she wants,” said Austin.
**Photo courtesy of Karen Austin**