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Published On: Sat, Oct 12th, 2019

Life After Flight: Former Pilots Find a Place at Centre for Arts and Technology

Not all heroes wear capes, but more than a few sport pilots’ wings.

After their flying days are behind them, many pilots retire to the relative comfort of the flight simulator. Others do what they can to support causes they care about, such as helping veterans adjust to the workforce. Those fortunate enough to have had truly remarkable or memorable careers might write books about the experience, then hit the speaking circuit, earning a tidy post-career take in the process.

Mike Massamino

These oft-trod paths work well for many former pilots. For others, the second act looks nothing like the first.

Which brings us to the story of Jacquie Tremblay and Doreen Lambert, two decorated former pilots who recently enrolled in visual arts degree programs at The Centre for Arts and Technology, a digital arts school in picturesque Kelowna, British Columbia.

Tremblay and Lambert aren’t your typical art students. With several decades of flying experience between them, they’re a hair more mature than the typical Centre for Arts and Technology matriculant. As this article in a recent issue of the school’s student magazine explains, they’ve also given more than most of their peers can imagine to their compatriots and fellow humans.

What brought Tremblay and Lambert back to school? And why did they choose The Centre for Arts and Technology?

From the Cockpit to the Studio

After graduating high school, Jacquie Tremblay spent the better part of a decade piloting Medivac flights from one end of British Columbia to another. In an interview with InterFACE, she described the experience as “80 percent boring, 20 percent terror,” and painted some truly alarming scenes along the way: “[Imagine] you are taking someone out of Bella Coola who’s had a major head trauma snowboarding and it’s all you can do to keep them alive to Vancouver and the paramedics arrive. Then spend an hour cleaning blood out of the plane,” she recalled.

Yikes. Hopefully the CAT studios are a bit more subdued than those chaotic, death-defying flights.

Tremblay took some time off to have kids, then traded her aviation cap for the dispatcher’s chair — a job she describes as crushing to the soul and anathema to family life. Resolving to make a change, she enrolled in CAT’s digital photography program, and the rest is history.

Making the Most of a Challenging Time

Canadian Air Force veteran Doreen Lambert spent years flying supply missions across the country — supplying “clothes, food, equipment, pretty much anything anyone needs,” she recalls. 

Lambert saw more of her vast homeland than most city-bound Canadians, but the job wasn’t always easy. After a spate of injuries forced her out of the cockpit for good, she was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder. 

“I lost seven friends in five years,” she told InterFACE, CAT’s student magazine. Four died in combat; three succumbed to suicide upon their return.

Disappointing though it was to leave the life she loved, Lambert decided to switch gears and pursue a second career. As a veteran, she was fortunate enough to partake in Government of Canada veterans’ education benefits, which have helped defray the cost of her training at CAT. That’s a big improvement over her last stint in school, which left her with heavy student loan debt.

Today, Lambert is happily in pursuit of a graphic design degree. Outside the classroom, she’s making a name for herself in Kelowna’s vibrant freelance artist circuit, where she puts her vinyl printing skills and CNC wizardry to the test.

Veterans Deserve a Helping Hand

The former pilots currently enrolled at The Centre for Arts and Technology represent just two uplifting stories of veterans who’ve successfully changed careers and pursued second acts in life. They’re joined by millions of others from all backgrounds and walks of life — yet who all share a common goal of personal development and betterment. 

We owe it to these veterans to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed in the 21st-century workforce. To a person, they’ve given more than most of us can imagine; it’s the least we can do to repay that debt.

Whether you’re a current student or haven’t seen the inside of a classroom for decades, take it upon yourself to thank the next veteran you meet. If you happen to strike up a conversation, ask how things are going, and what you can do to help. The folks at The Centre for Arts and Technology, and the thousands of other higher education institutions that proudly welcome veterans through their doors, have already asked and answered that question.

It’s time for the rest of us to step up and do the same.

Author: Wahab Sheikh

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