Charlotte Greenall served Canada as a member of the military for 27 years. Concurrently, she’s served her community as an employee of Saskatoon Health Region for almost 30.

How has she been able to do that?

“I had to be able to balance both my civilian and military careers, and any balancing comes with a really supportive management team,” said Greenall, who is the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) program coordinator for Saskatoon Health Region, and up until last August when she retired, a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Her supportive management team allowed Greenall to take time from her civilian career to spend serving in Canada’s military, either attending training or education courses, or operations. Greenall rose to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) with the Canadian Armed Forces and served in Afghanistan for seven months in 2010.

Because of the support she received from her manager, Heather Trischuk, over the past number of years, Greenall nominated Mental Health and Addiction Services for Saskatoon Health Region for an Employer Support Award from the Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC), which was presented March 12 in a ceremony in Regina.

Heather Trischuk (left) and Charlotte Greenall.

Heather Trischuk (left) and Charlotte Greenall.

This is the second time Trischuk has been nominated for recognition from the CFLC – she went to Ottawa as the Saskatchewan CFLC award representative, winning the national award for employer support in 2009. She was also a part of a training weekend at the Canadian Forces Naval base in Esquimalt for a weekend of military training to educate employers on the benefits of allowing reservists time off for training.

“You just have to juggle the schedule around to allow them to go for training,” Trischuk explained simply.

“This is a way for us to work with our employees to support our country as a whole,” said Tracy Muggli, Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services for Saskatoon Health Region, who wholly supports employers accommodating reservists. “It’s an honour to be able to partner in something like this. It gives us, as an employer, an opportunity to do something meaningful for our employees, and feel like we’re making a contribution to our country.”

“Her learning and experiences from the military have really influenced her work for the Region in a positive way,” Trischuk said. “She can pretty much do anything, and her attitude is always very positive and upbeat.”

Those employers who don’t provide support for their employees as reservists don’t understand what reservists can bring back to their jobs from their roles in the military, Greenall feels. “It’s simply a lack of education,” she said.

What has Greenall brought back to the office from her years in the military?

“The strongest thing I brought back is mission before self,” she said. “It’s just in you. When you have a job to do, it’s before self, always. What I bring back to my work is exactly that.”

Her military career also gave her high levels of perseverance, she feels, and a low level of self-doubt, along with integrity, a great work ethic and values, and strong administration and communication skills.

“I love to be challenged. The more you throw at me, the better I do my job. I believe I get that from the military.”

Greenall also feels what she’s learned in her civilian career helped her in the military. “There have been great assets to both sides,” she said.  “I’m really passionate about both. I really love my job here, and Heather and Tracy and the management team has been amazing. And I always loved my job in the military.”

CWO is the highest rank a reservist can achieve without being a commissioned officer. Part of achieving that level meant finishing a three-week course, which Trischuk allowed her time to complete, and when she graduated, she was one of only seven female CWOs in Canada at the time.

The only reason she was able to get as far in the military as she did, she feels, is because of the understanding of her employer.

“Having my civilian management team back me up was so important,” she said. “If I had met resistance from them, I likely would have quit the military.”

In her career with Saskatoon Health Region, Greenall started out in nutrition, then went into housekeeping and administration after taking a medical secretary course. She went back to school again and graduated as an addictions counsellor, and has worked for Mental Health and Addictions ever since.

“I’m so grateful I could do both,” she said. “I was able to keep my career alive on both sides.”

She never planned to rise so high in the military, she said.

“It was a hobby job,” she said. “I enjoyed my work, and serving my country, but I never meant to make it a career. But when you rise higher in the ranks, you realize how much more you can give back.”

Part of the reason Greenall is so thankful to Trischuk is because of how accommodating she was when Greenall was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2011.

In Afghanistan, Greenall explained, she was working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Part of her position was to liaise with the civilian population, so she was off-base quite a bit. She dealt with all levels of government, but spent most of her time talking to civilians of all demographics, trying to get them to trust their own government again after years of Taliban rule.

She came home from Afghanistan in 2010, but had trouble winding down after spending seven months working all the time. After a year of keeping herself busy to keep thoughts of what she experienced over there at bay – including the death of a close friend – the impact of what she’d seen and done finally hit her hard. Her husband, who was also in the military, suggested she seek some help.

“As soon as I started seeing a psychologist for PTSD, I let Heather know, and she was absolutely phenomenal. She told me to take all the time I needed, and to take care of myself. That was so helpful to hear from a manager, and in my recovery, it played a huge role, knowing that I could get the help I needed and feel supported at work,” Greenall said.

Trischuk’s understanding had a huge impact on Greenall’s recovery.

“I’m not sure if Heather really understands the intensity what she did had during my time of crisis. It was so important to me that I continue to work – it really gave me a sense of purpose – and taking care of myself ensured that I was still viable at my job.”

Without her work, there could have been no outlet for her energy, which could have resulted in a very different outcome, Greenall noted. “I feel like sometimes Heather saved my life.”

Greenall’s own experience with PTSD has made her a better counsellor, she feels. Many of her clients are suffering from the after-effects of a traumatic experience as well.

“I’ve always had empathy, but now I’ve experienced trauma first-hand and over long periods of time and can better relate to what the clients are experiencing in their lives,” she said.