ST. ANTHONY, N.L.— Master Cpl. Cathy Kean, a former St. Anthony resident who currently lives in Cornwall, Ont., is honoured to be part of the Queen’s Guard in London, England this month.
“We have the responsibility of guarding the royal residences,” Kean said. “That includes Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace, and the London Tower and we will be doing one night at Windsor Castle, as well.”
Kean is part of the first Royal Canadian Air Force Contingent to perform Public Duties for the Queen. The contingent, which will be performing Public Duties between June 25-July 15 is composed of representatives from all 14 wings and is led by Major Véronique Gagné, RCAF Public Duties Air Task Force Commander and Master Warrant Officer Dipen Mistry, RCAF Public Duties Air Task Force Warrant Officer.
Kean explains a little of what Public Duties involve.
“We do a big Changing of the Guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace and then we break into our detachments and then we go to Buckingham Palace and St. James Palace and the London Tower and then we mount sentry boxes where we are standing guard,” she said.
Understandably, Kean is somewhat awestruck by her participation in this endeavour.
“To actually go to the palace and know that we are the Queen’s Guard, it’s amazing,” Kean said. “Even to say it seems a little surreal.”
Kean, a former member of the 774 St. Anthony Lions Air Cadet Squadron (1987-1991), earned her glider and pilot’s licenses through the program. After completing Cadets, she worked in civilian aviation for a while but her experiences as an Air Cadet eventually drew her to military life.
“At 30, I was little older than most joining the military,” Kean said, “but because of what I learned from cadets, the team work, the dedication and the shining of the boots and doing of the uniform and drill, all those things really kind of prepared me and put me in the right mindset to do it.”
“Honestly, it was what I was meant to do — I love to put the uniform on every day.”
Kean’s regular position with the RCAF is as an aerospace control operator and under usual circumstances, she is an instructor at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control in Cornwall, Ont. She was asked to join the special contingent earlier this spring and began training for the role in May. She and the other members of the contingent spent long hours doing drills and other preparations to fulfill their duties as the Queen’s Guard.
She has found herself in a groundbreaking role while she is in London.
“In my detachment, at St. James Palace, my title is ‘The Old Soldier’” Kean said, “It’s a prestigious title that the British give. I go there ahead of the contingent and I take over the guard room.”
This past week, because the Queen was in residence, they had to mount a large guard so Kean found herself on the Sentry box, an unusual position for a woman.
“Because the British who normally do it are infantry and they don’t allow females in their infantry the fact that myself, as an RCAF member who is female, did it is kind of amazing,” Kean said. “Probably not that many females in history who have done it.”
Kean also found the experience of marching to Buckingham Palace to be a highlight of her current role.
“When we were at Wellington Barracks for the first time there were a couple of hundred people watching us, it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Kean said, “but then when we started marching out the gate, to go to Buckingham Palace, I can’t even explain to you how many people there were.”
“To see Buckingham Palace coming up and to make the turn to march into the forecourt... I don’t have the words to express how it felt,” Kean said, “Then to see the video afterwards and say ‘That’s me, right there. I just did that.””
On top of her personal pride at doing this work, Kean is thrilled by the support she is receiving from friends and family.
“Growing up in St. Anthony, we were all super close, it was a great place to grow up,” Kean said. “Being here and seeing all the support on my FB (Facebook) wall from all of them telling me how proud they are of me, it means a lot.”
It also means a lot to know that her daughter is watching her right now.
“I want to send a shout out to my daughter Mya, who is staying with friends in Ontario while I’m here,” Kean said. “Everything I do, I do to make her proud.”
While the scope of her current role is broad, Kean keeps her focus where it belongs.
“I try not to think about it because it can get overwhelming,” Kean said. “We are just doing a job at the end of the day.
“We have been training for this for a long time and it feels right that we are doing it. We were very prepared.”
For more information about the RCAF’s Public Duties for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, visit: http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/en/events/public-duties.page.