Master Corporal Nikki Gregg’s personal map includes Japan, Scotland and Saudi Arabia

Article / May 19, 2017 / Project number: 17-0113

By Devon Atherton, Army Public Affairs

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May, which is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, is a time to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Canadians of Asian Heritage who have helped shape the diverse and prosperous country that is Canada today. This is one in a series on Canadian Army members of Asian heritage.

Petawawa, Ontario — Working with a diverse, evolving and respectful team is what makes the Canadian Army (CA) such an appealing work environment for CA members like Army Communication and Information Systems (ACIS) Specialist Master Corporal Nikki Gregg, who has deployed overseas three times in her nine years of service.

MCpl Gregg, with a diverse Japanese and Scottish heritage, said that she’s always felt included and valued at her job. “Everyone is just inclusive. I never had issues surrounding my background – so long as I knew my job, I was respected.”

She noted that her parents’ families have both been in Canada for a number of generations. Her mother has Japanese roots and her father is of Scottish heritage.

“They were very proud and happy when I joined. They’re very supportive,” she said.

Her step-father, who was in the United States Navy, was a definite influence on her career choice. “My step-dad, he would tell me about his Navy experiences and he was a pilot with the USS Midway [aircraft carrier] so his stories were pretty epic.”

Teamwork is an important skill

From a young age, the Calgary native always knew that she was a team player. From softball to swimming, volleyball and tennis, she played nearly every sport she could while in high school. Now, after almost a decade as a Regular Force member, MCpl Gregg is as much a team player as ever.

As an ACIS Specialist in Alpha Troop at the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron, Petawawa, Ontario, she operates within a team to set up, manage and monitor satellite communications systems.

“My job is to work with satellites and information in my unit. We take the data they collect and communicate our findings to our personnel within the Command Post. It’s a great team environment,” she said. “It’s cool to work together and meet so many people. Team cohesion is important to me, and you can really see that in my unit.”

For MCpl Gregg, being a member of the CA means that she’s had the opportunity to work with other soldiers all over the world. After numerous Canadian postings and three international deployments, including Poland from September 2014 to January 2015, the Philippines in December 2013 and Cyprus in November and December 2010, she has made a lot of connections.

MCpl Gregg said, “It’s great to meet people in each unit and on tour, because you see them again down the road and get to share all of your stories. Everyone is different.”

However, her commitment to the CA isn’t just about connecting with people and travelling. Those, she notes, are just benefits. The key reason that MCpl Gregg joined the CA Regular Force was to help Canada provide aid in times of need.

“I’ve always kept up with what is happening in the world, and when I joined in 2008, Canada was engaged in Afghanistan. I saw what was happening on the news and the war there really impacted my decision to serve our country. The Canadian Army was trying to help the people and was providing aid. I really liked that aspect of the Army, and I wanted to make a difference,” MCpl Gregg explained.

Deployments brought satisfaction

She’s had the opportunity to make that difference on an international level during her different tours. In Cyprus, MCpl Gregg spent two months supporting the decompression efforts for troops returning from Afghanistan to help them transition to life back in Canada. “We took care of them and made sure that everyone was accounted for. I maintained personnel that came in and out of the building to make sure we could keep track of everyone.”

MCpl Gregg also assisted with operations in Poland during Operation REASSURANCE as part of NATO assurance and deterrence measures. There, she supported communications for the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. “I provided communications for them, making sure that everyone had their internet and cellphones and arranged calling between our building and Canada.”

However, MCpl Gregg is especially proud of her contributions in the Philippines. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, a category 5 storm, hit the shores of the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan affected more than 16 million people, temporarily displacing 4.1 million in 57 cities, and damaging more than 1.14 million houses. Canada was a part of the international humanitarian response to this crisis, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) deployed the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) as part of Operation RENAISSANCE 13-1 to help address the medical, water and engineering needs of the disaster area. MCpl Gregg was among those members deployed to assist DART in providing aid.

“The coolest thing I’ve done with the Army was help give out water to the locals in the Philippines. The happiness on their faces was amazing to experience,” she said. “I also got to work in radio communications while I was there. It’s the tour that made me the most proud to be a part of the Canadian Army.”

Influences of growing up in Saudi Arabia

MCpl Gregg believes that international engagement has been such an important part of her work in the CA because of another aspect of her own personal story. She related that the situation in Afghanistan really resonated with her because of her experiences growing up in Saudi Arabia. After moving there with her father and brother when she was one year old, MCpl Gregg lived there until the age of fourteen, when circumstances forced her father to send her and her brother back to Canada.

“There were terrorists bombing the compound where we lived,” she said. “We had to come back. But we had had a very different childhood than most people, and the lifestyle in Canada was really different. I had to get used to that.”

MCpl Gregg related that she found the transition back to a Canadian lifestyle difficult while she was a teenager. Although she didn’t complete her final years of high school, she has plans to complete her education while in the CA, and feels she has been supported in her career goals throughout.

“They’re pretty supportive about education in the military,” said MCpl Gregg. “I know lots of people in the Army who have taken a year even to do courses and get their high school. I’ve just been so busy with work that I haven’t done it yet, but I know that when I want to work towards my credits, they will be reasonable and give me days off to do what I need to do.”

A proud future with the Army

For now though, MCpl Gregg isn’t rushing herself. She’s been very successful as an ACIS Specialist and loves the work that she does. “Communications constantly changes and evolves with technology,” she explained. “There’s always something new that I can geek out on. It keeps me curious and moving forward.”

MCpl Gregg doesn’t foresee any barriers to her career progression, and expressed that the inclusive team environment keeps her ‘hooked’.

“In 10 years I know I’ll be in the military still! I’m looking forward to exploring more of Canada and learning how to be a better team member. They’re good people in here and I want to keep serving my country.”

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