Gascoyne serves community as teacher and soldier

Local reservist’s experiences also encourages greater volunteer involvement

ON DUTY - Second Lt. James Gascoyne

ON DUTY - Second Lt. James Gascoyne

James Gascoyne is leading a double life. Most days, Gascoyne is a math and science teacher at Ecole Lacombe Junior High School and answers to ‘Mr. Gascoyne.’

But, there are also those who know him as Second Lt. James Gascoyne of the 41 Signal Regiment, a military reservist.

Gascoyne said that, if the two worlds seem completely different from each other, it’s because they are. In fact, Gascoyne manages to keep them quite separate.

“If I never mentioned it, probably no one would know. I don’t accidently come in wearing a pair of combat boots.”

While Gascoyne does occasionally speak to his class about his involvement with the army, he said that he keeps a somewhat low profile of his career in the reserves. He added that his students have trouble understanding what it means to be soldier while at the same time being a teacher.

Gascoyne first joined the reserves in the mid 90s while he was attending university in Edmonton. He served with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment for two years before work and life took him elsewhere.

Other than being part of cadets as a child, Gascoyne said he hadn’t had much experience with the military up until that point. He said that, while he was a fairly confident individual, the reserves were kind of a brand new world to him.

“Whenever you join an organization, you are the ‘new guy’. You really feel like you are the at the lowest rung of the ladder and you have a ton to learn.”

As such, one needs to have a fair bit of humility to join the armed forces, said Gascoyne. He added that he doesn’t think this differs much from anyone else starting a new career or transferring to a new job site.

When Gascoyne joined the military morale was quite low, he said. He added that, to him, it seemed as though the soldiers, who were on peacekeeping missions had lost a sense of purpose.

When Gascoyne settled down in Central Alberta some years later and had the opportunity to join the reserves again, he signed up with the 41 Signal Regiment. He said that at that time, the army was “Up to its elbows in Afghanistan” and the culture.

“Mission has a way of galvanizing purpose,” said Gascoyne. He added that for soldiers who aren’t trained for peacekeeping and having a new mission, the war in Afghanistan had returned that sense of purpose to the army.

Gascoyne said he, as well as most of the reservists he has worked with, enjoys serving others. He said that desire to be part of something bigger than himself is what led him to join the reserves in the first place.

Leadership is another aspect of the armed forces that attracted Gascoyne. He added that everyone within the reserves is expected to take some kind of leadership role and all reservists have to take leadership courses in order to move up the ranks as well.

Gascoyne’s desire to serve and be part of something bigger than himself is something he has carried with him all his life. It is what first led him to join the reserves and today has him volunteering in other facets as well. In addition to serving through the reserves, Gascoyne also serves his community on a number of other levels. He is chair of the St. Stephen’s Parish Council and vice-president for the local Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) and sits on the economic policy committee.

Even Gascoyne’s decision to pursue a teaching career came out of that desire. He added that when making such decisions he has always thought about how service to his community will fit into it.

Gascoyne said that organization and knowing one’s limits are important parts of working with the reserves or volunteering with any organization. Otherwise, you will reach a point where you are spread too thin and not fulfilling any obligations. He added that even with those skills, it is difficult to maintain a balanced workload.

“I am spread pretty thin, too thin probably, some times of the year.”