Born on Remembrance Day in military family, Army captain’s career not a surprise

Article / October 26, 2018 / Project number: 18-0289

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By Jeff Pelletier, Army Public Affairs

Montreal, Quebec — While most people spend their birthdays celebrating, this member of the Canadian Army has spent his birthdays reflecting and contributing to his community.

Captain Dominique Lagrange was born on November 11, 1992, coinciding with Remembrance Day.

Capt Lagrange was raised in a military family – his mother, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Pamela Lagrange, served in the United States Air Force (USAF) and his father, Colonel (Retired) Mario Lagrange, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) – which means that he was raised knowing the greater significance of the date.

“It’s a day to remember those who’ve fallen for my country,” he said. “It is about the somber occasion that we have the privilege to honour. People remember my birthday simply because it’s on a special day. But I ensure that my friends and family understand that it’s not about me, it’s about others.”

Remembrance Day birthday is a day to serve others

Capt Lagrange said that he felt that it was “vain” to ask for birthday gifts on Remembrance Day. Instead, for three years during high school, he would ask for non-perishable food that could be donated to his local food bank.

“I asked my friends and family to bring canned goods and dry foods to my birthday party instead of presents,” he said. “The following day, my mom and I delivered them to the Ottawa Food Bank.”

Having a birthday on November 11 made Capt Lagrange more aware of the historic context of the date, but ultimately, it was his parents who influenced his decision to join the military.

Chose Army although parents served in Canadian and American air forces

In 1987, his American mother, hailing from Georgia, was a 1st Lieutenant in the Nurse Corps of the USAF working at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. His Quebec-born father, an Aerospace Engineering Officer with the RCAF, was visiting Edwards on a NATO exchange program. That’s where the two of them met, and they remained committed to their respective militaries.

Being in the RCAF and USAF, his parents were hoping that if he were to choose a military career path, it would also be in the Air Force. In the end, he was more interested in becoming an Engineer Officer in the Canadian Army. As his father jokingly said, he joined the “dark side.”

“I was very keen on joining the Army and especially liked combat engineering,” he said. “While a university student, I joined the Canadian Army Reserve as an officer at 33 Combat Engineer Regiment on Walkley Road in Ottawa.”

Capt Lagrange studied at Carleton University in Ottawa graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil). He completed combat engineering training in Gagetown, New Brunswick, before being transferred to Valcartier, Quebec to fill an Engineer Officer posting.

Since transferring into the Regular Force, he has been promoted to Captain and is currently posted at 2nd Canadian Division Headquarters at Canadian Forces Base Longue-Pointe in Montréal, Quebec, as an Engineer Advisor.

Enjoys the variety that combat engineering provides

Capt Lagrange said that one of the things he enjoys the most about being an Engineer Officer is the variety. Combat Engineers have many jobs, which include bridge and building construction and demolition, use of heavy equipment and neutralization of explosives.

“Our mandate is to help our troops and our Allies live, move and fight on the battlefield and to deny the same to the enemy,” he said.

According to Capt Lagrange, there is a lot of planning that goes into everything Combat Engineers do, but he enjoys a good challenge.

“I love being faced with a challenge and to sit down and brainstorm with my technical support team to derive various courses of action and find the most efficient and effective solution,” he said.

Capt Lagrange also emphasized that overcoming challenges is a team effort. “I couldn’t have succeeded without the experience and dedication from my subordinates, usually sergeants and warrant officers,” he said.

Deployment to Niger with Operation NABERIUS

Capt Lagrange said his greatest accomplishment to date was his first overseas deployment, which was to the Republic of the Niger in western Africa as a part of Operation NABERIUS in 2018.

In Niger, Capt Lagrange and his fellow CAF members took on numerous roles, including improving camp layout, building roofs for shade, creating a water purification system and laying down concrete pads for tents for the Nigerian Armed Forces (NAF).

Capt Lagrange said that the experience on Op NABERIUS was very positive in many ways. “It makes you realize how blessed we are to be in a well-developed country. The people of Niger were so humble and kind throughout the deployment,” he said. 

One thing that stood out to him was that every morning at 6 a.m., NAF troops would go for a run and sing traditional African songs in beautiful harmony. “It was amazing hearing the harmony and the sound of these tough but kind-hearted individuals expressing their warrior spirit every morning,” he said.

Being deployed had many challenges. Capt Lagrange and his troops always remained vigilant. “Before each convoy, we would go into painstaking detail over the plan to ensure that everyone was on the same page in case of an attack,” he said. “My team and I were ‘hoping for the best and ready for the worst.’”

Lessons learned on deployment

Capt Lagrange said one of the most important things he learned on deployment was to guard against underestimating the amount of planning and time that is required to bring down all the proper resources to complete a task.

“Logistically speaking, this deployment helped me understand that you must always have a plan B, because you never know what could happen,” he said. “For example, the C-17 aircraft was delayed two times as they were bringing us equipment from Canada.”

“This delayed our mission by five days, creating a lot of stress to complete the task on time.  Fortunately, thanks to good planning, I did add some time for the unexpected and we did finish on time.”

Home sweet home

About returning to Canada, Capt Lagrange said, “Getting back home to a moderate climate with trees and no red sand was great. Coming home to my bed, not worrying about camel spiders, and deathstalkers [deadly scorpions] crawling around on me. Not worrying about the camp being attacked – very rare but who hasn’t thought of it? – was truly a relief.”

“To sit back during my post-deployment leave in my PJs watching Netflix with a cup of coffee as I reflected on what my troops and I achieved overseas was pure bliss,” he said. “I don’t think I ever appreciated this so much in my life.”

Capt Lagrange was also very happy to return to the people who inspired him to join the military: his family.

“They worried when I was gone but are very proud of my accomplishments,” he said. “I appreciate the support and love they have provided me throughout my preparation and during the mission.”

Looking to the future

At age 25, Capt Lagrange looks forward to continuing his military career. Once his current two-year posting in Montréal is completed, he has further accomplishments in mind.

“My goal is to be posted back to my regiment, my home: 5 Combat Engineer Regiment at 2nd Canadian Division Support Base Valcartier, Quebec, and one day lead an Engineer Squadron,” he said.

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