Lonnie Goldstein BComm'13

Lonnie Goldstein Polar Dip

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Lieutenant Lonnie Goldstein is putting a new spin on “feeling his way through the darkness.” The 34-year-old Saint Mary’s graduate is currently working in 24-hour night conditions at the Canadian Forces Station in Alert, Nunavut, the most northerly permanent settlement in the world.

 “At first I thought it would be fun because I like staying up late, but to be honest, it’s a little wonky on your system,” he laughs. “But you do adjust.” From October 14 and for the next 135 days, the Alert station, a unit of CFB Trenton, will be in complete darkness. It’s one of many things that Lonnie has needed to get used to. Isolation is another. The stressors of these two factors and how they impact the people who are also stationed there, are a big part of his job as Station Logistics Officer.

 “These are demanding circumstances and require me to be careful and respectful when I am delegating or requesting work,” says Lonnie. “It’s impressive to see the capabilities and resilience of people, who step outside their comfort zones and are able to get the job done.”

 Lonnie’s primary role is to oversee the Traffic and Supply sections, in addition to administrative, public affairs, and health and safety duties. He also organizes morale-building activities, such as polar swims, theme nights, and TGIF events for the team.

 As one of only two officers at the Station, Lonnie has a big responsibility in terms of leadership. In fact, at times he acts as a buffer between the Commanding Officer (CO) and the workers. “They look to me to help resolve issues and concerns or to help organize their work before proceeding on to the CO,” says Lonnie. “But you really can’t speak on other people’s behalf if you’re not on the ground with them and getting your hands dirty.” To that end, Lonnie gets away from his desk often to interact with the 80+ workers, both military and civilian.

 “There’s a lot of variety in my job, which I love,” says Lonnie. “One minute I could be organizing a polar bear dip and the next minute I’m on an airplane visiting Greenland during our semi-annual resupply operation. It’s very dynamic.”

 It’s also very cold. On the day Lonnie arrived at the Station last August, there was no snow and it was about 0 degrees. The temperature literally dropped overnight and hasn’t come back up since. This means a lot of inside time, but luckily, there are some tremendous views of the Arctic Ocean and wildlife right outside his quarters.

 “The animals are like nothing I’ve ever seen. There are white bunnies the size of a small person. The first time I saw one I was like a deer in headlights. It’s very surreal.”

 One of the most gratifying aspects of his work is putting his education at SMU to good use. “I call on my education every day,” he says. “Everything from computer courses to writing to public speaking.”

 The good fortune of an education is not something Lonnie takes lightly. He had to work hard, first qualifying for a military program that allowed him to go back to school and then taking part-time and correspondence courses before he was accepted into a full-time program. “The military took a chance on me, and so did SMU. I was under qualified for entrance to university, but they took a leap of faith.”

 Lonnie has never forgotten the trust that was shown in him. “When I graduated all those registrars and Service Centre people who fought for me to get into the program were there. It was a very emotional moment.”

 Halifax and SMU will always hold a spot in Lonnie’s heart and he comes back often to visit. “I got my start there. I essentially became who I am because of the people who supported me,” he says. “When I left school, it was like leaving family. Everyone knew each other—it’s definitely not the norm for most large universities.”