On June 20, 1989, Captain Jane Foster and Captain Deanna “Dee” Brasseur stand atop a CF-188 Hornet fighter jet. According to the original caption of this photo, they were at that time the only two women in the world flying fighter jets in operational squadrons. In 1979, Captain Brasseur, Captain Leah Mosher, and Captain Nora Bottomley had become the first women in the Canadian Armed Forces to earn their pilots’ wings after the occupation opened to women.
In 1980 Captains Brasseur graduated from Canadian Forces Flight Training School at Portage.
Dee Brasseur enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1972 as an Administrative Clerk with the rank of Private. Soon after, she was commissioned under the Officer Candidate Training Program. When the Canadian Forces announced a trial program in 1979 to employ women in the pilot career field, Dee volunteered and successfully graduated as one of the first three women to earn their wings in 1981.
She was the first woman jet pilot instructor assigned to 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and the first woman pilot to be awarded a Flight Commander position as the T-33 Flight Commander with Base Flight Cold Lake, Alberta.
In 1988, Dee was one of the first two women pilots selected to train on a jet fighter plane. She progressed through 419 Squadron Basic Fighter Training on the CF-5 Freedom Fighter, and 410 Squadron Operational Training Unit to fly the CF-18 Hornet. She served as a line pilot and Squadron Plans Officer with 416 Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cold Lake, Alberta. Major Brasseur was then assigned as the first woman Military Aircraft Accident Investigator and became the Senior Staff Officer at the Department of National Defence Headquarters responsible for supervising all Canadian Forces Jet Trainers and Fighter Aircraft.
In 1994, she took early retirement to establish her own business. She wrote" Achieve It: A Personal Success Journal" and established Unlimited Horizons, a professional speaking, performance coaching, and training business committed to "unlocking the magnificence within each and everyone" through teaching the physiology and psychology of excellence.
In 1995, Dee formed, trained and led the Canadian Precision Flying team (all female) to compete in the 1996 FAI World Precision Flying Championships held in Fort Worth, Texas. Officially recognized by the government for her contributions in Canadian aviation, Dee was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada in February 1999.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, and Canada’s decision to commit troops to the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, Dee re-enrolled in the Canadian Forces Reserve in September 2002. She was employed on the Air Staff at National Defence Headquarters in the Directorate of Air Strategic Planning, and as the Chief of Staff Harassment Advisor and Military Co-Chair of the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization and is now retired.
"I went flying because I wanted to fly, not to prove anything."
"I used to watch for hours and hours and hours, and I specifically remember... I could go back to that spot today and look up and see these Chipmunks coming over, and think to myself, 'Boys are so lucky that they get to do that.'"
"We didn’t know that we were the first women fighter pilots. I went flying because I wanted to fly, not to prove anything to anybody, for any reason. It was just an exciting opportunity."
"You come up against a stereotype wall that"s always going to be there. I had a very small peer group: me, myself and I. It was hard, and there were times when it was lonely, and I wish it hadn’t been so hard. I wish it had been more fun."
"Sometimes you got used to it, sometimes you got tired of it, sometimes you got frustrated and sometimes you just accepted it. As a woman coming up in the military when I did, you were considered one of two things: you were either easy or you were gay. That was the time, and guys were guys. If I had as much sex as it was rumoured I had, I wouldn’t be able to stand."
"The challenge is to look at yourself in the mirror and say: 'You did everything they've done. You're as good as they are. Accepting yourself is the No. 1 priority, and over time they forget about the fact that you're a woman. You’re just another squadron pilot who happens to be competent and capable.'"