“a soldier is a soldier”?

Brigadier General (Retired) Sheila A. Hellstrom posts her comments on Sisters in Arms.  In 1987, Hellstrom became the first woman to be promoted to Brigadier General in the Canadian Forces (both Regular and Reserve):

I thought the DVD was very good although it almost got me off on the wrong foot when the male officer said “a soldier is a soldier” and didn’t know how many women were in the infantry. That took me back to my days in DWP when we had difficulty tracking the # of women in Mobile Command because the army was reluctant to break down the stats by gender. But then I thought of when I was inToronto and a reporter asked me how many women were working for me  – I didn’t know either although I could have given him the mil/civ total numbers.

The three women whose stories were told in the film were great. In interviews they were honest and forthright about their feelings/fears/concerns. The combat engineer looked familiar – I may have met her somewhere, perhaps  Bosnia… and I would love to see more of the videos the medic took in Afghanistan. I also liked the juxtaposition of archival CWAC material with modern footage.

Initially I thought the coverage of family reaction to the deployment of the daughter/wife, both going and returning, was a bit excessive but in retrospect I believe it was necessary to complete the picture. The comparison between Kim changing occupations and the BGen’s husband getting out, both for family reasons, was a nice touch.

I hope lots of people get a chance to view the film, perhaps on TVO or CBC Doc Zone. Best regards – and happy 100th IWD!

Comments: 1 Comment

One Response to ““a soldier is a soldier”?”

  1. Christine says:

    I’ve just returned from the viewing of SIA on this 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the film seemed a great way to recognize achievements and change. I found it very well done and kudos to Beth for surviving/navigating the military “beast” and making such a moving film.

    Having a chance to hear Shirley Robinson speak was fantastic. It also opened up a whole bunch of memories from when I first signed up over 20 years ago. I remember being offered a chance to enrol under CREW – Combat Role Employment for Women – and thinking “Hell no!”. Having a combat arms dad, years as an Army cadet (Airborne no less) and being fairly well read, I was not interested in being the military’s version of a lab rat to see if women belonged in combat roles. I was pretty convinced that the opportunities being offered were more so that the “old school” boys could prove that women didn’t belong rather than to give us a fair and honest chance to prove we do! Although not my trades of choice, I personally didn’t want to go through the trauma and stigma of being a pioneer in a hard male domain because I did not want to live with that kind of misery. But I do take my hat off to the many women who did sign up for the combat arms and chose to break down the barriers while building their careers. This is true for the women of the other trades too such as our first pilots and MARS officers! They serve as proof that personal will determines success and not gender.

    A recent conversation with my mother revealed that as a young girl, she wanted to join the Navy – to sail and see the world. Since women were not allowed to serve on ship at the time, she chose to go another way. Sad to think of what great sailors the Navy missed out on because of such rules!

    Thanks to Beth and the women who helped make this documentary. Let’s hope it goes very far in educating the Canadian public about SIA.