Col. Tammy Harris just became the commander of CFB Borden, Canada's largest training base. With 3,250 military members, 1,500 civilians, and 15,000 military personnel trained each year, CFB Trenton is massive, and taking over the base would be a big deal for anyone. But this promotion is historic: Col. Harris is the first-ever female commander of a Canadian Forces base.
Although she sees the milestone as meaningful, Col. Harris says the only time she wants her gender to be the focus is when it provides inspiration. She told the Toronto Star, "I believe I do have a role to mentor both men and women, young girls and boys who are looking to find their identity. If (the fact that I'm a woman) helps them achieve their dream, then I would be happy about that".
But Karen Davis, an expert in the Canadian Force's gender integration policy, stresses the importance of making Col. Harris' achievement known: "It's really important for young women in Canada to know that these are the kinds of things that women can do in the military", Davis says. "Surprisingly, there's still a number of women out there who don't really envision any type of a substantial career in the military".
As the step-mother to three young women aged 17, 20, and 22, Col. Harris says she's glad women have more opportunities today than they once did: "Maybe 25 years ago, we were breaking down barriers and moving forward. But today, young women are out there, taking the world by storm". Col. Harris has been a member of the Canadian Forces since 1987, when she joined as an air traffic controller, and she says she was inspired to succeed by "some great female leaders and male leaders that have gone before" .
For a brief history of the role women have played in the Canadian Forces and the Canadian military, visit the Forces' site right here.
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