By Jim Scott
Early on, Helen Goldie grabbed the reins of a career that has suited her just fine. Like a recruiter’s dream, she says she saw a pamphlet for the Canadian Armed Forces and took it home. It doesn’t happen in every household, but this time, the pamphlet worked.
“I took it home to show my dad, and he showed me a box of memories as he had served with the British [Royal] Air Force Military Police in the Second World War. His father served with the Royal Artillery in WWI.”
Over four decades, Helen built a solid career and a good life. The flexibility of Canada’s military and Commissionaires has allowed her to serve in many locations, have great experiences and raise three sons.
“Most of my career I served as a full-time reservist. As a single mother of three boys it was nice not being deployed. When I was in Afghanistan, my sons were in their twenties and had left home. Their support was always there and still is. I was able to maintain contact through the internet, so that helped whenever they got worried.”
A life-long career in the Logistics Branch has seen Helen posted to CFB Trenton in Ontario (1976-78), to a variety of British Columbia units including the 103 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Corps in North Vancouver (1978-80) and eleven years with the Royal Westminster Regiment in New Westminster BC (1989-2000). Aside from a month’s assignment at an American airbase in Thule, Greenland, her furthest job afield was in Afghanistan in 2009-10. It may also have been her most profound.
“It was challenging being in a war-torn country. You look at things a lot differently after seeing the horrible conditions. I did not take things for granted ever again.”
Every war zone has a multitude of tasks to be performed, from the monumental to the mundane. The logistics tail makes up a majority of any modern armed forces, and every task is vital to achieve the over all mission. In the ‘asymmetric warfare’ zones Canada commonly finds herself, there are risks on every street corner but Helen never lost her sense of humour.
“One time, while enroute from Kabul to Kandahar, I was tasked as a US Dollar Courier carrying $100,000. I would take this trip once a month,” she says. “My briefcase was always questioned; airport authority wanted to open it, but I had a special letter from NATO stating the case was only to be opened by the head cashier in Kandahar. I would tell them it was a secret recipe for Canadian chocolate chip cookies and they never asked again!”
Helen says for most of her tour she was a driver out of Camp Souter, Kabul and worked as an Administrative Assistant in the orderly room there.
Returning to Canada in 2010 saw Helen fulfill a multitude of roles. She had a five year stint at a Vancouver CF Recruiting Centre, (successfully handing out pamphlets, no doubt!); several postings around CFB Esquimalt and a job with 39 Canadian Engineer Regiment in Chilliwack. Presently she works with the 307 Royal Canadian Sea Cadets in White Rock BC. Aside from her duties as reservist and mother, Helen has also found time to serve her country and community in another way and in yet another uniform.
“In 1996 I joined Commissionaires. I have always worked on-call security roles for either the RCMP, military bases, or as standard security. I have had a variety of jobs, some part-time and some full-time, depending on what works for the site.”
Her dual roles as a Reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces and Commissionaires security guard has allowed Helen to form friendships, develop skills and knowledge, and travel while getting paid. The flexibility and control that is available with these careers is a feature that anyone can take advantage of. Students and other young people looking to start careers seriously think about picking up that pamphlet and getting started.
“Depending on your needs, in the military, full or part-time, there will always be great opportunities provided throughout your career and after.” Helen says, adding: “Commissionaires will provide the same support, opportunities and camaraderie.”