With the war in Afghanistan continuing and more and more of Canada's great soldiers dieing or coming home with serious wounds, when I saw a book about the Canadian Armed Forces, I grabbed it.
A Soldier First: bullets, bureaucrats and the politics of war, is a book that was written by Canada's Chief of the Defence from 2005 to 2008, General Rick Hillier.
In the summer of 2008, General Rick Hillier resigned his command as Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces. You could almost hear the sigh of relief in Ottawa as Canada's most popular, and most controversial, leader since the Second World War left a role in which he'd been as frank-speaking, as unpredictable, and as resolutely apolitical as any military leader this country has ever seen.
A SOLDIER FIRST is a hard-hitting, frank account of Hillier's role in his own words. The man who never backed down from the Taliban or Canada's top political leaders tells all in what will be one of the most important books to come out of this country this decade.
It was a very interesting read. It is the story of his life in the Canadian Military as a young recruit through to his retirement as Chief of Defence. He is very honest about all that was right, and all that was/is wrong with our military. Most of what is wrong, not surprisingly, is the way Parliament Hill is slow to react to the military's needs, and the problems of bringing a peace keeping force from the cold war era into a one fighting an active war.
The one problem I had with the book is that he is very long winded. His 500 page book could have been an excellent 300 page read. Being a commander, he is into details. So instead of writing that he went went to Bosnia with 2 stops along the way for briefings, instead would describe each stop in detail which would take pages. The book could have been shortened for even better effect.
His description of commanding multi-national forces, whether it was UN forces or NATO forces was quite revealing and troublesome. Much work needs to be done as a cohesive force rather than each nation wanting their own little fiefdom.
I did enjoy most of it though and would recommend it to anyone interested in today's world events or our armed forces. It is a very good read.