DT News interview: LCol Heer is the first woman to command Op UNIFIER

Video / October 29, 2020


(Shelley) This year marked the fifth anniversary of Canada's participation on Operation UNIFIER, which is the Canadian Armed Forces mission to support the Security Forces of Ukraine. Op Unifier is designed to assist the Security Forces of Ukraine with defence reforms and capability building initiatives to increase their compatibility with NATO Forces. The CAF also coordinates closely with other multinational partners present in the country to develop partnerships and enhance support to the Security Forces of Ukraine.

Today, we’re joined by Lieutenant-Colonel Sarah Heer, who was recently appointed as Commander of Op UNIFIER in Ukraine, the first woman to hold this position.

Thanks for joining us, Ma’am.

As the newly appointed Commander of Op UNIFIER, what are your goals for this rotation?

(LCol Heer) My goals are very similar to previous rotations as we want to continue on the initiatives that are already in place. Our main goal is to create enduring effects in order to ensure that the Ukrainian partners are moving closer to NATO compatibility.

(S) What measures are being taken to continue this training mission while respecting policies related to COVID-19?

(LCol Heer) Yes, there's no question that the emergence of COVID-19 has changed the way we operate, but I would like to emphasize that it hasn't changed our commitment to the mission. We've put in a very deliberate layered mitigation strategy that includes handwashing, maintaining our 2 metres spacing, wearing masks indoors and outside when we can maintain the 2 metres spacing. And these are just some of the measures that we've put in place to protect ourselves, to protect our partners and to protect any Ukrainian local population that we come into contact with.

(S) As one of Canada’s military leaders, how has the CAF become a more diverse and representative organization since you joined?

(LCol Heer) Yes, I think in my 23 years of service, the Canadian Armed Forces has definitely become more diverse. I believe this is because of leadership's commitment to ensuring that we retain and attract Canada's finest. As we start facing a more complex world, we know we need more diverse viewpoints to be able to face those challenges.

I think that the diversity is not just a priority for the Canadian Armed Forces anymore, it's actually one of our greatest strengths. And I'm really proud to lead a task force that represents CAF's diversity at its finest. We don't just have diversity in our gender makeup across all ranks and all positions, we also are diverse in our mix of Regular and Reserve Force. We have 45 different trades represented on this mission. All of this diversity allows us to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of our security force and Ukraine partners.

(S) What advice do you have for anyone who is considering a career in the CAF, especially young women?

(LCol Heer) To put it simply, I'd say: "Go for it." If you're looking for a career where you can see the world, you have the ability to learn something new every day and be in an organization where everyone has equal opportunity and you're promoted, you're given opportunities based on your merit and your hard work, then the Canadian Armed Forces are for you.

And I just close with a final piece of advice that someone said to me very early on in my career that I think is the most important advice you can have and that's to be yourself. You're enough and we want you to be your authentic self. I look forward to have you in the CAF! Thank you.

(S) Thanks for your time.

(LCol Heer) It's my pleasure. Thanks a lot for giving me the opportunity to talk to you today.

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