Sunday, July 13, 2008

Top Soldier? How do you figure?

General Rick Hillier resigned his post as head of the Canadian Armed Forces and was replaced by General Walter Natynczyk. General Natynczyk tells us that the war in Afghanistan is going well, despite what everyone else thinks. That's not news. That's just his job. Even if he knows he's lying, he has to lie or he has to resign. That's how it goes. Nothing surprising.

My beef is with the term "top soldier".

Top soldier? No.

A soldier is an enlisted man or woman. An officer, being commissioned, is not a soldier. Yes, I know definitions can vary, but I also came to the realization that this is an attempt - even by a media that is now displaying criticism of the war in Afghanistan - to make the General look like one of the boys.

He's not one of the boys. He won't be expected to drive a Humvee down Kandahar streets every day. He won't see combat. He won't be dodging IEDs. His family won't get a letter or a phone call announcing his combat death. He's an officer and a senior ranking one at that, not a soldier.

While it may sound romantic and humble to call the Chief of Defence Staff a "soldier", it's nothing but pandering, deception and an attempt to spill over the respect we give to those who have volunteered to put their lives on the line.

As far as I can remember, the last "top soldier" who died in combat for Canada was Major General Sir Isaac Brock. Since then, "top soldiers" lead from the back and the term has no valid meaning.

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