Paving the way for women in the combat arms
As the Headquarters and Services Battery Commander 4th Artillery Regiment, Maj. Natasha Skidmore knows exactly what her role means to the generation of women coming in after her.
Remembering a time when there were few women in visible posts in the combat arms, Skidmore realizes the difference this makes for today’s women in the military.
“The most important thing to me about being a woman in this role, is that the generation that’s coming up behind me, they are going to have a completely different experience than I had.
“They’re going to grow up in a military, in an Army, in combat arms, where there’s a female commanding officer of a unit, there are female battery commanders, and I am really excited for them to have (those) role models,” said Skidmore.
Skidmore started her journey to becoming a battery commander in 2002. Both her father and grandfather had served in the forces.
“I was very proud of the Canadian military,” recalled Skidmore.
Growing up she was in the cadet program, where she made lifelong friends and memories; but it wasn’t until high school, until 9/11, that she saw her future clearly.
“I was always kind of drawn to it (military) but it didn’t really dawn on me until I was in high school that it was what I wanted to do,” remembered Skidmore.
Skidmore is a Royal Military College graduate.
The main highlights of Skidmore’s career have been her two tours of Afghanistan. Her first tour was in 2007 for seven months as a Troop Leader in A Troop, X Battery, with Roto 4 to Kandahar. She was deployed again to Kandahar in 2010 as a Forward Observer and Forward Air Controller for Rotation 9.
“They were incredibly challenging times of my life, but there were also the times in my life I really knew I could do it and I could do it well. It was a huge confidence booster for anyone in the forces; but, particularly as a young woman, it mean a lot to me to serve under those conditions and lead your soldiers in them to follow your direction with confidence,” said Skidmore.
In November 2016, Skidmore assumed command as Headquarters and Services Battery commander. She is also Director of Fires to 1 Canadian Division.
In her role, she carries out a number of varied tasks to lead the vision of the battery for the next few years including promotions, acknowledgment and sometimes discipline.
“I lead the battery, but there are a lot of spin roles and responsibilities in that,” noted Skidmore.
One of the most exciting things for Skidmore in her new position is working for her longtime role model: LCol. Christ Bouckaert, Commanding Officer of the 4th Artillery Regiment.
“To get to work for her was like working for a personal role model. It’s been a really phenomenal experience because there aren’t that many of us in the combat arms, so it’s really unique to work directly for one of those role models that you’ve looked up to all of your career.
“It’s almost like going to work everyday working for superwomen,” said Skidmore.
Recently, Skidmore had the opportunity to attend a NATO conference in Europe on artillery interoperability.
“It’s fascinating. There are dozens of nations here, especially for our trade, and working together to become better NATO partners. It’s been a really fascinating experience,” expressed Skidmore.
Drawing on her experiences, Skidmore highly encourages young women to join the military.
“It’s been amazing. It’s been a challenging experience but in a really amazing way that builds you as a person,” said Skidmore.
Skidmore is married to a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and has three children.