Nichola Goddard was eighteen when she began her basic training at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.
At College Nichola was also a member of the school's biathlon team. After graduation, she joined the First Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and was deployed to Afghanistan in February 2006 as a Captain where she was attached to the PPCLI as a Forward Observation Officer.
Nichola was killed on May 17, 2006 during a firefight when she was hit by shrapnel during a rocket-propelled grenade attack by Taliban fighters. Captain Goddard was described as a brilliant officer by both her superiors and fellow soldiers. She was the sixteenth Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan, and the first female combat soldier to be killed on the front lines. She was 26 years old.
Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard, MSM
Daughter, sister, granddaughter, wife, soldier, Captain Nichola Goddard was the first female Canadian combat soldier killed in action in our history.
Captain Goddard was born to her Canadian parents while they were teaching in Papua, New Guinea. Her family traveled throughout the world and lived in every Canadian province and territory except the Yukon.
She graduated with top honours from high school in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Within 24 hours of her high school graduation, she began the basic training for the Royal Military College at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu near Montreal. After successfully completing her basic training she began her studies at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario where Canada trains its military leaders.
Her competitive nature was challenged by the strict admission program and the opportunity for advancement based on performance. While there, she was a member of the Royal Military College biathlon team.
In her fourth year of study, the attack by terrorists on the World Trade Center in New York interrupted her day of classes. This attack on North American soil would eventually mobilize forces from around the world to unite against terrorism. Canadian troops would be deployed to Afghanistan in combat roles unlike the peacekeeping forces for which the Canadian military is known internationally.
After serving her five year commitment with the Canadian military, she had the option of leaving the military but after careful contemplation she chose to make the military her career and lifelong commitment. She said she looked forward to serving her country.
Captain Goddard served in the First Royal Canadian Horse Artillery stationed in Shilo, Manitoba. She was deployed to Afghanistan and arrived February 1, 2006. In Afghanistan, she interacted with the local population and felt strongly that the Canadian military was playing an important role in bringing peace to this war-torn country. In her letters to home she described her experiences in Afghanistan and her feelings about this experience.
She was in a very unique position as a female military leader in a country where women have very few rights and freedoms.
Captain Goddard was the Forward Observation Officer and Forward Air Controller for Charlie Company Operation ARCHER which provided protection to Forward Operating Bases near Kandahar, Afghanistan. While traveling to any of these bases the troops are exposed to rebel attacks, often in the form of suicide bombers. It is critical to move troops at random times and different routes to prevent attacks. The vehicles travel very close together and move quite quickly.
On one return trip from a Forward Operating Base, the unit was delayed and had to navigate the huge armoured vehicles through streets which were designed for small vehicle traffic and during a busy market day when the streets were filled with people, donkeys, dogs and carts. On this trip Captain Goddard’s vehicle struck and killed a donkey. The military had to locate the owner of the donkey and try to provide compensation for this accident.
Another mission for Charlie Company was to conduct meetings with Afghan National Army soldiers and local village leaders. The Canadian soldiers provided security around these meetings while emissaries met with the Afghan people and Afghan soldiers. Captain Goddard was invited to be an emissary at two meetings where they discussed the common goal of getting rid of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to make Afghanistan a better place.
In her letters to home, she described her experience in the harsh Afghan environment. She said the bottled drinking water was gross. The water was warm at best and sometimes almost too hot to drink as there is very little refrigeration. The soldiers experimented with ways to cool the water but overall had to accept the situation and drink the unpalatable water to maintain hydration in the unrelenting heat of Afghanistan.
In the Forward Base Camps, there were limited toilet facilities with no privacy walls and no showers for up to two weeks. Captain Goddard was a military leader in a war zone at a time when a military woman in combat is a new frontier. She was leading her troops as well as paving the way for other women who will choose the military as a career.
She received more attention from the local people because she was a female in a traditionally male dominated military environment. At one meeting, a local leader wanted to arrange a marriage for her and she patiently explained that she was already married.
In her letters, she said that it was an honour to be wearing a Canadian uniform overseas. She said that the Canadian and Afghan soldiers respected each other based on ability, a positive attitude, determination and a good sense of humour. She wrote about her pride in the professionalism of our soldiers.
Captain Goddard wrote about her encounter with an unmarked anti-tank minefield while her unit traveled within metres of this danger. She knew that such a small device could wreak incredible devastation on human life.
She saw poppy fields in Afghanistan and was surprised that they were quite different from the poppies we wear on Remembrance Day. She described the poppies as similar to tulips, very tall and very straight with big flowers. Afghanistan is one of the countries where poppies are grown for the production of heroin.
Captain Goddard was an animal lover who had two dogs and two cats. She had planned to open a kennel after she retired from the military.
She and her husband, Jason, had planned to have children in the future. Jason Beam, Captain Goddard’s husband, is the first widower to receive the Memorial Cross.
The Canadian military lost a brave soldier, the Canadian people lost a formidable woman, Jason Beam lost his beloved wife and the Goddard family lost a cherished daughter, sister and granddaughter.
May she rest in peace, having served her country with the ultimate sacrifice.
Her Citation reads:
Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard
Meritorious Service Medal (Posthumous)
Brandon, Manitoba, and Calgary, Alberta
Captain Goddard is recognized for her exemplary service in Afghanistan as the Forward Observation Officer and Forward Air Controller for C Company, Operation ARCHER, from January 2006 until her death in combat in May 2006. Her spirit and unfaltering dedication were without equal. She accepted all risks as she coordinated a complex mix of artillery, aircraft and electronic warfare equipment with technical perfection and unwavering calmness. This courageous soldier volunteered on at least five occasions to conduct reconnaissance operations in villages where, only weeks before, the enemy had inflicted devastating attacks on coalition forces. Captain Goddard's passionate and professional approach to her duties and to those in her charge directly inspired all mission members and greatly contributed to the mission's success.