Civilian women tackle the FORCE challenge


Capt Jeff Manney, 39 CBG Public Affairs ~

Women thinking about joining Canada’s military had a chance to size up its FORCE test, thanks to an initiative that tied into International Women’s Day.

A team from Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre Detachment Victoria administered the FORCE test to curious members of the public at the Ashton Armoury March 8. Over the course of several hours, they tested their fitness against the sandbag raise, the sandbag carry, the sandbag drag, and the shuttle run.

“I’m so glad we did this,” said PO2 Heather Smolinski, event organizer. “We really wanted to recognize International Women’s Day by doing something different and the feedback we’ve received has been fantastic.”

Participants ranged from teens still in high school to mothers with their husbands beside them in a supporting role. 

Of the test’s four elements, PO2 Smolinski says the sandbag drag was the most challenging. It requires a person to carry one 20-kilogram sandbag while dragging another four a distance of 20 metres.  For someone weighing just 50kg, moving twice that much weight can be daunting.

“Our philosophy today is ‘everyone is welcome, and you can do this,’” she said.  “So, we taught them how to properly warm up, how to prepare themselves, and then we cheered them on to the finish line. We tried to keep things informal and reduce anxiety. A lot of women who are interested in the Forces get hung up about the fitness test and delay applying. Those who came out today now know what they need to work on. But they also know they can do it.”

The Canadian Armed Forces have been ramping up their recruiting efforts in the last several years, aiming to push the number of women up from 15 per cent, where it has remained stubbornly lodged. 

“We want the Canadian Armed Forces to accurately represent the public,” PO2 Smolinski said. “Females make up half of our society, but they are still not well represented in the military. We’ve got to change that. There are so many opportunities in the Forces for women. At the very least the FORCE test shouldn’t be the barrier some women seem to think it is.”

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