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A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War

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Canada's most popular military leader since the Second World War tells his own story about our soldiers at war. In the summer of 2008, General Rick Hillier resigned his command as Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces. You could almost hear the sigh of relief in Ottawa as Canada's most popular, and most controversial, leader since the Second World War left a ro Canada's most popular military leader since the Second World War tells his own story about our soldiers at war. In the summer of 2008, General Rick Hillier resigned his command as Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces. You could almost hear the sigh of relief in Ottawa as Canada's most popular, and most controversial, leader since the Second World War left a role in which he'd been as frank-speaking, as unpredictable, and as resolutely apolitical as any military leader this country has ever seen. Born and raised in Newfoundland, Hillier joined the military as a young man and quickly climbed the ranks. He played a significant role in domestic challenges, such as the 1998 ice story that paralyzed much of eastern Ontario and Quebec, and he quickly became a player on the international scene, commanding an American corps in Texas and a multinational NATO task force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But it was his role as General Rick Hillier, Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff, that defined him as a Canadian public figure. In Afghanistan, Canada faced its first combat losses since the Korean War and every casualty suddenly became front-page news. A country formerly ambivalent or even angry about its role in the conflict suddenly became gripped by the drama playing out not only in the war zone of a country half-way around the world, but in the unfriendly conference rooms in the country's capital as Hillier pulled no punches, demanding more funding and more troops and more appreciation for the women and men fighting a war on foreign soil. "A Soldier First" is a hard-hitting, frank account of Hillier's role in his own words. The man who never backed down from the Taliban or Canada's top political leaders tells all in what will be one of the most important books to come out of this country this decade.


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Canada's most popular military leader since the Second World War tells his own story about our soldiers at war. In the summer of 2008, General Rick Hillier resigned his command as Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces. You could almost hear the sigh of relief in Ottawa as Canada's most popular, and most controversial, leader since the Second World War left a ro Canada's most popular military leader since the Second World War tells his own story about our soldiers at war. In the summer of 2008, General Rick Hillier resigned his command as Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces. You could almost hear the sigh of relief in Ottawa as Canada's most popular, and most controversial, leader since the Second World War left a role in which he'd been as frank-speaking, as unpredictable, and as resolutely apolitical as any military leader this country has ever seen. Born and raised in Newfoundland, Hillier joined the military as a young man and quickly climbed the ranks. He played a significant role in domestic challenges, such as the 1998 ice story that paralyzed much of eastern Ontario and Quebec, and he quickly became a player on the international scene, commanding an American corps in Texas and a multinational NATO task force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But it was his role as General Rick Hillier, Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff, that defined him as a Canadian public figure. In Afghanistan, Canada faced its first combat losses since the Korean War and every casualty suddenly became front-page news. A country formerly ambivalent or even angry about its role in the conflict suddenly became gripped by the drama playing out not only in the war zone of a country half-way around the world, but in the unfriendly conference rooms in the country's capital as Hillier pulled no punches, demanding more funding and more troops and more appreciation for the women and men fighting a war on foreign soil. "A Soldier First" is a hard-hitting, frank account of Hillier's role in his own words. The man who never backed down from the Taliban or Canada's top political leaders tells all in what will be one of the most important books to come out of this country this decade.

30 review for A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Okay, i'm giving up on this one. There are just too many other books I'm interested in at the moment. I've made it halfway through this book and have enjoyed what I did read of it. Not the best written book, and a little dry at times, but it's a good insight behind the scenes. I remember hearing in the news about some of the items he discussed. It was interesting to hear the other side of the story. Sounds like the soldiers to be under his command were lucky to have served with him.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A good read and an inside look at the Canadian army. But Hillier obviously found his calling as a general, not as an author :)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kfj

    Self-congratulatory.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bernie Charbonneau

    I have had this on my "too read" list for a number of years and I have finally managed to eliminate it from said list with a good, solid reading week. As a Canadian, this soldier did a lot to enlighten the population to the going on of our troops involved in the ISAF coalition. The relation between military and government was very interesting. As the title implies, General Hillier discussed more of the disputes and differences of opinion between the two establishments in trying to find common gr I have had this on my "too read" list for a number of years and I have finally managed to eliminate it from said list with a good, solid reading week. As a Canadian, this soldier did a lot to enlighten the population to the going on of our troops involved in the ISAF coalition. The relation between military and government was very interesting. As the title implies, General Hillier discussed more of the disputes and differences of opinion between the two establishments in trying to find common ground in how to approach the goal of self government in the Afghanistan country. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants to understand the frustration of running a war on all levels of structure.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Holden

    A fantastic view of the modern Canadian military from an incredible mans career and point of view. Eye opening and inspiring to service members and their families. A must-read for any Canadian military member or anyone wanting to enlist, to understand the history and present-day challenges the military is facing. General Hillier is a leader we needed, compassionate, tough as nails, and hilarious as a Newfie could be. Really enjoyed this book, can’t wait to read his second book on leadership.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bryce

    An excellent chronicle of the life and ideologies of one of Canada's finest soldiers. Gen. Rick Hillier details the myriad of political incompetencies that once plagued the Canadian Military system, and he documents the leadership role he undertook in overhauling the flawed 'peacemaker' system to make Canada one of the most respected combat forces in Afghanistan. Written with the systematic and tactical insight of a military General, and combined with the flair of a grassroots, blue-collar Newfie An excellent chronicle of the life and ideologies of one of Canada's finest soldiers. Gen. Rick Hillier details the myriad of political incompetencies that once plagued the Canadian Military system, and he documents the leadership role he undertook in overhauling the flawed 'peacemaker' system to make Canada one of the most respected combat forces in Afghanistan. Written with the systematic and tactical insight of a military General, and combined with the flair of a grassroots, blue-collar Newfie whose passion for the military and those who serve is evident throughout the book. This book is a great read for all Canadians interested in the Afghan mission and the state of our foreign and military policy, irregardless of their position about the War on Terror.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Arlene Walker

    Really liked it! The title says it all..A Soldier First and a soldier to the end. He really stood up for his troops and always had their best interest at heart. He understood his men and women so well; he knew what motivated them, how to train them, and always got to the crux of the matter when discussing issues. He always stood up for what he believed was right for the troops and for our country. What a wonderful Canadian he is! We were so fortunate to have him as the leader of our armed forces Really liked it! The title says it all..A Soldier First and a soldier to the end. He really stood up for his troops and always had their best interest at heart. He understood his men and women so well; he knew what motivated them, how to train them, and always got to the crux of the matter when discussing issues. He always stood up for what he believed was right for the troops and for our country. What a wonderful Canadian he is! We were so fortunate to have him as the leader of our armed forces.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brentman99

    I found this book quite interesting. As a retired Canadian Army officer, I was impacted by much of what Hillier had to say. I recall wrestling with trying to do my job and come up with ways to "make things right" for soldiers, but they got done in the end. I think he did a lot of things right and set the stage for Walt N who followed him. I missed serving under General Hillier a couple of times and wish I had. I enjoyed the insight he provided and think that it is a worthwhile read for someone wh I found this book quite interesting. As a retired Canadian Army officer, I was impacted by much of what Hillier had to say. I recall wrestling with trying to do my job and come up with ways to "make things right" for soldiers, but they got done in the end. I think he did a lot of things right and set the stage for Walt N who followed him. I missed serving under General Hillier a couple of times and wish I had. I enjoyed the insight he provided and think that it is a worthwhile read for someone who served during this period.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bernie May

    Ever run an 85,000 person company? Neither have I, but I got lots of insight on how it's done. Personal leadership, vision, and hard work. If you want to see what it looks like read this book. (And if you want to learn more about leadership, read biographies. It's the best way.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    Excellent! I don't really know any other way to describe this book. General Hillier, is straight talking down to earth Newfoundlander who single handily raised the morale amongst the troops he commanded. He was not afraid to get his boots dirty in order to get the job done!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    An easy read, interesting because I served in the Canadian Forces during the same time frame as General Hillier, mind you my experiences are somewhat different. Still, I recognize the issues he highlights. Not my favourite biography, but still interesting.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Neil Mudde

    Interesting, although not a book, which grips your attention very political, and revealing will plow on at a chapter at a time pace

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Excellent!! Rick hiller grew up in a newfoundland Outport next to my hometown Community so was an interesting read for me!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

    Excellent. A little slow moving at first, but the positivity and passion make up for it. Definitely worth the read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    great look at politics of Canadian Forces

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brian Forbes

    Excellent insight into the General the soldiers loved ... we will not see his like again for some time. Unfortunately, he ruffled feathers in Ottawa ... too bad, they needed ruffling.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Great read! This is a great look into the CAF and what it takes to lead such a massive public entity. Very enjoyable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sherri

    I just started, and it's awesome! This book was amazing and one I think Canadians really should read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    William Vandervelden

    One of the most respected officers in the Canadian Forces. I have always admired General Hillier. The book is fantastic. It gives you an officers point of view on how the CF operates.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carl Douglas Smith

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ken Goedecke

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rhea Stobbs

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brad Coombs

  26. 4 out of 5

    Megan Alexandra

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zach Muttart

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  29. 5 out of 5

    Verena Murphy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Louis

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