Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard, MSM, was the first female Canadian combat soldier killed in combat, and the 16th Canadian soldier killed in Canadian operations in Afghanistan. 

The daughter of school teachers, Nichola was born in Madang, Papua New Guinea. Her early years were spent moving to numerous Canadian locations with her parents. The family settled in Edmonton, Alberta for a while before moving to Antigonish Nova Scotia. There Nichola attended high school and took up running and cross country skiing. Her team nicknamed her “Carebear” a fitting tribute for the caring and considerate person she was.

Nichola entered the Canadian military, serving with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and soon rose to the rank of captain. 

In January 2006, her regiment was shipped to Afghanistan. Captain Goddard arrived in January 2006 and began her duties as a forward observation officer. 

Almost immediately, Nichola found herself embroiled in battle, but not on the battlefield. All service personnel were housed in large white tents. The conflict started a month after her arrival when Lt.-Col. Ian Hope issued an order to hang tarps in the sleeping quarters to separate the females from the males. Never a shrinking violet, Nichola was outraged. For months, she had undergone the same strenuous, unremitting training as the men she led, sleeping in the same trenches, sharing close quarters, fighting as equals. Nichola wrote a letter to Hope, reminding him that the days of “objecting to mixing genders in combat is over.” Despite the passion behind her words, she failed to sway her commander and the tarps remained hanging, a bitter reminder of her loss and the struggles of women in the military.

On May 17, 2006, rumors that the Taliban were preparing to launch an assault on the city, resulted in Nichola and the crew becoming in involved in a firefight in the Panjwaye District. As troops were moving into a mosque to capture 15 alleged Taliban members, several dozen hidden militants began firing from neighboring houses. Moments before her death, Nichola became the first army officer, male or female, to direct artillery fire against an enemy force since the Korean War. As crew commander, Nichola was standing half-exposed in her LAV III, when it was struck by two rocket-propelled grenades.

In honor of Nichola’s ultimate sacrifice, a school in Calgary was named after her.

Nichola, your courage and beauty will live on in the hearts of all those whom you loved and left behind. Thank you for your sacrifice. We are proud of you and will let your name live on forever.

From History and Women