Remembrance Day has special meaning for Const. Nicole Bailey, a police officer with 55 Division’s community response unit.
On Nov. 11, 2010, Bailey was in the midst of a nine-month mission in Afghanistan with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) International Peace Operations Branch.
Taking part in a solemn Remembrance Day ceremony in a war zone is an experience she said she’ll never forget.
“It was pretty surreal to be in Afghanistan on Remembrance Day and hear the Black Hawks flying overhead as I stood at attention,” said Bailey, who, prior to becoming a police office 11 years ago, served for four years as an army reservist with the Royal Hamilton Light infantry.
“It was so motivating. I felt a real sense of pride.”
Bailey, who grew up in Caledonia, Ontario, moved to the city when she was hired by the Toronto Police Service more than a decade ago. She had always wanted to serve her country overseas and always wondered what it would be like to experience a war zone.
Her nine-month mission, which lasted from September 2010 to June 2011, was her chance to do just that.
“It was a very rewarding experience,” said Bailey, who said she wouldn’t think twice about taking part in another comparable assignment.
Bailey had three main roles during her tour of duty: helped train/mentor Afghan women in policing; served as an intelligence liaison between the Canadian and American military and the Afghani police force; and worked as an administrative officer for the civilian police force, which at that point was manned by Canadians. Stationed at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar City, Bailey also helped with the training and mentoring of Afghani male police officers.
Working in a modern war zone, especially one as volatile as Afghanistan, is something Bailey struggled to find the words to describe.
“The danger is different (than it was during the First and Second World wars),” she said, pointing to how technological advances have changed the way wars are fought.
“It’s very unpredictable. In Afghanistan, the enemy doesn’t necessarily stand out as the enemy. It could be children or local people hired by the Taliban.”
For the past few years, Bailey has attended a Remembrance Day ceremony in East York.
Inevitably, her experiences overseas come to mind on that day as do the many women, one of who has since been murdered, she met in the embattled Middle Eastern nation.
Bailey also said Remembrance Day is a time when she reflects on those who have given their lives for our freedom, especially the men and women who served during the First and Second World wars.
“I think about all of the vets and those who have lost their lives because of war. I just couldn’t imagine being at war during that time,” she said.
“I also think of all the families of the soldiers who have fallen.”
Bailey was recently honoured for the critical role she played in training policewomen in Afghanistan with the 2012 International Association of Women Police Mentoring Award. The Ontario Women in Law Enforcement nominated her for the prestigious honour.
For her service in Afghanistan, she also received an Operational Support Medal, an honour bestowed upon Canadian military personnel, civilians under the authority of the Canadian Forces, members of allied forces integrated within the Canadian Forces, as well as to Canadian police officers who have taken part in important missions overseas.