Army Reservist, athlete and engineering consultant is ‘Never bored and never boring’
By Master Corporal Inga Hammer, 2 Squadron 38 Signals Regiment
The theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019 is “Balance for Better” and Master Corporal Inga Hammer is a shining example of how this can be achieved – no matter how many careers and interests are being juggled. IWD has been celebrated each year since 1909 with the goal to achieve equal rights for women around the world.
Regina, Saskatchewan — A grappler, a soldier, and a consultant walk into the room. No, it is not the start of a bad joke, but it is simply my life in all its variety.
On a bitterly cold afternoon in February, I pull on my boots and get ready to brave the -47 °C weather as I head out to the drill rig for what promises to be a long and cold shift.
As the Arctic air freezes the inside of my nose, I stop and question why on earth I don’t just work in a nice warm office.
The moment passes. I remember that I love my career (cold days and all) and I prepare to attack the day. While this is a day in my civilian career as an engineering consultant, it is not so different from many of my days in the Canadian Army Reserve.
Growing up, I was an energetic kid with glasses askew, tangled hair, skinny knocked-kneed legs, and was constantly asking questions.
I was always exploring the world, whether through reading anything I could get my hands on, or through spending every waking minute outside in the summers.
As an adult, the glasses are gone and the hair is (usually) brushed, but some things never change – those legs are still knock-kneed sticks and I will still ask questions whenever I can.
Juggling multiple challenges every day
This need for a challenge has led me to pursue an education in Environmental Engineering at the University of Regina; a civilian career as a consultant with Clifton Associates Ltd., an engineering firm based out of Saskatchewan and Alberta; a military career as a Reservist with the Canadian Army; and athletic pursuits as a grappler competing in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Each of these activities are something that I am passionate about and that give my life joy. Perhaps they are not in keeping with stereotypical gender roles, but I have never once felt that I cannot succeed because I am a woman. I just pursued the things that I found interesting.
In my civilian career, I have found that working as a consultant is a perfect fit for me with each project presenting its own unique challenges, new settings and new people.
My civilian career is closely mirrored by my service in the Army Reserve as an Army Communications and Information Specialist (ACISS) technician at 2 Squadron, 38 Signals Regiment in Regina. I am always finding new things to learn and new ways to push myself to becoming a better soldier and leader.
Time management skills are key to balancing everything
I must continually balance the demands of my civilian career with those of the Reserve. I credit a background as a university student-athlete with helping to develop a skill set geared towards time-management and balancing multiple roles.
I was fortunate to be a member of the University of Regina varsity wrestling team and I am a former Academic All-Canadian. I continue to compete as an athlete in both wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
My experiences in athletics, and the support of coaches and teammates, have given me the discipline and skills to succeed in my military and civilian careers.
National and international medals in wrestling, grappling and Jiu Jitsu
My athletic pursuits have garnered medals at CanWest conference championships, USports nationals, Wrestling Canada Lutte Senior Nationals, Canadian Military Grappling Championships, and even a gold medal at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation championships in Las Vegas.
While that might sound impressive, in my athletics, I am just scratching the surface of what there is to learn. I like to describe my style of grappling as “brute force and ignorance,” with a laugh.
When asked about my diverse interests, I say that I am “not boring, and definitely not bored.”
I know that I have so much more to learn about the sports I compete in, as well as in my civilian and military careers.
Changing the perception of gender roles by example
As a woman who works in industries typically dominated by men, there is sometimes a perception that I don’t have a place at the table. Years of hard work, education, a supportive peer/leadership base, and developing my own experience level has helped me to deal with people who would try and diminish what I do.
I can proudly say that my experiences in my civilian career at Clifton Associates and in the Army Reserve have been overwhelmingly positive.
I have been given the opportunity to help change peoples’ perception of what women can do and to try to be a leader for positive change.
Helping to develop the next generation
I believe in developing the next generation of engineers, which I support by teaching Engineering 401 (Professionalism and Law for Engineers) at the University of Regina as a sessional instructor.
The men and women in my class will go out to practice engineering across Canada and internationally. My hope is that I can challenge them to think critically about their role in society, and to act as leaders in their future endeavours, wherever that may take them.
As a Reservist, I am an active member of my home unit and we are currently training on the Road to High Readiness leading up to Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE in Wainwright, Alberta in May.
I have served on domestic operations in support of Canadians in crisis including flooding in Manitoba, and I am looking forward to the chance to deploy internationally if my services are needed.
Service in the Canadian Forces is important to me as a way to give back to the community, as well as an important source of friendship and support within my unit and regiment.
Lessons learned and applied
Consolidating a lifetime of all these unique experiences has come down to four critical lessons.
The first and most important, in my opinion, is that hard work is never out of place. You owe it to yourself to do your best at whatever you undertake.
Second, that developing a support network is critical. Through the Army Reserve, sports and consulting, I have found a tight-knit group of peers and leaders who have supported me in my endeavours. My family has always been at my side, for which I am so grateful. At the end of the day, my number-one support member is my husband, Erik Hammer, who has had to put up with all my craziness for the past eight years.
Third, that taking a moment to appreciate the small joys in life can turn the worst day into one of the best. Some of my most cherished memories are a simple moment like hot cup of tea, a beautiful sunrise, or a shared moment with a friend, even when it is -47ºC.
Finally, that taking some time to help develop the people around you, even it is as small as giving an encouraging word, will make it all worthwhile.
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