MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 June 12
- Syria Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister (still) pissed at (latest) violence – more on the latest violence here and here.
- DR Congo Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister “Deeply Concerned” - more on the latest unpleasantness here and here.
- Afghanistan (1a) This, from the RCAF Info-machine, via a phone interview with the main character in the story in Afghanistan (Are there any military public affairs people IN Kabul to write such material? And if they’re there, what ARE they doing? Is this how hesitant the government’s Info-machine has gotten about sharing stories about the mission – doing it on the cheap over the phone?) ” “It’s a good thing we weren’t doing this interview yesterday,” says Colonel Philip Garbutt, as the telephone line between Canada and Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, hisses and pops. “Otherwise I might have been talking to you from a bunker.” Col Garbutt, the senior Royal Canadian Air Force officer posted to Kabul as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A), was referring to the April 15th insurgent attack on embassies, government buildings and NATO bases in the capital city. It was a clear indication that Afghanistan can still be a dangerous place. But Col Garbutt is focussing on the positive changes in the country. “The centre of gravity is the youth of this country, people like my Afghan interpreter Sam,” he says. “People up to [about the age of] 30 – they’re educated, they’ve seen the possibilities, they know what the opportunities are and they want to grab it. The future [of Afghanistan] rests with these people.” ….”
- Afghanistan (1b) The good news: loads of photos – check some out here, here, here and here. The bad news: note who appears to be taking the pictures – the person who was interviewed by phone for the stories. Sigh….
- Afghanistan (2) “The Royal Canadian Air Force is helping to build a “rule of law police force” in Afghanistan, says Colonel Philip Garbutt. His words are serious, but his comment a few moments later betrays his delight in contributing to nation-building in Afghanistan: “It’s incredible to think about.” Col Garbutt and his Canadian team – all but one of whom are members of the Royal Canadian Air Force – are advisors to the Afghan Border Police (ABP). They are part of Operation Attention – the Canadian Contribution to the Training Mission in Afghanistan (CCTM-A). Col Garbutt is also the senior Royal Canadian Air Force officer serving on the operation …. Fifty CF personnel, along with more than 30 police officers from the RCMP and other police forces across Canada, are supporting and advising the ANP in Kabul, assisting with the development of training plans and infrastructure, and providing advice to the ANP’s senior leaders ….”
- Afghanistan (3) “‘Where are the candied almonds and the chai?’ wondered Colonel Philip Garbutt when he arrived in Afghanistan last August to take up his duties as senior advisor to the Afghan Border Police (ABP). He’d heard that meetings with Afghans were a “pleasant, civilized way to do business”, beginning with conversation about family and health, with servings of nuts, raisins, candy, and other snacks, and chai (tea) served by chai boys, before moving on to the business aspects. “If you don’t form a relationship with your Afghan counterpart and talk about personnel stuff” said Col Garbutt, “your business can be affected.” ….”
- Afghanistan (4) Some Senators worry about womens’ rights once Canada leaves “Senator Jaffer: …. what steps are we taking to ensure that the small advances we have made in the education of girls are not destroyed when we leave Afghanistan? Senator LeBreton: That is a dilemma for anyone in Afghanistan, considering some of the things that we witnessed while there. I am sure that guarantees will be sought. Having said that, we are sometimes within our rights to be very concerned about commitments being followed through on.”
- Afghanistan (5) Canadian company helping Aussies keep surveillance drones flying (but Aussies underwhelmed a bit?) “A senior Australian Defence Force officer has revealed details of how the Royal Australian Air Force deploys Israeli-owned drones for battlefield surveillance and to target anti-government Islamic fighters in Afghanistan. Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan says Australia is “just buying hours” on the Heron drones from a Canadian company that in turn “leases them from IAI” (Israel Aerospace Industries), which is wholly owned by the Israeli government. While enthusiastically endorsing the Heron’s capabilities, Wing Commander McMullan was highly critical of the quality of training provided by Israeli and Canadian instructors to Australian drone crews …. Wing Commander McMullan is critical of the training program. He says elite RAAF fighter pilots working with Canadians and Israeli civilians “has not been the best mix”. “My biggest bugbear is civilians with low experience (all on UAVs) teaching very experienced military guys,” he said …. “
- More from the RCAF Info-machine (this time, based on coverage by a military member who appears to have been in the countries being written about) “An RCAF detachment, named Task Force Panam, comprising CF-18 fighter jets and the 2012 CF-18 Demonstration Team, with airlift and air-to-air- refuelling support, conducted Operation Southern Reach from May 5 to 26, 2012, to increase its professional bonds with air forces in South America and Jamaica ….”
- Estonian media: Canada one of countries taking part in ex in the Baltic states “The Scouts Battalion’s military transport units headed out of Paldiski this morning making their way to the Latvian Army’s training camp in Adazi to take part in the international military exercise Saber Strike …. Organized by the United States Army Europe, the Saber Strike program entail various exercises in Estonia and Latvia from June 11 to 22. One of the goals of the operation is to train ground forces for the International Security Assistance Force’s mission in Afghanistan operation. In total, 2,000 military personnel from the Baltics countries, US, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Finland are participating in the exercise ….” - more on the exercise here and here.
- Letter to the editor: Lessons to be learned about maintaining a peacetime military on the cheap “There is a lesson for Ottawa that comes from 1950 and the outbreak of the Korean War when Canada’s military and its defence minister dithered about how to fulfill Canada’s obligation under the UN Charter and assist South Korea in its most dire hour of need. The army, in particular, was handicapped by not having sufficient personnel nor equipment to be assigned to the UN Force assembling in South Korea. The result was the formation of the Canadian Army Special Force, a volunteer battalion. A lack of purpose and planning, compounded by poor equipment, led to what many claim was an increase in the number of casualties Canada’s army suffered during the Korean War. Soldiers were using .303 Lee-Enfield rifles that dated back to the First World War. They also lacked adequate head protection (their tin hats worn also dated back to the First World War) ….”
- More editorial weeping over no more Blue Helmets from Canada “Once pre-eminent among peacekeeping nations with thousands of “blue berets” deployed around the world, Canada now ranks 53 – between Paraguay and Slovakia – on the United Nations contributors’ list with less than a schoolbus-load of Canadian soldiers serving on UN missions overseas. Since then 1990s, successive Canadian governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have shunned traditional UN-mandated peacekeeping for U.S.-led war-fighting missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. Those campaigns have eclipsed the UN as Ottawa’s favoured military expeditionary effort. From being the top contributor in the early 1990s, the Canadian commitment dropped precipitously from thousands, to hundreds a decade ago to only a few dozen in recent years ….”
- What’s Canada Buying? (1) “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, …. announced the procurement of six Remote Operated Vehicles (ROV) for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). These small, remotely controlled, underwater robots will be provided by Aurora ROV Systems Ltd. of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, at a cost of approximately $1.66 million …. Using the ROVs, the Canadian Forces (CF) are able to see and operate to depths of 950 meters below the water line. Specific examples of uses include locating aircraft lost at sea, and retrieving the aircraft’s ‘black box.’ The ROVs are also able to retrieve objects jettisoned by smugglers, inspect suspicious objects (naval mines, mine-like objects or otherwise), deliver ordnance that can destroy naval mines, and survey the bottom hulls of ships ….” – more here.
- What’s Canada Buying? (2) Wanted: someone to (eventually) clean up an old radar station on Victoria Island, Nunavut
- “Construction of a permanent radiation decontamination facility will be completed this month at Canadian Forces Base Halifax. Until now CFB Halifax’s nuclear emergency response team set up decontamination equipment in a temporary shower tent whenever nuclear powered ships or submarines from other countries docked at the jetty in Shearwater, Nova Scotia. The problem was that the temporary set up got in the way of military training operations. The permanent building “is unusual, but it’s not complicated,” explains Michel Dubé, architect, project manager, National Defence, Maritime Forces Atlantic ….”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (1) More back & forth from the House of Commons: “Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government House leader announced, in all solemnity, that the Department of Foreign Affairs had conducted a full and open competition with respect to the cost of $20,000 limos in Davos, Switzerland. If the government can conduct a full and open competition for limousines in Davos, can the government please tell us why it cannot have a full and open competition for a $9 billion purchase of F-35 planes? Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as we know, Canada’s aging CF-18 aircraft are nearing the end of their lifetimes. Therefore it is necessary, if people believe in supporting the military, something the Liberals do not have a record of doing, as we do by purchasing new equipment and by providing them with the equipment they need to do their jobs, to make a commitment to purchasing those aircraft. We have established a secretariat to deal with the purchase of new aircraft to meet those needs. We have in place a seven-point plan that deals with the best process to ensure the military gets the equipment it needs and taxpayers’ interests are protected.”
- F-35 Tug o’ War (2) On how much that news conference cost, from the Minister of Defence “Mr. Speaker, as I said, this particular announcement was intended to inform Canadians. It included video conferencing and translation services. Almost half of the cost was to accommodate the media who were there and the employees who were preparing the event. There were accommodation and travel expenses for members of the Canadian Forces who attended, and a range of— …. I disclosed the cost of this announcement. The purpose of the announcement was to inform Canadians about this extremely important purchase for the Canadian Forces and for Canada as a whole. The range of broadcasters who were there, and officials in attendance, demonstrate the importance with which we and the Canadian Forces and the government take this procurement. We will continue to inform Canadians about the important investments we are making in the Canadian Forces.”
- “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, …. extended his congratulations to members of the Defence Team for their important contribution and participation in the 5th Annual International Stigma Conference organized by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. “The general health needs and mental health of military personnel are a priority for the Government of Canada,” said Minister MacKay. “I applaud the leadership of our Defence research and medical community for their engagement in this important national dialogue and in recognizing the importance of reducing stigma surrounding mental illnesses.” Several members of the Canadian Forces (CF), Defence Research and Development Canada, and leading civilian experts within the Department of National Defence participated in the world’s largest conference aimed at sharing best practices to overcome stigma in the workplace. The Chief of Military Personnel, Rear-Admiral Andrew Smith spoke at the conference and highlighted the CF Be the Difference command initiative of engaging leaders at all levels to instil a working environment and cultural climate that better understands mental illness and encourages those suffering to seek treatment ….”
- Best of luck in the next phase of your life “Warrant Officer Andrew McLean joined the Canadian Forces in 1991, vowing to serve his country and put the safety and security of others ahead of his own. For the past 21 years, he’s done that and then some, serving first as a Canadian Army soldier with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment and then as a search and rescue technician (SAR tech) at 17 Wing Winnipeg, Man., 14 Wing Greenwood, N.S., and 8 Wing Trenton, Ont. Today, as he dons his CF uniform for the last time, WO McLean is taking a different kind of oath – to continue the work he started as the co-founder and champion of Soldier On, a Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS) rehabilitation program …. His dream was fulfilled in 2006 when he co-founded Soldier On with Greg Lagacé, Paralympic Development Manager with the Canadian Paralympic Committee. In 2007, responsibility for Soldier On was transferred to CFPFSS and in November of that year the Soldier On program was complemented by the creation of the Soldier On Fund. Now, five years later, WO McLean is retiring from the CF to pursue a full-time career supporting and advocating for people with developmental disabilities. Next fall, he begins the two-year Disability and Community Support Program at Red River College in Winnipeg, Man., and plans to complete a university degree in disabilities management shortly thereafter ….”
- Yet another “Highway of Heroes” to be unveiled, this one in Manitoba “Manitoba is joining the list of provinces that have a highway of heroes. Premier Greg Selinger will unveil a billboard Friday morning designating a big stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg with the name. The highway of heroes will cover some 180 kilometres of road between Winnipeg and Canadian Forces Base Shilo near Brandon ….” - more here.
- Welcome international military aviators and people who keep the planes flying! “The pilots, crews and aircraft of several nations are flying alongside members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in an international live-fly military exercise hosted by 4 Wing Cold Lake throughout the month of June …. Known as Exercise Maple Flag since it began in 1978, the exercise allows air force personnel from different nations to develop their interoperability by simulating a United Nations air campaign against a highly-capable enemy. A full spectrum of capabilities will be exercised, including command and control, air-to-air and air-to-ground operations, air-to-air refuelling, airborne warning and control, air transport, rotary-wing tactical airlift, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The ability of air forces to integrate with land forces will also be incorporated into the exercise ….”
- Editorial: “The news that 57 of the top brass at Veterans Affairs Canada raked in nearly $700,000 in extra pay awarded in bonuses and for getting results in 2011, elicits a two-word response: What results? The results the department has achieved in the past few years have been less than stellar, and certainly not worth an approximate breakdown of $12,200 extra per manager. Veterans have made public a litany of complaints about the department, including shabby treatment and privacy breaches. No wonder Gulf War veteran Sean Bruyea describes the bonus situation as “way out of whack with reality.” …. Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney needs to take charge of this mess by calling those senior managers on the carpet and instituting some guidelines by which real results are measured before bonuses are handed around. Sadly, the impression left by all of this is of a department more interested in perpetuating and enriching itself than in helping those who risked their lives for this country and came home to an uncaring bureaucracy whose priorities have been lost. Blaney has some serious work ahead of him to correct that perception.”
- Stand by for “an important announcement” today by Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister.
- Stand by for MORE news today from the government Info-machine on what Canada’s doing about human smuggling.
- “A Shilo soldier was sentenced to five years in prison (Thursday) in the death of a 21-year-old man. Duane Lacquette, known as Jon-Jon to his many friends and large Métis family, was found Jan. 16, 2010 lying naked in his basement following a night of drinking. Lacquette was the victim of a UFC-style choke-hold that strangled him. Jason John Ouimet, a former amateur boxer and now a gunner at CFB Shilo, was charged with murder but pled guilty to manslaughter in late April. Ouimet claimed he passed out in Lacquette’s basement and awoke to find a naked Lacquette performing oral sex on him. Crown Attorney Jim Ross said Ouimet was so infuriated by the unwanted sexual touching that he killed Lacquette when he could have used his superior size and fighting skills to simply subdue him instead ….”
- Debate continues (step by teeny, tiny step) in the Senate about “Recognition of Service of Bomber Command during World War II“
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