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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 6 Nov 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  They’re home!  More here.
  • Libya Mission (2)  Some hairy times.  “It was early in the Libya mission when Italian authorities picked up the distress call. By the next morning, HMCS Charlottetown had gone from enforcing an arms embargo to providing humanitarian assistance. It was March and at the time the Canadian frigate was operating off the coast of Tripoli, part of a ring of NATO warships tasked with making sure weapons and ammunition didn’t get into the country and the hands of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. But when the Italians relayed the distress call to NATO commanders, who in turn ordered the Canadian frigate to investigate, the Charlottetown’s crew leaped into action ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Byron Greff, R.I.P.  A town in central Alberta is paying tribute to a fallen soldier who died in a suicide attack in Afghanistan last week. Master Cpl. Byron Greff was among 17 people killed in Kabul last Saturday when a suicide bomber slammed a vehicle fill with explosives into a NATO bus. Friends and family in Greff’s hometown of Lacombe, Alta. plan to honour his life during a public memorial service on Saturday. The service will be held at 1 p.m. local time at Canadian University College and will occur shortly after Greff is laid to rest at a private family ceremony ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Debut of new film – “The Vandoos in Afghanistan” on the National Film Board’s web page this week (watch it for free this week).
  • Afghanistan (3)  What Remembrance Day means to one Canadian officer downrange (via Army News & Facebook)
  • Afghanistan (4)  Canadians among troops winning German shooting medals in northern Afghanistan base competition (via NATO Info-Machine)
  • Afghanistan (5)  Canadian ambassador with Eid al-Adha greetings.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  He says, they say“The F-35 program is progressing well and on track,” associate minister of defence Julian Fantino told the House Thursday, while answering a question from the Opposition on the fighter jet program. However, other countries continue to make moves that suggest the program is not doing as well as he claims ….”
  • In spite of Don MacLean suggesting he take the honourary degree from RMC, Grapes continues to decline with thanks.  Further proof here that he’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.
  • Remembrance Day (1)  All I can say is:  scumbags!  “City and military officials are shocked after learning one of Calgary’s newest war memorials was vandalized only days before Remembrance Day. Bill Bruce, the city’s chief bylaw officer, said graffiti was sprayed across the riverside wall of Poppy Plaza on Thursday night. Phil MacAulay, president of the No. 1 Royal Canadian Legion, said he was disappointed to learn of the damage. “It’s bad,” MacAulay said. “It’s disrespectful. “You just don’t think something like that would happen any time of year, but especially now. “It’s so close to Remembrance Day, you’d think they’d know,” added MacAulay, who spent five years in the Canadian Navy. “Unfortunately, some lamebrains don’t think of the consequences or anything like that ….”  More here.
  • Remembrance Day (2)  For the last 19 years, students at Ottawa’s Catholic Notre Dame High School have benefitted from a remarkable community program. Every Remembrance Day, local military veterans would come to the school and set up exhibits that the school’s students would visit throughout the day. The students could interact with Canadian military veterans, and examine military antiques, including uniforms, items of personal gear and some disabled military weapons loaned from museums …. what would have been the 20th Remembrance Day Symposium (and was set to include veterans from our war in Afghanistan) has been cancelled. The reason given: The school doesn’t want “guns or tanks” on its property.  Ridiculous. Displaying harmless military memorabilia, in the respectful hands of the men and women who carried it in our country’s wars, is a wonderful way to make Canada’s proud military history come alive to a generation that will, we hope, never come closer than a deactivated rifle to the horrors of total war …. “
  • Veterans’ advocates said Saturday they achieved their goal despite modest turnouts at some demonstrations to protest proposed cuts to the budget of Veterans Affairs Canada. Dozens of protesters, most of them veterans, gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday afternoon to call attention to what they call the government’s lack of compassion for those who have fought for their country. A rally in Halifax drew some 30 protesters and onlookers to city hall despite the frigid fall weather. A similar demonstration was held outside the department’s headquarters in Charlottetown on Friday. “People on the Hill have come up and said, ‘I never knew,’ and that’s the object,” organizer Mike Blais of the group Canadian Veterans Advocacy said from Ottawa. “The object is to draw attention to the situation and I think … we’ve certainly accomplished our goal today,” he said Saturday afternoon …. ”  More here and here.
  • The Royal Canadian Legion appears to be taking a stronger stance on veterans’ issues.  “The Royal Canadian Legion fired a shot across the federal government’s bow last month. Canada’s veterans, it said sternly, should be exempt from cuts under the government’s program review. “Getting our financial house in order should not be done on the backs of our wounded warriors and their families,” declared Pat Varga, the Legion’s dominion president. It was an unusually blunt public stance for an organization that has traditionally preferred to do its advocacy in private. But it also reflected a new determination by the Legion to speak up in the political arena in order to sharpen its image and help arrest decades of membership decline. “We do want to be able to inject into that debate. That should be our role,” says Brad White, the organization’s dominion secretary …. “
  • A former soldier who is staging a hunger strike to protest the way the federal government has handled his case is expected to meet today with Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney. Pascal Lacoste says he was poisoned while serving overseas and launched his hunger strike on Saturday outside Blaney’s riding office in this community near Quebec City. Lacoste blames his declining health, including chronic pain and a degenerative neurological disorder, on depleted-uranium poisoning he believes he contracted in Bosnia in the 1990s. The 38-year-old Quebec City resident vowed not to eat again until Blaney recognizes that he and other soldiers were contaminated with depleted uranium ….”
  • What’s anti-military, pro-disarmament group ceasefire.ca up to in the coming year?  “…. This year we will be concentrating our efforts on opposing the growing National Security Establishment: that web of politicians, lobby groups, old generals and corporations that are robbing the treasury of public dollars for themselves and their own special interests. In the coming days I’ll be letting you know how the pro-war lobby is funded by the military, and how their influence reaches deep into the best-known news organizations in Canada ….”  We wait with interest.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Nov 11

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  • MCPL Byron Greff, 3PPCLI, R.I.P.  He’s home – more here.  Photos of his ramp ceremony in Afghanistan on Facebook here (thanks to Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen of the USAF Info-machine).
  • Afghanistan (1)  Meanwhile, the CF Info-machine shares a backgrounder on part of the training mission“The Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) is the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) flagship training institution. Located on the eastern outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital city, the KMTC can house and train up to 12,000 trainees at a time. Over 60,000 soldiers graduate from courses at the KMTC annually. Two hundred and thirty-five Canadian Forces advisors serve at the KMTC as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Thirty-five members have been with the KMTC since mid-June and the remaining 200 recently arrived in October ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Canadian ingenuity as we continue to pack up in Kandahar.  “The Armour Removal Platoon of the Mission Closure Unit is responsible for removing the armour added to the combat vehicles used by Canadian troops in Kandahar Province and packing it for shipment back to Canada. The process of dismounting the armour from the vehicles is difficult, labour-intensive and inherently dangerous. Because safety had to be our highest priority, it was difficult to achieve any speed on the production line. That was the case until Private Bryan Capiak and Corporal Bradley Van Olm developed a new way to take the heaviest pieces of armour — the four Z bars — off the Light Armoured Vehicle Mk III (LAV III) ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Well done“On October 20th, 2011, Canada’s Acting Head of Mission Philip MacKinnon and Detective Ken Brander, a member of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), donated 11 Kobo e-readers to a group of female students of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Each e-reader comes with 50 classic books pre-loaded, which will greatly increase the number of books available at the SOLA library and allow young Afghan students to perfect their reading skills. The funds to purchase the e-readers were raised by Detective Brander’s EPS colleagues including a group of dedicated resource officers, local business, friends, and family, on behalf of Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Alberta ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  The Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary does not appeal to all students. But some are more interested in war studies than peace studies. For them, the interest and focus they bring to class ensures an enormously fulfilling experience, particularly for us who teach them. Ryan Flavelle is one such student. Like several others, he is also a member of the military. Unlike his colleagues, he has written a riveting book. It deals with his service in the southern Panjwaii district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Flavelle’s motives for writing The Patrol: Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan were both universal and personal. Like every historian from Thucydides to the present, he wanted to ensure the memory of the immediacy of his experiences would not be lost in oblivion. But the personal side of his story is far more compelling ….”
  • Libya  NATO flies its last air mission.  “…. a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) conlcuded the last flight of Operation Unified Protector. With this, a successful chapter in NATO’s history has come to an end. Since the beginning of the NATO operation, NATO air assets conducted over 26,500 sorties, including over 9,700 strike sorties to protect the people of Libya from attack or the threat of attack ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  LOADS o’ questions on the F-35 (transcripts from Hansard here, here, here and here) during Question Period in the House of Commons so far this week.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Military planners are concerned the Harper government is buying too few F-35 fighters with almost no room for any loss of the stealth jets throughout their projected lifetimes, according to internal Defence Department briefings. “Canada is the only country that did not account (for) attrition aircraft” in its proposal, said an undated capability-and-sustainment briefing given to senior officers late last year ….” No indication of The Canadian Press sharing the briefing notes in question.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Postmedia News Columnist“…. Harper has often shown an ability to execute tactical retreats with lightning speed, if he feels he’s lost the high ground. Look for that to happen with the F-35, sooner rather than later, as the economic gloom deepens south of the border.”
  • Big Honkin’ Ships  Duelling academics“…. Marc Milner, naval history professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the vessels will let the navy cruise the Canada’s Arctic waters later in the fall and earlier in the spring, though winter access will still be the domain of the Coast Guard. The ships also give the navy full year-round access to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He said that, while the new Arctic patrol vessels fit into the Harper government’s Canada First Defence Policy, which is looking to expand the reach and scope of the country’s military, the ships are not designed for serious combat. “Nobody anticipates getting into a real big dustup in the Arctic,” Milner said. “More effort will be put into their sensor suite and communications equipment than in their weapons.” The Arctic vessels will fulfil a constabulary rather than a combat role, Milner said. The icebreakers will let the navy patrol emerging shipping routes in the melting Arctic ice. The Russian route through the Arctic, from Europe to China, is “pretty much commercialized,” he said, with several ships having passed through this summer escorted by Russian icebreakers. “There’s good reason for us to be up there with a little more presence than we have at the moment,” Milner said. Paul Mitchell, a naval historian with the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said the Arctic ships will likely have little more than an anti-aircraft Bofors gun on their bows. “Despite the growing interests in the Arctic, the area is well handled by diplomatic efforts,” Mitchell said ….”
  • Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino set to say something in Richmond, B.C. today.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Event recorders for armoured vehicles in Afghanistan, loads o’ flashlights and rain jackets for sailors.
  • A new silver coin will commemorate Canada’s Highway of Heroes, as a tribute to the country’s war dead and the people who line the route to honour them. The Royal Canadian Mint says $20 from the sale of each coin will be shared between the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial and the Military Families Fund. The silver coin, which has a face value of $10, will retail for $69.95 and only 25,000 will be produced ….”  More from the Royal Canadian Mint here and here.
  • New Library of Parliament paper:  “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the Mental Health of Military Personnel and Veterans”
  • Remember the chap threatening a hunger strike over how he’s been treated by Veterans Affairs CanadaHere’s what the Minister is saying about the issue in Question Period“When our brave soldiers are deployed to theatres of operation, such as Rwanda or Bosnia, they may suffer serious injuries. That is why we are implementing specific and effective programs and services that are based on the most recent scientific data. When we implemented improvements to the new veterans charter, it was specifically to help veterans who had the most serious injuries or illnesses. As soon as I was made aware of this situation, I asked the officials in my department to take the necessary measures.”
  • Whazzup with Khadr Boy’s return?  The Conservatives are continuing to play coy over whether or not they’ll allow convicted war criminal Omar Khadr return to Canada. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday he will decide in good time if and when Toronto-born Khadr can return home to finish his sentence for murdering a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan. “I put the safety of Canadians first,” he said. “A decision will be made on this file, as on all applications, in due course.” The Conservatives were in the firing line from opposition parties, who accuse the Tories of trying to back out of a commitment they made with the U.S. government a year ago to allow Khadr to return to Canada after serving a year of his eight year sentence. “This fellow was arrested when he was 14-years-old and held since then and ought to have the benefit of Canadian laws,” said NDP justice critic Jack Harris ….”  More from Question Period on Khadr here, from QMI/Sun Media here and from Agence France-Presse here.
  • Canadians should “absolutely” be concerned about a call for young Somalis in Canada to kill non-Muslims made by a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews warned Monday. Toews was responding to Al Shabaab, which released a recording on the weekend from a suicide bomber calling for a jihad in Canada and other countries. “If there are individuals with information that can assist us detecting any terrorist threat we would ask them to provide us with that information,” Toews said, adding that the Somali community works with Ottawa on security matters. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the RCMP, the Communications Security Establishment and the Privy Council Office – the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office – are Canada’s terrorist watchdogs. “We are aware of, and take very seriously, the threat posed by Al-Shabaab,” said CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti ….”
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