News Highlights – 12 Jul 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  A new staging area is being set up in Kuwait to replace Camp Mirage, in the country that dare not speak its name.  “…. the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, as part of two days of meetings in the Middle East, stewarded the signing of a Canada-Kuwait Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The Memorandum of Understanding is a framework document to allow for logistical support to Canadian operations in Afghanistan. Canada and Kuwait enjoy a steadfast friendship and strong bilateral relations …. The movement of equipment and vehicles from Afghanistan requires access to both an airport and sea terminal for the transhipment of materiel back to Canada. The establishment of this support presence in Kuwait allows this to happen in a safe and controlled environment ….”  More from a CF backgrounder here, The Canadian Press here, QMI/Sun Media here, the Globe & Mail here and Postmedia News here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Canada has finally kept its promise to a brave Afghan interpreter who served alongside Canadian combat troops in Kandahar. Just days after going public in the Sunday Star with his fears of being abandoned as the last Canadians pull out of southern Afghanistan this month, Sayed Shah Sharifi got word that he can have a visa to immigrate to Canada. Shah, 23, was sitting at the front gate of his family’s Kandahar home, with his brother and two cousins, when his cellphone beeped Saturday morning with the text message that not only changed his life, but may well have saved it. It told him to call an official from the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency that helps bring endangered Afghans to Canada ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  One B.C. Reservist’s story.  “A veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan says he wouldn’t think twice about leaving the Okanagan for another tour. Peachland’s Master Corporal Chris Hilland served 8 months running convoy missions with an armoured vehicle crew in 2008, and now works as a reservist with the BC Dragoons in Kelowna. “It was the most rewarding experience of my military career, if not my entire life,” says Hilland, “I got to go to another country to bring a bit of Canada with me and give people the opportunity to experience some of the freedoms that we have here in Canada,” he says. Hilland believes Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan has made the country a better place, making it safer and easier for working people to provide for their families. He adds most of the Afghans he would talk to on a daily basis were appreciative of Canada’s involvement in ousting the Taliban from power and attempting to establish democratic government ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  More legacy storyline, this time from families of the fallen.  “The battle may be over, but the sacrifices will never be forgotten. As Canada withdraws its combat troops from Kandahar, the families of Southwestern Ontario soldiers who paid the ultimate price agree Canada should be proud of its military legacy in Afghanistan ….”
  • Afghanistan (5)  Another legacy story, but this time, what the war has left behind in Edmonton“…. it felt, very much, like Edmonton’s war, in which soldiers and reservists based here played a disproportionately large role. Approximately one-third of those who served in Afghanistan were based here -as were 41 of the 157 who died. Every rotation of the mission included some troops from CFB Edmonton. This war hit close to home, especially in those north Edmonton neighbourhoods near the base, and in northern bedroom communities such as Bon Accord and Gibbons, St. Albert and Morinville. Of course, Edmonton was a garrison town long before the Afghan mission started. But these past 10 years have transformed our city’s relationship with the military, reminding us forcibly that the soldiers we sent off to fight were our neighbours, our workmates, our friends ….”
  • Afghanistan (6)  At least one organization in Manitoba is helping mobilize events honouring the just-wound-down mission.  “Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan has ended although some 900 service personnel will remain to train the Afghan Military and Police forces. Manitoba has deployed some 1000 soldiers to Afghanistan over the past years and an organization has been formed to welcome our troops home and thank them for their dedication, service and in seven cases, the ultimate sacrifice. Military Heritage of Manitoba Inc., has formed “Manitoba Salutes”.. It’s a program supported by community, business, government and military personnel, to stage and assist in the coordination of a series of events to publicly recognize and celebrate the service and sacrifice of military personnel. “Manitoba Salutes” will provide assistance to organizations that currently stage military recognition events and provide a military presence at annual fairs and other community events ….”
  • Afghanistan (7)  Crystal balling what’s next for the CF“…. So at the end of the Kandahar mission — one which has entailed tragic human sacrifice and injury within the Canadian Forces and massive financial expenditures by the government of Canada — we have the positive by-product of a much more robust and capable, experienced, more internationally respected, and confident military force. Exactly what we do with this going forward will largely be determined by the flow of international events, which are far beyond Canada’s control or even influence ….”
  • Afghanistan (8)  A Sault Ste. Marie Reserve unit wonders how much it can help the new mission.  “…. “We committed a lot of people to the mission for a unit our size,” said Lt. Col. Blake Golder, commanding officer of the 49th Field Regiment, the Pine Street Armoury reserve unit that sent 33 personnel to Afghanistan since 2006. He believes as many as 50 reservists, about one third of the unit, may have volunteered for assignment but were denied because their skills were not required or because of medical problems. Usually, the Armed Forces were augmented by several hundred reservists for a six-month tour of Afghanistan, the 49th specializing in artillery, military police assistance and headquarters staffing. “I imagine there is a role for the regiment in Canada’s new mission, but I have yet to see anything on the qualifications needed for consideration,” said Golder ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  A couple of alleged attacks on Canadians from earlier this month.
  • Special ops choppers over Windsor starting tonight.  Helicopters from 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron will conduct urban night flying training in Windsor, Ontario from 12-14 July, 2011. This training will help familiarize the pilots with the challenges of flying in an urban environment at night. The training is scheduled to occur on 12 and 13 July between 10 p.m. and approximately 1 a.m. If the training is cancelled on either of these dates due to inclement weather, there may be flights on the 14 July. The helicopters will be visible operating at a low altitude in close proximity to the Chrysler Building at 1 Riverside Drive. The helicopters will approach the building at a low altitude from a variety of directions, hover over the building for a brief period of time and then depart and repeat the process until the pilots have become proficient ….”  More on that here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Even Holland is slowing down its acquisition of F-35’s (thanks to Mark Collins for this one). “The Netherlands has decided to delay and stretch out its acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In a July 1 letter to parliament, defense minister Hans Hillen says that a revised plan, reflecting the most recent schedule changes “starts the flow of production aircraft in 2019, and lasts until 2027″ ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying: Big Honkin’ Ship Edition  As Ottawa prepares to award two mega contracts for shipbuilding, a political bun fight has broken out regarding which provinces should get the $33-billion booty. Both the Conservative government and New Democrats initially declared the process must be free of political shenanigans, with the contracts being awarded transparently, purely on merit. But this is Canada. And there are four bids in a contest that will see only two provinces receive the thousands of jobs and industrial benefits that will flow from the work. Last week, several New Democrats from Quebec suggested the process is being too rushed to allow their province a fair shot in the bidding process. That prompted B.C. cabinet minister Ed Fast to step forward: “I don’t know where the NDP is coming from. We had hoped the whole process would be clear of political interference.” NDP press secretary Marc-Andre Viau defended his party’s politicking: “Our Quebec City MPs want sustainable shipbuilding jobs for the people of their region.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Wanted:  Someplace to house, feed visiting military bands for a big get-together in Quebec, help in researching use of UAVs over land and sea (Statement of Work downloadable here) and figuring out better ways to identify ships electronically.
  • Canada (reportedly) taking part in multi-national exercise in Chile.  “A multinational peaceful military exercise was launched in Chile on Monday to enhance the participating forces’ capability to handle peacetime missions. A total of 600 soldiers from Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Mexico, Uruguay and Chile are involved in the joint exercise code-named “Huemul” that lasts till July 15. The drill is aimed at better preparing the forces for such tasks as humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and disaster relief, Chilean Defense Minister Andres Allamand said during the launching ceremony.”  More from the Chilean Army in Spanish here (Google translation of news release here) and Spanish-language media here (Google translation here).
  • Artcic Watch  A Coast Guard vessel is heading to the Arctic where scientists will map out another section of the continental shelf, staking out the undersea territory and resources that belong to Canada. The Louis St-Laurent will be accompanied on its four-month mission by the United States Coast Guard cutter Healy. This is the fourth year that a Canadian ship has spent mapping the shelf that lies below the Arctic waters to determine where it extends beyond the limit of 200 nautical miles from shore over which Canada already has exclusive jurisdiction to exploit and explore …”
  • One historian’s opinion:  It is entirely appropriate that the Canadian military play an important role in Canadian citizenship ceremonies and in all other manner of public celebrations in Canada from the welcome of foreign leaders, to major national sports celebrations, and even to provincial and civic ceremonious occasions. Such participation not only reflects historical reality, it also signifies that the Canadian Forces are a central institution of Canadian government, because the defence of the nation is key to both Canadian governance and independence ….”
  • A British soldier training in western Canada appears to have been shot during a live-fire training exercise.  “A British soldier has been shot twice by a fellow squaddie in a training-ground exercise. The lance sergeant was hit in the arm and leg. He suffered substantial blood loss from a severed artery. Army chiefs believe the shooting during live-fire training in the plains of Alberta, Canada, was a horrific accident. The victim, a Grenadier Guardsman, was flown to the UK for surgery at Selly Oak military hospital in Birmingham ….”  A bit more here.

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