News Highlights – 7 Nov 11

  • Afghanistan  Col. Jim Davis, deputy commander of the Mission Transition Task Force in Kandahar, on the scale of the job currently under way there:  “…. “From a planning perspective, it’s not more than we expected,” Davis said in a telephone interview from Kandahar. “We pretty much had a good plan in place that we understood but, I think, for the average sergeant, corporal, or private here, it’s been a daunting task. “It’s one that speaks to processing over 1,000 vehicles to be shipped back to Canada and roughly between 1,200 and 1,800 sea containers worth of equipment that’s either being shipped up to Kabul or back to Canada.” ….”
  • The CF’s Future (1)  Some questions needing answers, according to one columnist “…. As our key NATO allies cut spending and do “less with less,” what kind of role is Canada going to play in NATO and in global security arrangements? Is the kind of leadership role we played in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, or earlier in Afghanistan, an indication of the kind of role we will play in the future? Are we going to redeploy more of our naval assets to the Pacific to help counterbalance China’s growing military presence? How do foreign policy, intelligence, and development assistance fit together in the government’s “whole-of-government” approach to international security and in Canada future defence plans? Mr. Mackay and his cabinet colleagues have their work cut out if they want to carve out a sustainable strategy for Canada’s military.”
  • The CF’s Future (2)  A historian’s take on what we need to remember if the CF is called on to take on an African mission“…. So peacekeeping, yes, of course. But only if there is a firm UN mandate, full UN financial support, a desire for peace by all the warring parties, and a role that the Canadian Forces can play effectively. And unfortunately none of those criteria can be met in Darfur or Congo. The best Canada can do, the most Canada should do, is to provide money, training, and equipment for African peacekeepers, much as we have already been doing. And if we foolishly lose our heads and do pick up an African peace mission, we simply cannot forget that only fully equipped and war-trained soldiers can do the job.”
  • Don Cherry/Honourary RMC Degree (1)  What Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno has to say:  “…. Why not, then, Don Cherry? At least the provocative TV personality and former NHL coach has bona fides as stauncher supporter of the Canadian military, a true friend to soldiers and sailors and airmen (and airwomen, lest anyone accuse me of being sexist). It was the Royal Military College (RMC) that had voted to grant homeboy Cherry an honourary doctorate, surely a tickling distinction for someone who sounds like he dropped out of school in Grade 9. But Cherry, as he confirmed on Hockey Night in Canada over the weekend, has decided to decline the honour, citing concern that the convocation ceremony would turn into a three-ring circus should it proceed, deflecting attention from the two other individuals selected by the RMC. I’m not a Cherry fan, or un-fan for that matter. But I do know that he’s beloved by troops, visited them in Afghanistan, has significant ties to the college — his mother worked there — and can boast a grandfather who enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, wounded at Vimy Ridge in 1917. He is, undoubtedly, a patriot. That should have been good enough and, indeed, still is despite the exaggerated objections of one (1) faculty member ….”
  • Don Cherry/Honourary RMC Degree (2)  It appears the Royal Miltiary Colleges Club of Canada is getting e-mails on Don’s degreehere’s their official position (PDF screen capture here if link doesn’t work):  “…. The process of granting Honorary Degrees by the Royal Military Colleges is a very comprehensive process. The nominations can be initiated by different organizations or individuals, including the Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada through any member of the Senate. As with most of Canadian universities, the Senate which in the case of RMC is composed of the Chancellor (Minister of National Defence), the Vice Chancellor (The RMCC Commandant), Principal, Deans, DCadet, Registrar and the Directeur des Etudes du RMC SJ, makes the final decision. As can be seen, the RMCCC has no responsibility or authority in this process, and fully trust and support, that the institution, for where these matters fall directly within their authority and responsibility will make the best decision ….”
  • One Afghan vet’s take on Remembrance Day“…. I could ask one thing of all Canadians for Remembrance Day, it would be this: Spare not a thought for the fallen. Think instead of those left behind, the families. All soldiers join knowing the risks, and all soldiers deploy to wars even more aware of those risks, and are willing to take them, for themselves, for the challenge, or simply because it is expected. But no family freely offers their loved one up. No family truly thinks it could happen to their loved one. But in the end, it is they who pay the sacrifice long after their loved one is gone. Think of them, remember them, this November 11.”
  • Former Veterans’ ‘Budman on Remembrance Day“The first Remembrance Day following the end of the Canadian combat mission finds many veterans disillusioned with the Conservative government, despite its promises of cash and its words of support for the troops. This hardened cadre is refusing to go quietly into history, concerned that Ottawa is treating them as second-class of veteran compared with those that fought in the world wars and Korea. At the same time, the public is in a reflective mood about not only the future of its armed forces, but what it has asked of men and women in uniform since 9/11. Former veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran says the reflex of the government, and to a lesser extent the general public, is to forget about Afghanistan. He points to the reluctance of Ottawa earlier this year to carve the conflict into the stone of the National War Memorial ….”
  • The depleted uranium hunger striker has started his protest action in spite of Veterans Affairs Minister Blaney offering him treatment.  “…. Pascal Lacoste said Sunday he won’t have another bite to eat until the federal government recognizes that he and countless other soldiers were poisoned while serving overseas. And he says he is prepared to die if that’s what it takes. Lacoste blames his own declining health, which includes chronic pain and a degenerative neurological disorder, on depleted-uranium poisoning he believes he contracted in Bosnia in the 1990s. He started his hunger strike on Saturday at noon at Blaney’s riding office in this community across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. Blaney met with Lacoste early Sunday and promised that medical specialists would provide him with the treatment he requires. “The specialists contacted the veteran, Mr. Lacoste, to offer treatment to help respond to his personal and immediate needs,” Blaney’s spokesman Jean-Christophe de le Rue said in a statement. “The minister implores the veteran not to endanger his health and to accept the treatments which have been offered to respond to his short- and medium-term needs.” ….”
  • One veteran’s story.  “He steps over piles of trash, past the dog wolfing kibble off the floor, across his tattered mattress and into the perpetual darkness at the back of the shipping container. Meet former Canadian Forces soldier Claude Lord — and welcome to his home. He is one of 150 veterans the federal government says it has helped in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver under a program aimed at getting ex-military personnel off the streets. Since connecting with Veterans Affairs Canada a couple of years ago, Lord meets regularly with government social workers and collects a monthly military pension of $1,200; he is now hunting for a proper abode. If it weren’t for the active involvement of a concerned businessman, Lord might never have known this help existed. He also would have struggled to navigate the months of phone calls, meetings and paperwork needed to finally claim his pension more than three decades after leaving the military. The retired corporal’s case raises questions as to whether more outreach is required to help Canada’s homeless veterans, many of whom might be eligible for a military pension and not even know it ….”  More on homeless vets here.
  • One columnist (ex-military) arguing against nuclear (or any) subs has this to say:  “…. Dating back to the First World War, no Canadian submarine has ever fired a torpedo in anger. Our destroyers were pretty effective at killing German U-boats in war, but they aren’t essential for our navy, war or no war ….”  I’d love to hear from anyone in the know whether this is true – feel free to post a comment.  Also, another point from the column, “…. The four subs we bought from Britain have been white elephants. Originally Oberon-class submarines in the Royal Navy, named Unseen, Unicorn, Ursula and Upholder, we re-named them as the more mundane Victoria, Windsor, Corner Brook and Chicoutimi ….” isn’t exactly correct.  The Oberon class boats were the OLD boats that Victoria, Windsor, Corner Brook and Chicoutimi replaced.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Someone in Arizona to train search and rescue techs how to parachute (PDF of notice here if link doesn’t work), up to an additional 5,400 treatments of Botulinum Antitoxin
    Heptavalent on an “as-and- when required” basis
    and naval mines countermeasures software support.
  • U.S. officials say they have no intention of migrating a southern border fence to the quieter line with Canada. A recent American environmental impact analysis of constructing a few sections of a fence along key areas of the Canadian border caused a minor seismic shock on this side of the boundary. But Mark Borkowski, assistant commissioner for the office of technology innovation and acquisition with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says officials don’t see any cause currently to place the same type of brooding barriers on the Canadian border as they now have on their southern frontier. In fact, despite the debate among American GOP presidential contenders about the Mexico fence, Borkowski says his office sees no need to run a metal barrier the entire length of that divide either ….”
  • War of 1812 Commemorations  Is Ottawa creating squadrons of rent-a-regiment re-enactors by flooding Ontario and Quebec with funds for its War of 1812 bicentennial bash? That’s what historian Gordon Terry fears. Federal funds are flowing to support more than 100 historical events in towns scattered throughout the two provinces – and Terry cautions the municipalities may have to sweeten the pot to entice overworked volunteer re-enactors to over to their camps. “What is not realized is it is a finite resource,” he said, cautioning an influx of government cash could create a fiercely competitive market environment. “It’s the same money but it competes with itself to buy, to outbid participation.” It happened in 1812, Terry argued, when the British government offered a fee to volunteers to join militias. Regiments began outbidding each other with taxpayer cash to meet recruitment quotas, driving up the price. Now, the feds have earmarked $28 million for three years of 1812 celebrations, with a chunk going towards local events ….”

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