Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – December 4, 2012

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  • The commander of the Canadian Army told a Senate committee Monday there is no administrative fat to cut in his branch and that budget restraint is forcing him to train soldiers to a lower standard than during the Afghan war.  Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin testified at a Senate committee that 22 per cent of his force’s baseline budget has been slashed, and when combined with the loss of a stipend for the Kandahar mission, the cumulative fiscal hit is even bigger.  “As you would expect that has an effect on people, infrastructure and training,” he told senators.  Devlin underscored that 74 per cent of the army is the field force, and only four per cent take up a headquarters or administrative role among the 25,500 regular members, 16,000 reservists, and 5,000 rangers.  Earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear he believed the National Defence Department could cut more deeply on the administration side as he laid out his thoughts in a letter to Defence Minister Peter MacKay.  “It is important that we reduce the current overhead in regular force military and civilian personnel, and in those activities that do not directly contribute to operational readiness,” Harper wrote on June 15, 2012. A copy of his letter was obtained last month by The Canadian Press ….”
  • Joshua Baker, 1985-2010, R.I.P.  “A fourth day of deliberations will be required to determine the fate of a Calgary reservist charged following a fatal training mishap in Afghanistan in 2010 Maj. Darryl Watts, 44, faces six charges, including manslaughter, in the death of Cpl. Josh Baker and injuries to four other soldiers on a firing range north of Kandahar city in February, 2010.  Baker died when a Claymore anti-personnel mine, packed with 700 steel balls, peppered his platoon during a training exercise.  The five-member military panel in the court martial spent Monday hunkered down in a conference room at the Mewata Armoury, a cordon of white tape providing a buffer and guaranteeing privacy.  Deliberations began late Saturday but the panel of senior military members still had not come to a conclusion when it adjourned Monday afternoon ….”      
  • Afghanistan  “Pte. Taumy St-Hilaire is decidedly nonchalant about saving the lives of two people he will never know. In April 2011, the Montreal native and member of Quebec’s vaunted Royal 22e Régiment, the Van Doos, was engaged in a firefight in the Afghan village of Chalghowr in the Panjwai district when his battalion was attacked—and St-Hilaire did what his instincts and training told him to do. The results of one heroic deed, for which he can barely bring himself to take credit, earned him the Star of Military Valour this month. He is one of only 18 people to receive the Canadian military’s second-highest honour ….”
  • No documents shared, so no word if this is the whole story  “Canada’s military pressured coast guard officials in Newfoundland and Labrador in May into abandoning a plan to ensure that Canadian doctors would continue to handle marine medical emergency calls, CBC News has learned, but an emergency at sea days later prompted a change in policy.  Defence Department officials in Halifax had insisted that one procedure apply for the entire Atlantic region, in the wake of this spring’s shuttering of the rescue sub-centre in St. John’s.  That decision led to emergency medical calls instead being routed to a free service in Rome.  Within days, a Newfoundland fishing captain received no medical advice for more than 10 hours after becoming ill at sea. Efforts by the crew to seek medical help were steered to Italy, where they confronted a language barrier.  Just before that incident, a military official was touting the “proven procedure with quality service” offered by the Italian non-profit, called CIRM Roma.  Defence staff had criticized Newfoundland coast guard employees for temporarily extending the contract to keep the service in Canada, according to internal military and coast guard correspondence obtained by CBC News under federal access to information laws ….”
  • Way Up North  “Canada will use its two years as leader of the circumpolar world to promote development and defend its policies, suggest federal politicians and documents.  But Arctic experts and those involved with the Arctic Council worry that’s the wrong approach at a time when the diplomatic body is dealing with crucial international issues from climate change to a treaty on oil spill prevention.  The Arctic Council consists of the eight countries that ring the North Pole and also has participation from aboriginal groups. It has evolved since its 1996 birth in Ottawa from a research forum and diplomatic talking shop to a body that negotiates binding international treaties, such as last year’s deal on Arctic search and rescue ….”
  • Meanwhile, south of us….  “Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Canadian Governor General David Johnston on Monday agreed to speed up the establishment of two technical institutes in the Peruvian mining and military sectors.  The two leaders move closer to signing a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing the Technical Institute of the Armed Forces, with Canada’s help, to train military volunteers, said Peruvian Defence Minister Pedro Cateriano ….”
  • Canada’s Foreign Minister on North Korea’s alleged plans to test a long-range missile  “We are extremely concerned about North Korea’s plan to test a long-range ballistic missile.  Canada strongly warns North Korea against this provocation, which clearly violates its obligations under successive UN Security Council resolutions and constitutes a threat to regional peace and security.  While the North Korean people struggle to find the basic necessities to survive, their government has turned a blind eye to their plight and instead chooses to advance its military capability. This is regrettable and completely unacceptable ….”         
  • It’s that time of year again!  “The North American Aerospace Defense Command is prepared to track Santa’s yuletide journey! The NORAD Tracks Santa website,, went live on November 30. It features a holiday countdown, games and daily activities, video messages from students around the world, and more. The website is available in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.  Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are also available in the Windows Store, Apple Store, and Google Play, so parents and children can countdown the days until Santa’s launch on their smart phones and tablets! Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. Santa followers just need to type @noradsanta into each search engine to get started.  Starting at 12 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa make the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4:00 a.m. MST (6:00 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations ….”

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4 December 12 at 7:45

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