News Highlights – July 19, 2013

  • The Department of National Defence has quietly decided to no longer post key technical documents on its website detailing the military’s requirements for crucial new planes, ships, and vehicles, instead opting for new slimmed-down versions.  The document, called a Statement of Operational Requirements, used to be drawn up when the military wanted to buy a new item. They would detail what the military wanted in a given piece of equipment. The documents have previously been released publicly so Canadians could examine what their armed forces needed before their tax dollars were spent.  Such documents, for example, have been posted on DND’s website to show the military’s requirements for a new strategic airlift capability, or what it required in terms of new resupply ships or new Arctic patrol ships, now part of the government’s $35-billion shipbuilding strategy. But such documents can no longer be found online.  “Since March of this year, current direction within the [Royal Canadian Air Force] is to hold onto Statements of Operational Requirements until the tendering process has been completed,” wrote RCAF spokesperson Maj. James Simiana in an email.  “The intent by doing so is to ensure that planning projections which may change do not influence the formal acquisition process.” ….”
  • Every time he picked up a pen to sign a letter of condolence to the family of a dead soldier, Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin asked himself hard, painful questions about the institution to which he had devoted his life.  During Devlin’s three years as the country’s top soldier, there were an awful lot of those letters to sign. Stacks of his briefing notes are laced with censored references to the letters.  Whether it was in combat, by accident or by suicide, there was always a moment of reflection before pen went to paper, he said. But when the soldier’s death was self-inflicted, the questions seemed to loom larger.  “It hurts,” said Devlin, who retires Thursday as the commander of the Canadian Army. “I wonder about whether we, the army and the Canadian Forces did all that we could have, (and) should have.”  Just recently, the Canadian military quietly added two more soldiers to the list of those who killed themselves in 2011, according to internal National Defence records.  Twenty-two soldiers have now been declared as having died by suicide the same year the army ended its combat mission in Afghanistan, says the military’s latest report on suicide in its ranks.  The study, which looked back at data over a decade, concluded the war in Afghanistan — or any deployment, for that matter — isn’t a risk factor for suicide and that the overall rate of serving soldiers who kill themselves remains steady ….” – more here
  • Afghanistan  His Excellency Ambassador Glenn Davidson presented Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal to Afghan National Army Brigadier Generals Ahmad Habibi and Ahmad Shah July 1 at the Afghan Ministry of Defense headquarters compound in Kabul, Afghanistan …. The medal recognizes a military deed or activity performed in a highly professional manner that brings benefit or honor to the Canadian Forces. Afghan Army leaders and family members attended the pinning event. Both generals gave speeches of thanks and talked about the future of the Afghan National Security Forces ….”
  • More Canadian Army identity awesomeness!  “…. The new primary badge of the Canadian Army is based on a badge used prior to the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968, but encased in a more recent version of the badge frame. It features crossed swords, which symbolize the history of the Canadian Army as one team working together in the defence of Canada. The three maple leaves, conjoined on one stem, are taken from the Royal Arms of Canada, and represent service to Canada, service to our sovereign, and the heritage of the Canadian Army.  The visual identifier, derived from the primary badge, features a crown atop the maple leaves and swords, as well as the words “Canadian Army” in both official languages. The new tagline – Strong. Proud. Ready. – echoes organizational values and underscores the importance of readiness for full-spectrum operations ….” – pictures of the new graphics here
  • From the Pentagon Info-machine  “Death by PowerPoint. A phrase many soldiers don’t like to hear when it comes to training. At McGregor Range Complex in New Mexico, Exercise Guardian Justice is underway with more than 220 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and members of the Canadian military.  The training exercise, which focuses on training military police units on detainee operations, kicked off July 16, 2013, with two days of classes filled with presentations covering everything from the history of detainee operations to the Geneva Convention, law of war, rules of engagement and much more.  The soldiers participating in the exercise go through 12 days of actual training with two days of classroom training, nine days of hands-on training and a recreation day to wrap it all up ….”
  • From the CF Info-machine (almost six weeks after the end of the exercise)  “From 6 May to 8 June, approximately 7,500 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members from across the country participated in the fifth and final stage of JOINTEX 13, a multi-stage joint training exercise meant to change the way the CAF train and fight.  The first in a series of nation-wide joint training and readiness events, JOINTEX 13 was created to further the CAF’s ability to conduct complex full-spectrum operations within a multi-national, coalition environment.  The exercise was designed to develop joint capabilities between the Army, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations, as well as prepare the 1st Canadian Division HQ for its future role in leading a Canadian Combined Joint-Inter Agency Task Force (CJIATF) HQ.  “I think the impressive part is how we did it,” said Colonel Ken Chadder, the exercise director for JOINTEX. “What we were trying to do was exercise within a synthetic environment, in a way that we need to do in the future: distributed across the country, integrating live, virtual and constructive activities.” ….”
  • More on the Canadian soldier who isn’t getting time off for a fundraising walk, both pro-soldier (the blog post) and anti-soldier (comments)
  • In two weeks, Medric Cousineau will leave his house in Eastern Passage and walk to Ottawa.  Cousineau and his post-traumatic stress disorder service dog, Thai, will walk the equivalent of about a half-marathon each day as the duo tries to raise awareness for the benefits of such animalsA former tactical co-ordinator on a Sea King helicopter, Cousineau has struggled ever since performing a dramatic rescue off the coast of Newfoundland 26 years ago. His life changed for the better when he received his service dog almost two years ago; he’s lost weight, reduced his medication and deals better with stress and anger.  Now Cousineau is trying to give back by raising money in an effort to buy 50 service dogs for 50 veterans in need. His walk will take him from Nova Scotia into New Brunswick and Quebec and on to Ontario, culminating on Sept. 19 in Ottawa.  Cousineau said he needs to raise about $350,000. Even before the journey has started, he’s already helped match two veterans with dogs and has others on a waiting list ….” – more here and here
  • Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse assumed command of the Canadian Army from Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin (yesterday) in an official ceremony on Parliament Hill. The ceremony was attended by the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence, and presided over by General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff ….” – more here, here and here.
  • Aussies host Air Cadets from around the world (including Canada) on international exchange
  • The Supreme Court of Canada will issue a ruling Friday morning that could redefine how immigration officials decide if someone was complicit in war crimesThe case stems from a decision by the federal government to deny refugee status to Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola. He worked for the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for eight years, four of them as a prominent diplomat at the United Nations.  Ezokola moved to Montreal in 2008 with his wife and eight children, alleging he had received death threats from Congolese intelligence agents. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board denied Ezokola refugee status after finding him complicit by association in war crimes and crimes against humanity.  In the years Ezokola served the DRC government, it was responsible for a number of atrocities including the massacre of civilians and recruitment of child soldiers.  Ezokola appealed the ruling and won at Federal Court but then lost at the Federal Court of Appeal ….”

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