Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

Posts Tagged ‘CFB Gagetown News Highlights – 15 Nov 11

with one comment News Highlights – 3 Oct 11

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  • Afghanistan (1)  Troops getting ready in Gagetown to head to Afghanistan“Efforts are continuing to prepare hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown for duty early next year in Afghanistan. Approximately 450 personnel from The Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2RCR) will be joined by another 100 from the greater Land Force Atlantic Area in deploying to the war-torn region for an eight-month training mission. The first group of soldiers will depart Gagetown in mid-February with the process continuing until mid-March. It’s expected to take about a month to get everyone into the Kabul theatre of operations ….”
  • Afghanistan (2a)  Nichola Goddard, 1980-2006, R.I.P.  Father of fallen returns to Afghanistan to help get more women teachers trained.
  • Afghanistan (2b)  Speaking of such things….  Canada is being urged to use whatever influence it has to ensure gains made over the last decade for women in Afghanistan are not lost in any peace deal that might materialize. Late Sunday, international aid agency Oxfam released a report saying there is a risk that many of the improvements made for women since the Taliban were toppled 10 years ago could be given away in bargaining as different factions in the war-torn country, including the Taliban, negotiate an end to a decade of war. “The women’s movement is quite worried about the potential that a peace deal with the Taliban could imply setbacks to the progress that women (in Afghanistan) have achieved and the potential for further progress,” Mark Fried, policy co-ordinator with Oxfam Canada, said in an interview ….” 
  • Afghanistan (3)  New book says LOADS o’ central control over execution, communication about the Afghanistan mission.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office was so seized with controlling public opinion of Canada’s shooting war in southern Afghanistan that even Defence Minister Peter MacKay wasn’t always in the loop, says a new book about the conflict. “The Savage War,” by Canadian Press defence writer and Afghanistan correspondent Murray Brewster, paints a portrait of a PMO keen to preserve its tenuous grip on minority power and desperate to control the message amid dwindling public support for the war. MacKay, who took over Defence from Gordon O’Connor in August 2007, was blindsided by the Harper government’s decision later that year to set up a blue-ribbon panel to review the mission headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, Brewster writes. “It wasn’t discussed with the broader cabinet, no,” the minister says in the interview. “I didn’t know all of the specifics.” ….”‘
  • Veterans Affairs Canada’s Virtual War Memorial web site, listing detailed information about Canada’s fallen, has moved from here to hereLast month, the CF webmeisters moved the “Fallen Canadians” page from here to here.
  • Trees to honour the fallen“When Elizabeth Pratt had her first brush with Canadian Forces soldiers four years ago, she couldn’t believe how young the men and women in uniform were. In Halifax, as part of the Royal Nova Scotia Military Tattoo in 2007, the then-Grade 11 student met hundreds of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, many of them only a few years older than she was. “I was so surprised at how close in age they were to me,” she said, “not to mention the fact that they were out there fighting and maybe even sacrificing their lives. That hit home.” Now, the 20-year-old University of B.C. student and her brother, 14-year-old Michael, are launching a project they hope will ensure a lasting memorial for those Canadians who have indeed sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan. The pair have created Langley Youth for the Fallen, a non-profit organization that is raising money to buy 157 trees that will be planted in a commemorative grove at the Derek Doubleday Aboretum in Langley ….”
  • Libya Mission (1)  A columnist shares his perspective of “security”.  “How are we doing in the war on terror? Against the terrorists, tolerably well. Against our governments — that’s a different story. As travelers, we’re coping. We can put up with being treated like inmates at Alcatraz. We display our anatomies to the extent requested; take off our shoes like lambs, purge our carry-on bags of liquids and stuff them with photo IDs. We’re a little dismayed, though, that we may have Grandma strip for nothing. Our governments that protect us so brilliantly from our underwear, seem less effective when it comes to protecting us from portable ground-to-air missiles. That’s right. NATO lost sight of about 20,000 of the suckers, each one capable of shooting down a civilian airliner, while helping rebel forces overrun Colonel Muammar Gaddafy’s Libya. This week the White House’s Jay Carney confirmed an initial ABC news report that thousands of the shoulder-fired weapons, ideal for terrorist operations, are missing from the Colonel’s unguarded military warehouses ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  Another columnist on when we know it’s done“Last week, the Canadian Parliament briefly debated and then voted to extend our military commitment to the NATO mission in Libya. In announcing the extension, Defence Minister Peter MacKay explained that “Canada was in at the very beginning [and] we should be there until the job is done.” Of course, no one in the Harper government has yet to explain exactly what our “job” is in Libya. Therefore, it remains impossible to determine when or if that task will ever be completed ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers!  OK, in this case, piling on the Parliamentary Secretary (not the “Defence Secretary” as the headline writer claims) “Commenting on an investigation that found the minister of national defence racked up nearly $3 million worth of flights aboard federal jets, the minister’s parliamentary secretary reiterated on Sunday that Peter MacKay did not break travel rules. When asked on CTV’s Question Period whether MacKay “at no point” contravened the government’s guidelines for ministerial travel, Chris Alexander said “the short answer is yes,” before adding that members of the Conservative government have “used challenger aircraft three-quarters less” than their predecessors. “This government has been extremely exacting of its ministers and everyone in government by putting in place the toughest measures for accountability, transparency, making sure we know what assets ministers have and making sure we watch like hawks what their means of travel are,” Alexander said. Every ounce of evidence shows MacKay and others members of government have followed the rules.” ….”
  • A senior federal cabinet minister breathed a sigh of relief upon word of the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a nod to the late radical cleric’s ability to inspire young westerners — including Canadians — to embrace Islamic extremism. “This is good news not only for the United States and North America, this is making the world a safer place,” said Defence Minister Peter MacKay. The death of the U.S.-born al-Awlaki in Yemen — possibly in an American missile strike — appeared to be the latest in a series of targeted killings of al-Qaida kingpins. The charismatic lecturer spent his early childhood in the United States, moving with his family to Yemen before returning to Colorado to pursue university studies. He become an imam whose pronouncements and dealings drew the attention of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Members of a Toronto-area group implicated five years ago in terrorist plotting had watched one of al-Awlaki’s videos at their makeshift training camp ….”
  • On soldiers, tattoos and blood types.
  • Cape Breton Highlanders get their new Camp Flag – shame there’s no link to a photo, no?
  • Editorial:  history =/=. conspiracy. “…. There is no doubt that Mr. Harper is highly political, maybe too political at times, but the promotion of Canadian history and the symbols of national identity are not evidence of a dastardly plot. The prime minister is reportedly equally interested in the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk settlers in Manitoba and is considering a visit to Winnipeg next year to help mark the occasion. The fact is that Canadians have demonstrated a greater interest in their history over the years, an evolution that seemed to begin in the 1980s with celebrations of significant military dates from the first and second world wars. In 1994, the city of Winnipeg staged a downtown parade, complete with military vehicles and even a Sherman tank, to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the first such parade since the war ended. Sometimes they are controversial, such as the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and the upcoming celebration of the War of 1812 (Canada won, didn’t it?), but they have never been seen as part of a political agenda. Unfortunately, significant political events from the past have received less attention, but if Mr. Harper (and the CBC) want to ignite a passion in the broader Canadian story, let’s at least not call it a conspiracy.”
  • Divers will search for unexploded munitions this month on the wreck of HMCS Thiepval, a former warship that hit an uncharted rock and sank in Barkley Sound more than 80 years ago. The Department of National Defence organized the search after recreational divers reported spotting artillery and shells on the anemone-covered 1917 Battle-class naval trawler. The vessel boasts a colourful history, including a secret spying assignment and a gin-drinking Japanese bear adopted by the crew. The wreck is resting in about 12 metres of water ….” News Highlights – 22 Sept 11

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  • Libya Mission  NATO goes for three month extension – more from the SecGen here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  A new ROTO is training and getting ready in Edmonton.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Terry Glavin on negotiating with the Taliban“…. In Washington, London and Brussels, the whole point now is to convince “war-weary” electorates that capitulation is compromise, that the whole nightmare was brought about by stupid neo-conservatives, and that the problem is an incorrigibly violent and uncivilized Afghan people in whom we need not see the basic human rights we ordinarily recognize in our fairer-skinned selves. In the world’s rich and comfortable countries, and perhaps especially in Canada, this is what it means nowadays to be on the side of the angels.”  More here.
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride  New Target:  the Defence Minister“Defence Minister Peter MacKay used one of only three search-and-rescue helicopters available in Newfoundland to transport him from a vacation spot last year, CTV News has learned. MacKay was picked up at a private salmon fishing lodge along the Gander River last July by a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter. Military sources said the order to collect MacKay came from the defence minister’s own office. “This is not a common practice . . . this is the only time a search-and-rescue asset was used as shuttle service,” a source told CTV News ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (1)  Opinion, from former RCAF officer: “…. Any use of military aircraft by the chief, to my mind, is justifiable if he as the head of Canada’s military makes a decision to use them. Come on folks, the general is not out for a joyride on a Challenger aircraft ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2)  Opinion, from a blogger“…. While Robert Fife should not be criticized for bringing the issue forward for debate, he should be taken to task by not providing a more through analysis of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s travelling costs, especially since they were pre-authorized or incurred to satisfy the obligations of his position as head of the military ….”
  • The old adage that good advice is certain to be ignored is given new meaning in a study that concludes Canada’s Defence Department pays almost no attention to what experts and parliamentarians say. The report, “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” argues that mountains of studies and recommendations from academics and even House of Commons and Senate committees almost never find their way into government policy. The advice is allowed to collect dust, according to the study being released this week by the defence management institute at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. Researchers Douglas Bland and Richard Shimooka paint a picture of combative defence bureaucrats and advisers who pay lip service to suggestions and then stuff reports into filing cabinets once the media has lost interest ….”
  • Why was a Canadian military with 65,000 men and women on active duty and 25,000 reservists sorely tested by the task of keeping 1,500 soldiers in the field in Afghanistan? Why are Arctic sovereignty patrols a strain on the same military? The way Andrew Leslie sees it, it’s because the Canadian Forces’ tail has grown bigger than its teeth ….”
  • More on what one former officer says Canada’s Reserves should be looking like – the report here (PDF), and some more media coverage of the report here and here.
  • A bit of editorial comment on “what should be done with the Reserves” report:  “…. The army likes a big standing army because it wants regular soldiers it can order around full-time, not part-timers who come and go. The smaller the standing army, after all, the less justification there is for a bloated bureaucracy. (Not that there’s ever a good justification for bureaucratic bloat, but it’s easier to dismiss for a large organization than for a small one). So they just didn’t do it ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Nasty allegations over the contract to provide moving services to the CF and rest of the public service “The losing bidder for a billion-dollar contract to relocate Canada’s military, RC-MP and public servants levelled allegations of bid-rigging and an ensuing attempt at a coverup against the federal government on the first day of a civil trial Wednesday. Bruce Atyeo, president of Envoy Relocation Services, is seeking $62 million in damages and is accusing Public Works of having a conflict of interest when it twice awarded a competitor, Royal LePage Relocation Services, the contract to provide the services in 2002 and again in 2004. The awarding of the contracts has been mired in controversy, internal probes and several investigations by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  “The Canadian Space Agency in collaboration with Environment Canada, the Department of National Defence, Natural Resources Canada and the Communications Research Center (hereinafter referred to as the clients) is examining the potential for a communications and weather services satellite system referred to as the Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) Mission, a Mission which will in its operations, contribute to resolving some of the challenges and at the same time, leverage opportunities in the Arctic. This Mission is currently in Phase A (Concept study) of development with a launch date targeted for 2017. PCW will provide high capacity, continuous communication services throughout the Canadian Arctic as well as meteorological Earth observations leading to improved weather forecasting …. The purpose of this Request for Proposal is to …. perform a study that will quantify and delineate the socio economic benefits resulting from the proposed Polar Communications and Weather (PCW) Mission, in terms of the projected improvement in the quality of weather forecasts, including those associated with space weather events, and in terms of the benefits accruing from filling the gap in communications over the Canadian high Arctic region ….”  More on the study and the PCW mission here (14 page PDF).
  • What’s Canada Buying? (3)  Wanted:  slick new live fire target system with robotic figures “running” around on their own for research at CFB Suffield.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (4)  Wanted:  someone to “build and install a new monument on Tilley Avenue, Gagetown, New Brunswick”.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (5)  Wanted:  “Support to analytical, numerical and experimental investigations in flight mechanics” various projectiles, mini-UAVs or missiles – more in the tech documents here (6 page PDF).
  • What’s Canada Buying? (6) Wanted: “Suspenders, Trousers, overall cotton, elastic and webbing color: average green, adjustable length; leather six-point button straps”, quantity: up to 24,600 sets – more technical details on what the CF specifically seeks in a set of suspenders here (11 page PDF).
  • Letter to the editor writer seeks “balance” in submarine coverage “…. The point is, these are not like the Chevy sitting in your driveway. Submarines are incredibly complex machines and require huge amounts of maintenance. The Royal Canadian Navy has four submarines. At the moment, none is operational, but one will be next year, followed by another the year after. With only four hulls, that is to be expected. When you talk of the submarines being laid up longer than expected, you also have to remember the huge expenditures (and rightly so) on military equipment acquired due to the war in Afghanistan, which obviously took funds away from the work on the boats ….”
  • A chunk of Canada’s aviation history to be paved over to make a hockey rink“Second World War pilot Philip Gray says it is “immoral” that Downsview Park is evicting the Canadian Air and Space Museum. “This is a terrible way to repay young 21-year-old boys who went to war and never turned 22. I am disgusted that their heritage can be just wiped out,” the 89-year-old Gray said Tuesday as the museum was packing up artifacts. “I got the shock of my life when I heard this. We could lose all this history. It makes you wonder what these boys died for … a government that doesn’t care about heritage.” Downsview Park — which gave the eviction notice on Tuesday — is a federal park. There was no notice given for the eviction, museum CEO Robert Cohen said ….” News Highlights – 30 Aug 11

leave a comment » News Highlights – 17 Aug 11

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  • “Royalizing” the CF (1)  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced today that the Government of Canada has restored the use of the historic designations of the three former services: the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the Canadian Army (CA), and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) ….”  More from the CF Info-machine in Backgrounders and Fact Sheets here (general), here (Navy), here (Army) and here (Air Force).
  • “Royalizing” the CF (2)  What did the Queen’s representative in Canada and Commander-in-Chief have to say?  Not all that much, actually.  “As commander-in-chief, I welcome the Department of National Defence’s decision to restore the historic names of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. These historic titles, unused since the integration of the Canadian Forces in 1968, represent a proud tradition in Canada and an important part of Canada’s military heritage.”
  • “Royalizing” the CF (3)  Mainstream media and editorial response from the Toronto Sun (“No longer will we have the bureaucratic nothingness of Maritime Command, Air Command and Land Force Command.”), the Hamilton Spectator (“It seems a retrograde move to hearken back to colonial times, despite the fact that royal themes are ingrained elements in the fabric of our parliamentary democracy.”), Postmedia News, the Ottawa Citizen, The Canadian Press (“In the province of Quebec, not many people like to think of the royal connection and there’s a lot of French Canadians in the navy as well.”), (outlining what has to be done/changed), Agence France-Presse, BBC and the Associated Press.
  • “Royalizing the CF” (4)  And what does Citizens for a Canadian Republic have to say?  “…. The government may be vastly overestimating the size of the demographic this kind of action appeals to,” said CCR spokesperson, Tom Freda. “This isn’t the 1950s, nor do we have 1950s values, he adds. “Canada has been accustomed to moving away from colonialist symbols, not toward them. I can’t imagine the mainstream public in 2011 seeing this decision as positive.” The group also believes there will be a considerable financial cost for the changeover. Access to Information documents have revealed consistent under-reporting of the true cost to taxpayers of royal visits, so that policy is expected to continue this time as well. Regarding the potential constitutional implications, Freda said, “Australia’s military still has the royal designation and they’re further ahead in the republican debate than Canada. So, in the larger scope of things, it has no relevence to our inevitable evolution to a one hundred percent Canadianized head of state.” “
  • Way Up North  “If you happen to be feeling sick, you’ll be in good hands at Camp Nanook, where more than 400 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Rangers have lived since Aug. 4, when Operation Nanook started. In fact, such high-quality health care is available at the camp that many Canadian Rangers from Nunavut are drawn to the white medical tent on site. Canadian Rangers are more than twice as likely go there than the other members of the military at the camp: although Canadian Rangers make up about 10 per cent of the people at the camp, they account for 25 per cent of those who attend the clinic. More Nunavut Rangers come to the clinic likely because “they don’t have such a high quality of medical care,” suggests Maj. Stephane Roux, the chief physician and head of the clinic ….”
  • More on Operation Jaguar in Jamaica.  “Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson last week announced that the Canadian Government, through its Ministry of National Defence, is deploying three CH-146 Griffon tactical helicopters and 65 Canadian Forces personnel to support the Jamaica Defence Force during the 2011 hurricane season. The deployment follows a request from the Jamaican Government. Minister Nelson said he was most appreciative of the Canadian initiative, noting that the three helicopters will shore up the JDF’s capabilities. In welcoming the deployment, Nelson added that JDF personnel will also benefit from training with the Canadian Forces. Minister Nelson pointed to the extremely successful long-standing alliance between the Canadian Forces and the Jamaica Defence Force ….”  More on the operation in the CF Info-Machine’s fact sheet here.
  • New boss for CFB Gagetown.  “…. Col. Michael Pearson said goodbye to the base after two years of progressive leadership. While maintaining a home in New Maryland, the colourful commander is packing his bags and heading to New York City where he will assume the position of military adviser to the Canadian ambassador at the United Nations. Switching places with Col. Pearson is Col. Paul Rutherford, fresh from a stint as army adviser with the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff in London, England ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  The CF Info-Machine on Canada’s last chopper mission winding up and on the last combat logistics patrol.
  • Afghanistan (2)  It appears at least one writer (and whoever checked said writer’s material) didn’t read the memo re:  how long Canada’s been in Afghanistan fighting the good fight.  According to the article, For more than 10 years now, Canada has been supporting the action of the international community in Afghanistan….”  The CF fact sheet says Canada’s first boots hit the ground as part of Operation Apollo in early 2002 said on 14 Jan 02 that what appears to be the advance party was in Afghanistan.  By my math, that’s closer to about 8 or 9 years back.  Oopsie….
  • Toronto Star editorial on possible cuts to Canada’s military:  “…. Earlier governments slashed across the board, insisting for example that the forces kept open bases for political reasons long after they had outlived their usefulness. What all the services need is a government willing to let the generals and admirals cut the fat that has built up over the past few years, and strengthen the muscle.”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  More on the potential privatizing of some or all of Canada’s (what is now) military search and rescue work – this following an “industry consultation day …. “for the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) Project”.  “The Conservative government is looking at all options to replace the military’s search and rescue fleet, including turning to private industry contractors to tackle some work. Since 2004, the government has been looking at replacing the ageing CC-115 Buffalo and the CC-130 Hercules aircraft, which have been central components in Canada’s search and rescue system. “Thorough consultation is necessary to fulfil the government’s duty to ensure all options have been considered before any decision is made,” said Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino. Consultations between aerospace firms and government procurement officials took place in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday. Air Force vets are not fighting the move to outsource some of the work – they just want to see the project take flight. “If industry is able to provide input that will get this moving, fine – love it,” said retired Maj.-Gen. Marc Terreau. “The real, fundamental issue in search and rescue is human lives. Time is of the essence. The faster you get there, the higher the chances of people being rescued alive.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Someone to make a better respirator faceplate (more in the Statement of Work – PDF – here) and someone to develop “a low burden protective fabric and protective tactical assault (uniform),” aka a better CBRN protective suit (more in the Statement of Work – PDF – here).
  • The first pirates Capt. Steve Waddell encountered weren’t wearing puffy shirts, tri-cornered hats or as much dark eyeliner as Disney’s Jack Sparrow. Instead they were decked out in Gucci watches and ill-fitting Armani suits, claiming to be Somali fishermen aboard a small, open-decked skiff Waddell and his crew confronted in the treacherous seas off the Horn of Africa. “I’m not sure why they considered that pirate attire,” said Waddell, who in 2009 commanded the frigate HMCS Fredericton on one of Canada’s first anti-piracy naval missions to the region. A Canadian boarding party confronted the skiff, confiscated guns and gasoline from the group, and sent them back to the Somali coast. Waddell watched as the Somalis high-fived each other, happy to be released, as they motored away from the warship. “That’s the reality of anti-piracy operations off Somalia,” Waddell told an audience of lawyers with the Canadian Bar Association ….” News Highlights – 21 Jun 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  Flying low, slow and vulnerable, a pair of lumbering Canadian spy planes operate just off the Libyan coast at the edge of shoulder-fired missile range, eavesdropping on pro-Gadhafi forces and feeding critical targeting information. The Auroras, Cold-War-era submarine hunters newly kitted out with sophisticated sensors, are playing a little-known and relatively risky role as part of Canada’s biggest involvement in a military conflict in decades. The range of Canada’s war-fighting assets – fighter-bombers, surveillance aircraft, tankers and a warship – represents the broadest array of commitment to a relatively small conflict in many years. Compared with previous conflicts, including the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the 1999 Kosovo air war, Canada has a bigger role and a far bigger command presence ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  Civvy cas = less Canadian support?  “The deaths of Libyan civilians in NATO air strikes are raising fears that international political support for the mission could weaken, and that Canadians could become reluctant to back it even though there are no soldiers on the ground …. In Canada, the opposition New Democrats warned that civilian casualties will have an impact on support.  “Yes, it does have an impact on how it’s perceived, if there is civilian casualties, absolutely,” said NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar. “That’s why there has to be caution, oversight. That’s why I think there needs to be strengthening in the oversight and in the communications between the UN, the Arab League, and NATO.” ….  “When you’re conducting a bombing campaign, it’s inevitable that you are going to kill civilians,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, the only MP who voted against extending the Canadian mission in Libya …. Josh Zanin, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said “the goal of the mission is, and will continue to be, the protection of civilians and to stop the Gadhafi regime’s attacks on civilians.  “In pursuing this goal, NATO makes every reasonable effort to ensure the safety of civilians.” …. “
  • Afghanistan (1)  Welcome home!  About 60 soldiers received a warm homecoming when they arrived in Quebec City Monday from their final tour of duty in Afghanistan. The soldiers were all members of the Royal 22nd Regiment based at CFB Valcartier near the provincial capital and they were the first group to be sent home as Canada winds down its combat role against the Taliban. About 1,900 troops are expected to return to Valcartier by the end of July. They comprise the majority of the approximately 2,700 soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan ….”  More from Postmedia News here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  It’s not JUST the troops preparing to return home.  “As he sat amid the blackened, bombed-out ruins of a bazaar in western Panjwaii, Joffre Leblanc could sense something was different. At the time, it was pure instinct. But there was something about the unfamiliar faces who showed up for a shura, or meeting, following a grinding NATO sweep through Kandahar province last fall that told him change was indeed in the air. “You do have moments here when things certainly become a lot clearer,” said Leblanc, 26, who grew up in Halifax. As a district stabilization officer, one of a handful of gutsy civilians working along side the military, Leblanc’s job was to fortify an all-but-non-existent bond between Kabul and villagers in far-flung areas who knew little of their government, and cared even less ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Petawawa-area MP recognizes contribution of troops in the House of Commons.
  • Afghanistan (4)  Remember the swack of Afghan detainee documents a team of MPs was looking at to figure out which should be released?The coveted and long-awaited Afghan detainee documents — the first tranche of 25,000 or so anyway — are set to be released Wednesday, QMI Agency has learned. There are only four days this week when the House of Commons is sitting before MPs vamoose for the summer until Sept. 19, and the documents have been ready for release since the election. Two sources close to the file confirmed to QMI Agency Sunday the documents will be released Wednesday, but it’s still not known what will be revealed. Liberal MP Stephane Dion, who is his party’s representative on the committee reviewing the documents, said the government had not informed him of a timeline for the release of documents. And, as Dion and the others signed an oath of secrecy in order to read the documents, he would not say what Canadians might learn when they see the documents. “I have not even told my leader, Mr. (Bob) Rae,” Dion said Sunday in Vancouver where he was his party’s official observer at the NDP convention ….”
  • Afghanistan (5)  Good question.  “There may be some excitement in foreign capitals over Sunday’s confirmation by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that preliminary peace talks with the Taliban have begun. From Ottawa to London, Paris, Berlin, Canberra and Washington, everyone in the West wants to be done with this war. Some countries, such as Canada, are already heading for the exits. Others, such as France and Germany, purposely avoided all the heavy lifting, and now, with the Taliban on the ropes militarily in much of Afghanistan, are eager to claim a peace dividend. The U.S., which provides two-thirds of troops and about 90 per cent of the combat power, is days away from announcing an accelerated exit strategy that many in Congress insist is justified because Osama bin Laden has been killed. One group that does not share this enthusiasm for peace talks is the majority of Afghans. Although long weary of war and keen for peace, they have heard about secret talks with the Taliban many times before, only to find there was nothing to them. The Norwegians, the Turks, the Saudis and others have been trying to foster such discussions for a while with no tangible results. Why, they wonder, will this time be any different? ….”  More on talkin’ to the Taliban at the 3Ds Blog here.
  • Afghanistan (6)  Speaking of talking to the Taliban, a Foreign Affairs Minister’s spokesperson says we’re not “involved in negotiations” with the Taliban. “Canada is not talking to the Taliban, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday after U.S. reports confirmed the Americans were chatting with the terrorist group. “Canada is not involved in negotiations with the Taliban,” Chris Day said in an e-mail. Day was responding to queries after U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates confirmed on the weekend that State Department officials have been in direct talks with Taliban members in recent weeks ….”
  • Bigger, better things coming for the Chief of Defence Staff?  Canada’s top soldier is in the running to become NATO’s most senior military officer, according to sources within the alliance. Walter Natynczyk, Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff, is said to be keen to become the alliance’s Chairman of the Military Committee, when the post becomes vacant this September. General Natynczyk would need the Prime Minister’s blessing to run for the job of becoming principal military adviser to NATO’s Secretary General, since Canada has to pick up the multi-million-dollar tab to pay his salary, staff and security. A government spokesman said it is “premature” to comment on the General’s prospective candidacy. It is understood the Conservative government is concerned about another high profile loss of face, if the General’s candidacy becomes official and he loses. Canada lost its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, while Defence Minister Peter MacKay was beaten to the job of NATO Secretary General by Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Mark Collins with “F-35: Why Can Denmark Have a Fighter Competition and We Can’t?”
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, responding to an NDP question in the House about why Canada isn’t collecting any penalties linked to the delay of delivery of new helicopters to replace Canada’s Sea Kings“…. when we sign a contract with a military supplier, we expect its obligations under the contract to be met. The first interim maritime helicopter has arrived at 12 Wing Shearwater to support training of Canadian Forces air crew and technicians for the maritime helicopter project. It is important to know that Sikorsky has confirmed that it will deliver the 28 fully compliant maritime helicopters on schedule starting in June of this year.”
  • What’s Canada Buying (3)  Wanted:  Someone to train firefighters at CFB Petawawa.
  • Remember the Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study Some new coverage:  “Despite the obvious risks faced by military personnel, new data shows Canadian soldiers have a significantly lower death rate than the general population. Statistics Canada’s Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study, which looked at health information for soldiers over a period spanning more than three decades, shows those who enlisted in the Canadian Forces between the start of 1972 and the end of 2006 had a 35% lower chance of dying of any cause within those years in Canada than the average person in this country. “Canadian Forces personnel, in order to get in, have to pass a certain medical standard and a certain physical standard, so we’re generally a healthy population to start with,” said Col. Colin MacKay, who co-chaired the study’s advisory committee and also served as director of Force Health Protection. “It’s hard to say whether that full 35% reduction in risk for mortality for all causes is attributable to the healthy worker effect. There may still be some effect from the culture within the Canadian Forces, where we try to promote health and physical fitness.” ….”
  • Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery and a safe trip home.  Several members of Maine’s largest Army Guard unit, the 133rd Engineer Battalion, were injured when a bus carrying them through a training center in Gagetown, New Brunswick, crashed Monday morning. “A bus rolled over and 16 soldiers were sent to the hospital, treated for minor injuries and released,” Capt. Shanon Cotta of the Maine National Guard said Monday afternoon. The Maine National Guard soldiers are training at the Canadian Forces Base-Gagetown located near the village of Gagetown. Soldiers from the 251st Engineer Company — based in the town of Norway and dubbed the sappers — are leading the training. Sappers are engineers who specialize in gaining access to buildings, towns and other strategic locations and destroying them, Cotta said. In Canada, “they’re conducting urban breaching operations” as part of their training, he said ….” News Highlights – 25 Mar 11

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  • No Fly Zone in Libya (1) – Two Canadian surveillance aircraft have been sent to the Libyan coast to help coalition forces keep ships from bringing weapons and mercenaries into the North African country. The Auroras departed 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia and are in the midst of travelling to a military base in Trapani, Italy. Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the deployment plans on Thursday afternoon, saying that two CP-140 Aurora planes will soon be engaged in the “evolving” mission against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi ….” More from the Canadian Press here, Postmedia News here and here, and QMI Media here.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (2) – NATO’s agreed to run the no-fly zone show. “NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced today the alliance will assume command and control of coalition operations enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. “We are taking action as part of the broad international effort to protect civilians against the attacks by the [Moammar] Gadhafi regime,” Rasmussen said in a statement released today. “We will cooperate with our partners in the region and welcome their contributions.” All NATO allies are committed to fulfill their obligations under the U.N. resolution, Rasmussen said. “That is why we have decided to assume responsibility for the no-fly zone,” He added ….” NATO’s short & sweet statement on this here, some background from the U.S. State Department here, and some commentary from’s Danger Room here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Again with a question in the House of Commons! Defence Minister MacKay’s response:  “…. the reality is that the professional, non-partisan bureaucrats who work in the Department of National Defence disagree with the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In fact, they said that the methodology was wrong. They said that the cost of an aircraft should not be calculated based on its weight, that one does not go on historical analysis that is 50 years old and that one does not push it out 30 years. DND officials would be pleased to meet with the Parliamentary Budget Officer to discuss his methodologies and correct some of his flawed findings ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – Former CBC journalist wades in: “…. this UN-sponsored mission raises new questions about the wisdom of buying 65 of these Lockheed-Martin “Joint Strike Fighters,” which are still in the test phase. Particularly when the price tag ranges from a low of $14.7 billion (government estimate) to a stunning $29 billion (Parliamentary Budget Office prediction). And when the Libya campaign drives home an awkward historical point – that Canada has never used more than a handful of jet fighters in foreign conflicts and there’s no reason to suspect this will change in the coming decades ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3) – More from “According to the latest CTV/Globe/Nanos Poll, when asked about the Harper government’s plan to purchase F-35 jet fighters, 68% of Canadians believe that now is not the right time to purchase the aircraft. Canadians identified healthcare as their number one unprompted issue of concern. 29% of respondents named it their top priority, next to 18% who consider jobs/economy their main concern. Military and foreign policy issues do not appear among the top five issues named by respondents ….”
  • Teens in military families are often burdened by additional emotional stress when a parent is deployed to Afghanistan, according to a new Canadian study. Researchers from the University of New Brunswick, the University of Alberta, Ryerson University, and York University released the findings of their groundbreaking research on Thursday that examined students at Oromocto High School near Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, who recently had a parent serving in the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. The researchers reported the teens worried their parents would not return home or would come back “different.” The study found that stress caused concerns at home. The young people felt a sense of responsibility for the emotional stability of their other parent and for any younger siblings at home. The teen felt additional stress if the parent remaining in Canada was having difficulty with the other parent being away on the military mission ….” More on the study from the Fredericton Telegraph-Journal here, Postmedia News here, and from the University of New Brunswick here.
  • The first batch of papers related to the handling of Afghan detainees is expected to be released within two weeks – a mid-election document dump that could damage both Liberals and Conservatives, or absolve them of wrongdoing in a matter that once dominated parliamentary debate. Bloc Québecois Leader Gilles Duceppe insists the documents must be made public by April 15 and says his MPs will withdraw from the closed-door Commons committee that has been vetting them if his demands are not met. When asked this week if he would expect that release to occur even if it coincided with an election campaign, Mr. Duceppe replied: “Yes, yes, yes.” Bryon Wilfert, a Liberal MP who sits on the committee, said Thursday he does not know when the release will occur but it will be “soon.” There is “obviously a fervent attempt” to meet Mr. Duceppe’s deadline, Mr. Wilfert said. And election, he said, “will not preclude or hamper the release.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? – “…. The Department of National Defence (DND) currently have over 70,000 C79 Optical Sights in use and plans to sustain the fleet by purchasing replacement sights matching existing equipment. CF personnel have been trained using the C79 optical sights. Weapon and sight units cannot be replaced with “cloned/substitute” items due to possible life endangerment. These sight units represent a soldier’s security and the security around him, which makes consideration of multiple versions of similar sight units unacceptable. In addition, it is essential for commonality purposes and to minimize in-service support costs that the same sight be purchased. Given the large inventory it would not be operationally feasible or affordable to replace every sight or to carry a mixed inventory ….” Who’s doing the replacing?  Armament Technology Incorporated of Halifax, N.S.
  • Almost a decade after 9/11, the many arms of Canada’s national security network still do not share all their intelligence about terrorist threats with sister agencies, says a parliamentary report. The fix, says the new interim report by the special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism, is to clarify and expand the mandate of the national security adviser (NSA) to the prime minister, giving the office statutory powers to co-ordinate national security activities and share counter-terrorism intelligence across government ….” More in a news release from the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism here, and from the report, “Security, Freedom and the Complex Terrorist Threat: Positive Steps Ahead”, here (PDF).
  • What a surprise!  Chinese spies are keeping an eye on what they consider opposition groups here in Canada! “There are spies from China operating in Canada, members of the Chinese-Canadian community told QMI Agency Thursday. “We came here for freedom and find ourselves still under the oppression of the Chinese regime,” said Lucy Zhou, spokesman for a Falun Gong group in Ottawa. “What has happened in the past 10 years is that we have been victimized by the Chinese regime, including by the Chinese Embassy and missions here in Canada.” Zhou, who came to Canada as a student in 1989, says China regularly spies on Chinese citizens in Canada. “Going back to China, people are stopped right away and interrogated and they (Chinese officials) know everything that happens here in Canada,” Zhou said ….”
  • Looky who’s poking around in the Arctic. “The United States is staging high-profile submarine exercises in the Arctic Ocean this month as evidence mounts that global warming will lead to more mining, oil production, shipping and fishing in the world’s last frontier. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and a Who’s Who of other VIPs braved below-zero temperatures this month to visit a temporary camp on the ice about 150 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where two nuclear-powered U.S. submarines are conducting military training exercises. It is important for us to continue to train and operate in the Arctic,” said U.S. Navy Captain Rhett Jaehn, the No. 2 official overseeing U.S. submarine forces ….”