Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

Posts Tagged ‘communications

Selling the CF a Bit Better

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I preface this by admitting that there’s probably HEAPS more hurdles and process than I can see from the outside looking in when it comes to getting the CF’s message out to the public.  I also know the individual CF public affairs people I’ve dealt with are passionate about getting the good word out there.

All that said, I’ve pointed out some areas where the CF comms machine might do a better job in selling the outstanding work the soldiers/sailors/air folks are doing in the field, maybe even picking up some best practices from military establishments alreading doing interesting things.  I’m still seeing things that make me scratch my head, though.

For example, on Canada’s Expeditionary Forces Command (CEFCOM), we read about the good work being done by troops in general, and engineers in particular, on an operation almost a month after the operation happened.

Meanwhile, I stand to be corrected, but I’ll bet a donation to Wounded Warriors that these stories and photos from ISAF Public Affairs about Canadians didn’t take a month to get out there on the Internet:

Canadian Medic Returns to Kandahar to Mentor Afghan National Army
Story by Pvt. Luke Rollins, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Date: 12.09.2009

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WILSON, Afghanistan – Surviving just one tour in Southern Afghanistan is no mean feat. Many of the world’s best and brightest soldiers have fought and died here, and still more return home irrevocably shaken. There are among us, however, soldiers whose mettle has been cast in the furnaces of war, and who feel it is their duty to return, having emerged battle-tested and knowledgeable.

Army Cpl. Corey Sagstuen, a combat medic currently serving in a Canadian Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, is one such soldier. In 2007 he deployed to the Kandahar province with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in the Pan’jwai District. Now, he has returned to Kandahar’s Zhari district on the opposite side of the Arghandab River to lend his skills and experience to his fellow Canadian soldiers and Afghan national army soldiers alike.

There are a lot of green medics coming to Afghanistan, and it’s a bad place to make mistakes, said Sagstuen, an Edmonton, Alberta, native. Making sure they get back in one piece is how I make a difference, he said….

A Spirited Cook Dedicated to the Morale, and Stomachs, of Canadian and U.S. Troops in Southern Afghanistan
Story by Pvt. Luke Rollins, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Date: 12.09.2009

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WILSON, Afghanistan – An old military maxim says, “An army marches on its stomach, not its feet.” The Forward Operating Base Wilson dining facility has two armies, American and Canadian, to feed and keep marching to their missions in southern Afghanistan’s Zhari District.

The FOB Wilson dining facility features an all-military cooking team with members from the Canadian and American armies. Leading this team is Sgt. Karen Jones, a military cook with 23 years of service behind her.

“It’s been a unique experience for our American counterparts, because they’re not afforded the same kind of training or time on the kitchen decks that we are. We do this all the time as Canadians,” said Jones, whose home unit is 3 Area Support Group at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Under Canadian mentorship, Jones said, the Americans have done and learned things which many of their peers and seniors haven’t….

Again, What is the Future of Canada’s AFG Mission?

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First, the PM is quoted saying (confirmed via official text of speech released by PM’s office, and further reinforced by the same phrasing in Question Period 15 Sept 09):

“By 2011, when this military mission ends, our Canadian soldiers will have served there a decade on the front lines, much longer than during either of the world wars,” Harper said at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, which became a national cemetery earlier this year honouring Canada’s war dead from all conflicts.”

Then, the PM’s spokesperson is quoted saying:

“Canada will not extend its mission in Afghanistan even if President Barack Obama asks him to when the countries’ leaders meet this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said Monday.  Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas reiterated in a briefing Monday that Canada will withdraw its troops in 2011 …. “Canada’s position is clear,” Soudas said. “The military component of the mission ends in 2011.”

Now, we see these words in a news release that, I’m guessing, has been approved by everyone in the government food chain (including the Prime Minister and his team) about a program to allow easier immigration to Canada for Afghans at risk because their helping Canadians in Afghanistan:

“Successful applicants will receive health-care coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program as well as resettlement services similar to what is currently offered to government-assisted refugees, including up to 12 months of income support upon arrival in Canada. Applicants may apply under this program until the end of the Canadian combat mission in Kandahar in 2011.

Now, even the latest quarterly report on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan (PDF) has its own iteration:

“Under the House of Commons motion of March 13, 2008, the Canadian military presence in Kandahar is to end in 2011.”

The first two quotes, to me, mean “no more Canadian troops left in Afghanistan” by the end of 2011, while the last one can mean “no more troops fighting in Kandahar”.

All this, overlaid on top of the the wording of the March 2008 resolution of Parliament.

Yes, words matter.  And consistent words send a consistent message.

You wonder why Canadians just don’t get it?

– edited to add link to official text of PM’s speech and QP exchange –

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15 September 09 at 13:07

Where were our elected officials….

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….telling citizens about why Canada should be helping Afghanistan?

I’ve whined about this before here and here, but two recent statements by non-politicians draw the eye to how it COULD have been done.

1)  The Governor-General’s latest statement on the death of one of Canada’s fallen:

“To better appreciate our soldiers’ achievements on the ground, I met and spoke with a number of representatives from Afghan civil society, women and men who, faced with barbarity, are defending life in Afghanistan and fighting injustice and misery; these are the people we never—or rarely—hear from. The people of Afghanistan support progress, democracy, the reconstruction of peace, the rebuilding of their country, the respect of rights and freedoms, the equality of women, education and development, and Canada, in turn, supports their efforts and initiatives to promote viable Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.

They all told me that the actions of our soldiers to insure the security of the area and that the contributions being made by the Canadian International Development Agency and all other civil Canadian partners are helping them to move forward as they face the forces of destruction in their country.

At the Sayad Pacha elementary school, which Canada helped to build in Kandahar in 2008, the girls and boys clearly told me in their own words that their greatest concern was security, and that it was essential to rebuilding their country, devastated by decades of war, and crucial in order for them to achieve their dreams. They also told me how grateful they were to all the soldiers who expose themselves to danger to protect them. They see the soldiers at work, on patrol, looking for explosive devices, uncovering mines and defending communities from terrorist incursions, all at great risk to themselves. “

2)  Canada’s Task Force Afghanistan Brigadier General John Vance’s defence of the motivation of the troops (and concern over Senator Colin Kenny’s recent “this is Canada’s Vietnam” editorial), courtesy of the Canadian Press and the Globe & Mail:

“[Pte. Lormand] took a fatal strike where an Afghan family might have. He lived in the community so they knew the families he was protecting and they saw him as just that – a protector …. Neither (he) nor his family benefit from uninformed opinions about what his goals were and the techniques he used to achieve them …. The thousands of young, clear, determined eyes that remain wide open here in Kandahar are working hard every day to protect and stabilize the population – not an impossible mission, as some might suggest.”

Yet another reminder of whose job it is to explain why we’re there:

“Under the Canadian parliamentary system, ministers are accountable to the Prime Minister and to Parliament for presenting and explaining government policies, priorities and decisions to the public. Ministers, both individually and collectively as members of Cabinet, are the principal spokespersons for the Government of Canada and its institutions. It is their role to provide leadership in establishing the priorities and overall themes of government communications …. Ministers are the principal spokespersons of the Government of Canada …. Ministers present and explain government policies, priorities and decisions to the public.”

It could have been soooooooooo different.

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15 September 09 at 9:57

Time to Explain Why, What Happens Next

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So, if Canada’s “combat mission” ends in 2011, what the heck happens after that?  University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper raises some good points in this Canadian Press article:

“You don’t go to war because you like to fight. You go to war for political purpose …. The political purpose of having troops on the ground in Afghanistan has to be restated because people tend to forget.” And that message needs to be driven home, regardless of whether Ottawa sticks to its pullout deadline or not.

(Red bits:  direct quote from Prof. Cooper; green bits:  paraphrase by Canadian Press reporter)

“Driven home” by who, according to the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada?

“Ministers are the principal spokespersons of the Government of Canada. They are supported in this role by appointed aides, including executive assistants, communication directors and press secretaries in ministers’ offices, and by the senior management teams of government institutions, which include deputy heads, heads of communications and other officials.  Ministers present and explain government policies, priorities and decisions to the public.”

In spite of worries that it’s too late, it’s time to hear moreno matter what happens.

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9 August 09 at 15:09

Too Late to Sell Canadian Mission in Afghanistan?

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This, from CanWest bloggist Raphael Alexander:

“Canadians don’t have the stomach for a protracted war that sort of sounds like it might constitute the defence of Canada’s interests, but in the rather vague and peripheral view of global geopolitical security and stabilization …. Canadians just aren’t really “into” the mission. They don’t know much about it, they don’t care, and they don’t see the security threat or danger of withdrawal without knowing whether the mission has been a success or not. We could talk about the missed opportunities to communicate the reasons for the mission, or the media focus on casualties over progress, or any number of other factors that might have led to this malaise. The outcome remains unchanged: Canadians want out, and out we will go in 2011 …. (The) decision has been made already, and a long time ago. Not only in Parliament, but by the water coolers, in television rooms and on subway rides throughout Canada. For better or for worse, Canada will find a new mission in 2011, and you can bet it will be something with a fixed exit date, to satisfy all of our 10-second attention spans.”

More on coulda-shoulda-woulda been communicated more & better (and by whom) here.

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7 August 09 at 16:11