News Highlights – 29 Jun 11

  • Francis Roy, R.I.P.  Arriving home later today.
  • Afghanistan (1)  How one woman is supporting the troops, one letter at a time.
  • Afghanistan (2)  “…. Over the past few months, on many mornings just like this, Maj. Frederic Pruneau has scanned the landscape, so lush in the nourished floodplain of the Arghandab River, and wondered: “Where are you?’’ It’s not his own place in the sweep of Afghanistan that puzzles Pruneau. He knows where he stands and why, in a few days, he’ll be leaving as his parachute troops — Alpha Company of 3 Van Doos, attached to the 1st Van Doos for this mission — depart the area of operations, depart the country, Task Force Kandahar fading to black. Rather, it’s the enigmatic no-see-em insurgency that has Pruneau taking the lay of the land, sizing up the significance of an opponent that has largely gone AWOL in this, the second half of the Para tour. The traditional spring and summer terrorism surge in Panjwaii has not materialized, insurgency dialed down to a whimper hereabouts. Though hereabouts is, quite frankly, small — a mere 35 square kilometres, south of the river, less than half of the Panjwaii area formerly under Canadian jurisdiction, before this and neighbouring districts devolved to the incoming Americans ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  One soldier’s story, via
  • Afghanistan (4)  If this country ever sorts itself out, Canadians will be remembered for their role. But perhaps bureaucracy will have played a small part as well. On Monday, the Canadian Battle Group commander attended his final regional security meeting – a gathering known as a shura. It was Canada that pushed for the weekly round tables of the major international and Afghan players who are trying to defeat the insurgency. Checks and balances maintain order in developed countries like Canada, so why shouldn’t they be used in Afghanistan? ….”
  • Afghanistan (5)  As Canadian combat forces leave Kandahar this summer, Canada’s man in Kabul has also been saying his goodbyes in the capital. Bill Crosbie’s two-year term as Ottawa’s envoy to Afghanistan ends shortly. In a farewell interview with Postmedia News at Canada’s new embassy complex in Kabul, Crosbie said that the capital, Kandahar, and the country in general are more secure than when he arrived in 2009. He was immensely proud of what Canadian diplomats, other public servants and soldiers have achieved so far in Afghanistan in security and with signature projects such as the Dahla Dam, which brings water to farmers in Kandahar. But the Newfoundlander, who is a cousin of former Mulroney minister John Crosbie, fretted about the country’s future because Afghan leaders are not yet seized with the importance of developing national institutions and the rule of law ….”
  • Afghanistan (6)  More on the troops packing up (video, via the CF Info-Machine)
  • Afghanistan (7)  Each story about alleged abuse of Afghan detainees received almost the same response from the government: Officials scrutinized every fact of every story to determine what was needed to be done in response to the media coverage. The facts were laid out in spreadsheets with the claim, its veracity and government response listed. The coverage spurred an official response and that response in turn spurred more coverage. The tidbits of the role the media played in the Afghan detainee affair are buried within the more than 4,200 pages of documents released last week. They are also evidence of changes in international reporting that have forced governments to react quicker to stories available immediately to worldwide audiences ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  More assassinations, airfield shellings alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan & Zabul.
  • Private Alexander Johnston, 1885-1918, R.I.P.:  The Department of National Defence (DND) has identified the remains of a First World War soldier found in Raillencourt Saint-Olle, France, in 2008, as those of Private Alexander Johnston of Hamilton, Ontario …. In July 2008, human remains were discovered in Raillencourt Saint-Olle, France. Found with the remains were two collar badges of the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). The Directorate of History and Heritage was notified of the discovery in February 2009, and the remains were identified through mitochondrial DNA testing, as those of Private Johnston, on March 31, 2011 ….”  A bit more from The Canadian Press here.
  • What’s Canada Buying (1)  More EOD robots, apparently“The Canadian Army is planning on adding two new UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) to its family of EOD devices in an effort to continue the re-establishment of its EOD ROV capability. After ‘giving up’ on UGVs in 1995, the army has been moving towards re-developing its UGV capability, James Hewitt, director of combat support equipment management for the Canadian Forces, told the Military Robotics conference in London on 28 June. Working under a $(CAD)700 million equipment budget over eight years, the army plans to purchase two new UGVs to add to the four systems currently in service. ‘We’re building an inventory. That re-establishment is what’s really costing us,’ Hewitt told the conference. ‘You’ve got to spend a long time preparing for the introduction of the equipment. Basic UGV platforms do not change much, what does change are sensor packages, tools and accessories.’ The tender for the first – for a dismounted operations UGV system – is expected to be released by the end of 2011, and the requirements will include: a 5kg weight; the system to be throwable; the ability to fit into a soldier’s backpack; good camera outfit; and the ability to fire a recoilless disruptor. The second tender for a chemical, biological, reconnaissance, and nuclear (CBRN) reconnaissance UGV is expected at the end of 2012 and will call for a 75-100kg platform, which will therefore require a two or three man operation ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Sewer, water hook-up for proposed Chinook site in Petawawa, and research help figuring out bad guy’s psychology (via
  • Energy and water shortages combined with climate change could provoke wars within the next 15 years, warns an analysis by the Department of National Defence. “Global reserves of crude oil could become problematic by 2025,” wrote Maj. John Sheahan in a draft version of the report, Army 2040: First Look. He wrote that barring the discovery of significant new reserves and adequate adoption of alternative fuel sources, critical energy shortages could before 2025. “There can be little doubt that unrestricted access to reliable energy supplies is a global strategic issue, one for which, recently, numerous nations have been willing to fight, and have indeed done so,” said the report, released to Postmedia News through an Access to Information request. “Thus the trend that envisions depletion of fossil fuels such as crude oil in coming decades may also contribute to international tensions if not violent conflict.” ….”
Advertisement News Highlights – 27 Jun 11

  • Francis Roy, R.I.P.  Latest CF dead identified (CF statement here, another statement by Minister of National Defence here) – more here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
  • While I disagree with Rosie DiManno’s assessment that any in the CF committing suicide could be seen as “a traitor to his own kind and, at least in some quarters, viewed differently as a casualty of war”, this part disturbs me a bit:  “…. Master Corporal Roy’s colleagues and friends have been offered counseling by Padre Grahame Thompson, Task Force Kandahar senior chaplain and a major. Asked if any had availed themselves of his solacing, Thompson said last night: “To be truthful, none, not yet.” ” One hopes that people who need any kind of help will avail themselves of it.
  • Afghanistan (1):  The Canadian Press offers up this round-up of “the good, the bad and the ugly” of the mission.
  • Afghanistan (2):  Remember MP and former DefMin John McCallum suggesting Canadian troops may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan?  At least one columnist demands an apology now.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  At least 25 alleged killed, +7 “tanks” claimed destroyed in recent Taliban statements.
  • Open source information bibliography on Taliban anti-air claims and capabilities updated here.
  • Point, on how DND treats its war wounded, from the Winnipeg Free Press“Canadian military doctrine emphasizes flexibility and the ability to adapt to new circumstances, but when it comes to integrating wounded soldiers into the regular force, the generals and admirals at the National Defence Headquarters seem trapped in the past ….”
  • Counterpoint, on how DND treats its war wounded, from Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff (highlights mine):  “…. We will ensure our men and women in uniform who have sacrificed so much receive the very best medical treatment and support possible. Furthermore, I have directed that no service person who has been wounded in Afghanistan be released, unless they have personally initiated the release process themselves. I can also assure you the Canadian Forces provide all wounded-in-action personnel the necessary time and support needed to recover from their wounds. We will also assist them in seeking additional opportunities to transition with confidence to the next phase of their lives ….”
  • Libya Mission (1)  Winnipeg Free Press editorial:  “…. That there has been a civilian death toll resulting from the NATO involvement in Libya is not in dispute. Col. Gadhafi’s claim, however, has exacerbated anxieties that already existed within the NATO alliance that the United Nations authorized a no-fly zone over Libya to protect that country’s citizens from the atrocities committed by its megalomaniacal leader. Faltering members of the alliance are using this as justification for their apparently imminent withdrawal. Even some Canadians, who have a huge military investment in the Libyan operation, are now expressing doubts. Ending the operation, however, is not a useful option. It would simply mean that civilians who died have died in vain, as Col. Gadhafi resumes his dictatorship and exacts his revenge upon the rebels. Civilian casualties in Libya are martyrs, not victims. It is a Canadian responsibility to stay the course and to ensure that they were not martyred for no purpose.”
  • Libya Mission (2)  Funny how a lot of media focus on how firm the PM is with his caucus, but only a few outlets note Jack Layton weilding the no-longer-socialist whip across the floor, in this case regarding the recent Libyan mission extension vote.
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ship Edition  “…. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his ministers say on every occasion that the yards will be selected through a merit-based, transparent competition, and that officials will make the decisions on the basis of the proposals, not politics. They show every sign of meaning what they say, but the request for an extension ratchets up the pressure. One shipyard will get about $25 billion of the work, another will receive an $8-billion share, and the third will get table scraps. Three provinces have a lot riding on this, and there can be only two winners. Whichever premier loses will be more or less forced to complain bitterly and allege impropriety. It’s hard to keep the politics out of politics.”
  • Remember this idiot, taking a whizz on a war memorial in Ottawa a few years ago?  Measures are in place to keep this from happening again.

Francis Roy, CSOR, R.I.P.

This from DND:

Earlier today, Brigadier General Dean Milner, Commander, Joint Task Force Afghanistan announced the name of the Canadian Forces member who was found dead from non-combat related wounds on 25 June 2011.

Master Corporal Francis Roy from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment based at CFB Petawawa, Ontario, was serving in Afghanistan as a member of the Special Operations Task Force.

As the incident is presently under investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, no further details are available at this time ….

Condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of the fallen.  We mourn with you. News Highlights – 30 Mar 11

  • Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, Royal 22e Régiment, R.I.P. Arriving back in Canada this afternoon – more here.
  • Libya Ops (1) – Canadian General says all good to go in transfer of ops to NATO command.
  • Libya Ops (2) – American General on who’s in charge of what in Libya, the short version (“#NATO is now in charge of ALL military operations in #Libya: Humanitarian, Arms Embargo, No-Fly Zone, and Protection of Civilians.”) and the longer version.
  • Libya Ops (3) – Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya required four sorties by NATO aircraft in the past 24 hours, the Pentagon said Tuesday. As of 1000 GMT (6am EDT Tuesday), NATO carried out four flights to police the no-fly zone against the Libyan regime, along with four other sorties in support of the mission, according to information released by the Pentagon. The figures followed comments from US and allied commanders that the regime’s air defenses have been knocked out in earlier coalition raids, with Moamer Kadhafi’s aircraft effectively shut down under a no-fly zone now firmly in place. The four no-fly zone sorties were flown by Canada and Spain, using F-18 fighter jets, said a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ….”
  • Libya Ops (4) – Guess which Foreign Affairs Minister wasn’t at a big meeting on Libya this week?
  • Libya Ops (5) – TorStar columnist“The life and death issue that no major party leader wants to talk about in this election campaign is war. Canada is involved in two now. But to listen to the leaders you’d never know. Our latest war is being waged against Libya. Like the endless adventure in Afghanistan, this one, too, slipped by beneath the radar of public consciousness. Yes, there was a debate of sorts in Parliament. But it was short and perfunctory. The Conservative government and all three opposition parties agreed that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is a bad dude, that the United Nations was right to authorize attacks against his country and that Canadian fighter jets should join in with gusto. Then they got back to the real business of Canadian politics: slagging one another over which party is the most dishonest ….”
  • One man’s “gag order” is another man’s “be very careful what you say during an election campaign.”The federal government has restricted media interviews of officials in Afghanistan because of the election campaign, a move that one critic says hampers the public’s understanding of Canada’s mission in the war-torn country. The restrictions became known after The Canadian Press requested an interview this week with Tim Martin, Canada’s top diplomat in Kandahar. The request was for a story about a transfer of command ceremony that took place Tuesday at Camp Nathan Smith on the outskirts of Kandahar city. Such events happen from time to time and Tuesday’s ceremony was expected to mark a major milestone as Canada was set to hand over command of the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s training centre to Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior and NATO forces …. A spokesman for the Canadian International Development Agency rejected the interview request, saying Martin would not be granting interviews in the duration of the five-week election campaign. Adam Sweet said an order was in effect restricting federal officials from talking to the media aimed at preventing them from making public comments that could influence, or appear to influence, the outcome of the election. “We act with as much restraint as possible, confining ourselves to public business and this rule applies to our communications activities as well,” Sweet said. Nina Chiarelli, the acting director of communications for the prime minister, denied there was an order in place that prevented federal officials from speaking with reporters. But she said communications with the media are restricted during an election ….”
  • Former OMLT’eer Bruce Ralston sounds off on his blog about the recent Rolling Stones article on American soldiers accused of assassinating innocent Afghans“…. Like the vast majority of soldiers in the theatre, these sick little f__ks had as little contact as possible throughout their tour with local nationals, who were about as real to them as sprites in a video game. This was a predictable consequence of all the distance we have put in this military context between Us and Them, the “Them” in this case being the people we were sent to protect. Our whole approach to force protection, with all of its interacting with the host nation only across razor wire or through gunsights, is a concomitant cause of these atrocities ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff promised Monday to re-examine a deal to buy the next-generation F-35 stealth fighter plane, but military experts say it would be pointless for a Liberal government to hold a “fly-off” competition to replace Canada’s deteriorating CF-18 fighter-bombers given that there is no alternative that would suit the Canadian Forces’ needs. “We are going to replace the CF-18 -we care about the sovereignty of Canada. But we’ve got time to get this right. [The Conservatives] tried to hustle the country into a purchase without a competitive process” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) –  New fighter jets Canada plans to buy will be more than $100 million each — at least $25 million more per plane than government estimates — according to a top U.S. budget watchdog. Conservative government officials have said 65 new joint strike fighters being built to replace Canada’s F-18 jets will cost about $75 million each, about $9 billion with training and an additional $200-$300 million a year in maintenance. But Mike Sullivan, director of acquisition management at the US General Accountability Office, said he doesn’t know where that estimate comes from. “That’s not a number that I am familiar with at all,” he said in an interview Tuesday with CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, cautioning he hasn’t seen the methodology behind the numbers. Sullivan said the estimated cost of the F-35A model that Canada is buying is “in the low 100 millions.” “Probably somewhere between $110-115 million,” he said. A prominent Conservative admitted to CBC that the cost of the F-35 fight jets might not be as the government has promised. Earlier on Power & Politics, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn said Canada is buying the planes at the peak of their production, making them cheaper than the $133 million the U.S. estimates their jets will cost. Hawn also said the $133 million estimate is an average of three models being built, of which the Canadian jet is the cheapest ….”
  • Poochies helping Canada’s wounded warriors.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Lockheed Martin Canada gets big (+$22M) gig building battle simulators for Gagetown, Valcartier, Petawawa and Wainwright.
  • A bit of plaid military history being made. “An elite unit of Second World War commandos with a reputation for daring and stealth that earned it the nickname The Black Devils are being honoured with the creation of an original Scottish tartan. A new tartan design will be officially filed with the Scottish national tartan registry for the First Special Service Force, a Canadian-American unit created in 1942 and disbanded after barely a year of intense warfare. The creation of the tartan is being spearheaded by the Helena, Montana-based Shining Thistle Pipe Band and the First Special Service Force Association, which represents the remaining members of the unit and their descendants. The force trained at Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena before heading into combat. “We want to not only recognize and honour them, but to hear their stories before they are lost,” said Bill Woon, the executive director of the association and the son of a Canadian member of the commando unit ….” FYI, today’s Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) perpetuates the Canadian element of the First Special Service Force.
  • More class acts from a classy guy (and an… interesting interpretation of the military environment from an unidentified source). Police found child porn on serial sex criminal Russell Williams’ computer but laid no charges in exchange for him pleading guilty to murder and sexual assault, a new book says. The former commander of Canada’s largest military airfield wouldn’t admit to downloading pictures of teenaged girls in sexual positions, Globe and Mail reporter Timothy Appleby writes in “A New Kind of Monster.” A source quoted in the book said Williams couldn’t face the stigma attached to child pornography, though he was willing to plead guilty to murder, rape and a series of bizarre sexually motivated break-ins. “This is a guy who structured his life around how he saw others act, and that’s how his morality base came about,” said the source, who was involved in the case. “In the military, you can kill people, it’s accepted … it’s within the realm of human behaviour. And in war, rape is within that realm as well. The one thing that isn’t, and stands outside that, is (sexual abuse of) children.” ….” Note to book author Tim Appleby and whoever his source is:  if the source is quoted correctly, and if the source really thinks this, s/he’s wrong.  Rape is NEVER acceptable in any context in the CF, and killing is ONLY to be carried out when following accepted rules of engagement (usually as a measure of last resort).  If this reflects what the source thinks, that source is sadly mistaken. News Highlights – 8 Feb 11