MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Jul 11

  • Manitoba/flood  Here’s hoping for a speedy and full recovery for all concerned Five Shilo, Man.-based military personnel and one civilian volunteer were injured Monday afternoon while working on flood-protection measures in the Souris, Man., area. A military spokesman said the soldiers and volunteer were resting about 3:30 p.m. when a hose blew on a dump truck, spraying hydraulic fluid onto them. All were taken for assessment medical treatment in Brandon, Man., but the extent of their injuries was unknown. The five soldiers are all new recruits, the spokesman said. Those injured were working along Plum Creek, a tributary of the rising Souris River, to shore up dikes ….”  More here.
  • Afghanistan (1a)  “It’s wrapping up” theme continues.  “Canadian troops formally end five years of combat and counterinsurgency in the dust-blown badlands of southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, heading home in the midst of a guerrilla war of steadily intensifying violence. They do not leave with any illusions that they have done more than create some breathing space for the Afghan government to assert itself. Nor do they venture any predictions beyond saying that they may have weakened, perhaps only fleetingly, the resilient Taliban insurgency. That realism is perhaps their strongest legacy for the allies who will continue the fight ….”
  • Afghanistan (1b)  “Canada’s desert war came to an end Tuesday when soldiers of the Royal 22e Regiment stood down and formally handed over their battlefield to American units. The country’s legal command responsibility for the western Kandahar district of Panjwaii will continue for several days, but Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner’s headquarters will be directing U.S. combat units. Almost all Canadian troops are now out of the killing fields of Kandahar, save for a handful of soldiers who will serve for a few more weeks, but attached to American platoons. Parliament ordered an end to the Canadian combat mission in southern Afghanistan back in 2008 and set July 2011 as the deadline. The Conservative government has since announced that 950 soldiers and support staff will carry out a training mission in the Afghan capital until 2014 ….”
  • Afghainstan (1c)After nine years, 157 troop deaths and more than $11 billion spent, Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan finally comes to an end this week. With popular support for the war sapped at home, some of the nearly 3,000 Canadian troops, based mainly in the dangerous battleground of Kandahar, have already started returning from Afghanistan, and the rest will follow soon. The official end of Canada’s hard-fought mission, which began in early 2002 a few months after the US-led invasion of the country, comes Thursday, and as other countries also announce partial troop withdrawals from the Afghan theatre as Western voters tire of nearly a decade of war ….”
  • Afghanistan (1d)  More on the “yard sale” of Canadian equipment.
  • Afghanistan (2)  The Afghan people know what this combat mission has cost Canada — and especially the families of our fallen troops — assures Kandahar’s provincial governor. In an exclusive interview with QMI Agency, Dr. Toryalai Wisa, a Afghan-Canadian academic who oversees the area our combat soldiers will soon be pulling out of, says the level of sacrifice is understood. Wisa recalls conversations he’s had with family members of dead Canadian soldiers: “My heart is still with them — I express my very deep, deep appreciation from the bottom of my heart. “(Canadians) did not spend only the taxpayers money here…they have sacrificed their youth here.” The governor added: “We shall never forget that. That will be part of Kandahar history.” But Wisa complains that while the Afghan people herald the toil of Canadians, the message seems lost before it reaches North America ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Some day, if this country is truly lucky, it may be teaching school children about the role Canada played here. If it does, along with the stories of blood and battle, the history lessons should include the oh-so-very Canadian projects pulled off across a battlefield — from paved roads to bridges to a new ministry building that now sits ready for Afghan officials to use. Since April of last year, the Canadian Engineer Regiment for Task Force Kandahar (TFK) has helped oversee an estimated $51.5-million in projects. For now, it’s enough that a refurbished school set close to the peaks of the Mar Khaneh Ghar mountain range is slated to open again in the fall. Until recently, it was filled with Afghan police officers using it as a secure sub-station next to a busy road. The Canadian military helped prepare a new fortified position — constructed by an Afghan contractor — for them next door and then renovated the centre for local kids. It features a playground — almost unheard of here — and a soccer field ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  One columnist’s view on helping the wounded:  “…. with the Conservatives looking for $4 billion in budget cuts, and given the track record of the military as a source of easy “savings,” it will be up to the Canadian public to make it clear that veterans’ compensation needs to go up — not down. Our soldiers’ sacrifice in Afghanistan will not be worth the price if they are not cared for with all the resources that a prosperous, grateful nation can provide.”
  • Afghanistan (5)  On the plan to bring Afghan interpreters to Canada“…. The federal government should stop blaming slow bureaucracy for allowing only a trickle of Afghans who worked with our Forces to find a new life in Canada. The requirement they show proof that the Taliban could harm them and their families is difficult and objectionable: that they have been working with Canada in the midst of a civil war for at least a year should be condition enough. Kenney should have his department look at ways of immediately speeding up visas, especially as the program draws to a close. The Americans, British, Australians and Danes have eased immigration rules for their Afghan aides. Leaving Sharifi, Zobaidi and others who helped us at risk to their own safety in administrative limbo is irresponsible. We owe them our soldiers’ lives.”
  • Afghanistan (6)  What snipers do“Breathe calmly, slow the heart rate, squint the eye and slowly, with gentle pressure, squeeze the trigger. With the Tac-50 bolt-action rifle, too heavy to lift and aim — even for hard-bodies — the shooter rests the weapon on a bipod and, optimally, flattens his rib cage against the ground at a slight incline. The 50-calibre bullet — size of a Tootsie roll — will hurtle out of the internally fluted barrel, rotating fiercely, and heave infinitesimally to the right, what’s call the spin-drift. Shooter and spotter will have corrected for that, and also the wind currents, the distance, the ambient temperature. Bullets go faster in high heat. The target — the victim — will feel that bullet before he hears it. And it will kill him. Less than a second and one “bad guy’’ removed, with no collateral damage done. No mental anguish either, for killing a fellow human being. For snipers, it’s the job. Their motto: “Without warning, without remorse”….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Zabul and Taliban disses Afghanistan’s Parliament.
  • CF-Royals Link (1)  Remember the talk about the PM’s office wanting the PM’s plane (a CF CC-150 Polaris) painted a prettier colour?  The Royal Visit has one “top government official” saying the current grey paint scheme makes it look like it like something “belonging to a third-world country.”  Could that person the media isn’t naming perhaps be from the PMO wanting a nice, pretty PM’s own “Air Force One”?
  • CF-Royals Link (2)  Prince William enjoyed showing off his military helicopter training with his first-ever water landing Monday to the delight of anxious crowds in Canada, where he and his wife, Kate, have been on their first official overseas trip since their wedding. The Duke of Cambridge climbed into the cockpit of a Sea King helicopter for the military training exercise at Dalvay by-the-Sea, a scenic resort along Prince Edward Island’s north shore. Prince William, a Royal Air Force rescue helicopter pilot, requested the simulated emergency landing procedure. Dressed in an olive flight suit and helmet, the prince settled the large helicopter on the water several times over the course of an hour. From the water, William piloted several takeoffs and hovered in the air before executing dual- and single-engine landings before taxiing around as Kate watched from the ground ….”  More on the check ride here, here and here.
  • Way Up North (1)  Canada’s latest military exercise in the Far North comes as the country is under growing pressure to keep up with other countries in an Arctic arms race. “You’re seeing a buildup of capabilities that simply hasn’t been there before, period,” said Rob Huebert, University of Calgary Arctic security expert. Canada’s northern neighbours have been very busy in the Arctic amid sometimes competing jurisdictional claims. Huebert notes the U.S. and Russia have increased submarine activity in the Far North, Sweden has mused about increasing its submarine capability, and Norway is looking to counter Russian air and sea power in the area ….”
  • Way Up North (2) “…. the question must be asked, are we headed for a confrontation with the Russians military or otherwise? It’s a distinct possibility depending on how the United Nations rules on who can actually lay claim to the Arctic’s resources and how much parties like Russia, Denmark and Canada are willing to negotiate. But if history provides any examples, oil tends to bring out the worst in people.”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Canada seeking someone to fly planes to simulate bad guys of various kinds, and Canada planning to offer CAE contract for upgrade of Hercules simulator hardware and software.
  • One columnist’s view of what to keep in mind about the future of the CF:  “…. Canadians don’t know when their military will be called upon next, or what they will be asked to do — so it must be prepared for anything. Granted, this is expensive. But the same planes that were bought to deliver equipment to soldiers in Afghanistan saved civilian lives in Haiti. Being prepared is half the battle. We can’t forget that, or accept arguments suggesting that the Canadian Forces no longer need the public’s support or continuing modernization. Even in these times of budgetary pressure, the one thing that we truly cannot afford is to forget the lessons learned in Kandahar. Nickel and diming ourselves into another decade of darkness will exact too high a price: the blood of Canadian soldiers in future conflicts. Putting the military on the back burner means death on the battlefield — a cost no Canadian or Canadian government should be willing to pay.”
  • A historian’s reminder:  “…. In peacetime, soldiers are routinely scorned. Rudyard Kipling’s Tommy captured this more than a century ago: “O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy, go away’; But it’s ‘Thank you, Mister Atkins,’ when the band begins to play.” We all hope that after Afghanistan and Libya, the band won’t begin to play for a long time. But if it does, (critics of the Canadian Forces) can expect that Canada’s Tommies will be there to protect (their) freedom.”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Jul 11

  • Troops headed to Manitoba to help with floods – again.  “The Government of Canada is sending approximately 200 Canadian Forces personnel to the town of Souris, Manitoba today to assist provincial and municipal authorities in reinforcing flood control measures along the Souris River …. Canada Command’s Joint Task Force West, headquartered in Edmonton, will be coordinating the Canadian Forces assistance effort and work closely with regional authorities to contain and control the flooding. As the Souris river is expected to crest in the next few days, the soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI) and 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA), CFB Shilo, will place sandbags to reinforce the dikes over the affected area ….”  More here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  CDS tells troops to help their colleagues“Canada’s top commander attempted to bind fresh and old wounds on Saturday when he bid farewell to combat troops in Kandahar. Gen. Walt Natynczyk, in his final address before the formal end of operations, urged returning soldiers to watch their “battle buddies” and take care of each other as they begin the long journey back to regular life at home. His remarks had a poignant ring for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Regiment, as two of the four deaths in the last combat tour were suspected suicides. Military police are still investigating the cases of Bombardier Karl Manning and Cpl. Francis Roy — both who were found dead of non-battle related injuries over the last month, just before the end of their seven month tours ….”
  • Christopher Reid, 1971-2006, R.I.P.A mother of an Edmonton-based soldier killed in a deadly blast from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan says she is proud of Canada’s mission as troops are preparing to come home. “All of what the soldiers fought for is to make things better in Afghanistan,” said Angela Reid, 64, who lost her son, 34-year-old Cpl. Christopher Johnathan Reid to a roadside bomb in Aug. 3, 2006. “The soldiers have made some headway when they went over there. Afghanistan was in dire straights before they arrived.” ….”
  • Nathan Hornburg, 1983-2007, R.I.P.  “When triumph and tragedy bleed together, it’s a little bittersweet. That’s how some family members of soldiers’ who’ve served and died in Afghanistan view this month’s end to Canada’s combat mission in that country. Then there is the lingering question — was it all worth it? “Something that keeps coming up for me, when I think about all of the heartache and about my own son, is just the waste (of human life) with all of this craziness, starting way back with the attacks on the World Trade Centre,” said Michael Hornburg, father of Calgarian Cpl. Nathan Hornburg, who died in combat trying to rescue a disabled tank Sept. 24, 2007. “Hopefully it will be (worth it) for Afghanistan, but certainly not for me personally … nothing would have been worth it for me (if I could) still have him here with me.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Rex Murphy shares his thoughts“…. It may be unpalatable to admit it, but we are starting to end our presence in Afghanistan with neither victory, the only real end of wars even in our enlightened day, nor the fulfillment of those broader and noble pledges toward rebuilding that sad country we made early on.”
  • Afghanistan (3)  More on the “packing up to leave” theme.  “A mammoth operation is underway in Kandahar — not to boost security in the area but to tear down the facilities that have housed much of Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan. Work crews are readying a huge amount of equipment to be shipped home thousands of kilometres away. It’s a formidable task, and part of a transition that will see U.S. forces take over security responsibilities in Kandahar province as Canadian combat troops pull out of the war-torn country. Everything from dust filters to armoured vehicles need to be cleaned, fumigated, bar-coded and categorized before they’re packed up ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Daikondi.
  • From Afghanistan to the Arctic“While Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar is in its last days, a new training mission has started in Kabul, Canadian fighter aircraft are making daily bombing runs against Libya, and now the armed forces is preparing to send more than 1,000 troops on a huge exercise in the High Arctic next month. “It will be the largest operation that has taken place in recent history,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Saturday, moments after bidding an emotional farewell to combat troops now leaving Kandahar. “All of this is very much about enlarging the footprint and the permanent and seasonal presence we have in the North. It is something that we as a government intend to keep investing in.” Exercise Nanook is to play out in several phases on and near Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island throughout August. It will involve CF-18 fighter jets as well as surveillance and transport aircraft, a warship, infantry companies from Quebec and Alberta and 5 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group — Inuit reservists who have broad experience surviving in the extremely austere environment of the Far North ….”  A Russian media take on this here, and more on Canada’s military in the Arctic here.
  • New bosses for the Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment, 17 Wing Winnipeg, 429 Transport Squadron, 22 Wing North Bay, 722 Air Control Squadron, 51 Aerospace Control and Warning (Operational Training) Squadron and Land Force Central Area Training Centre Meaford.
  • CF-Royals Link  As Master Cpl. Jody Mitic stood chatting with Prince William, his young daughter seemed unfazed to be in the presence of royalty. Perhaps that’s because to her family, Mitic wasn’t necessarily talking to a future monarch, but to someone more like himself. He’s been through all the same training. Just because they’re royals doesn’t mean they don’t have to do the basic training,” said Mitic. “In our opinion, it’s a brotherhood.” Both William and his younger brother Harry are military men. William is a search-and-rescue pilot and Harry has served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He also did some of his training in Alberta. William’s wife Kate also has a connection to the Canadian military; her grandfather trained military pilots in Alberta. The royal couple have made a specific effort to meet veterans over the course of their Canadian tour ….”
  • Royal Kate gets it“The Duchess of Cambridge fears that Prince William will have an accident on a risky helicopter rescue mission …. She opened her heart about her concerns to a military wife on the couple’s royal tour of Canada. Kate said: ‘I always worry, but my job is to support my husband. You should always support your husband.’ She revealed her worries after laying wreaths with William on the tomb of the unknown soldier at Ottawa’s war memorial …. after paying respects to Canada’s war dead, the 29-year-old Duchess spoke to former army private Celine Drapeau. Celine, 52, told her she worried for the safety of her husband, a military policeman, who was away for long periods. ‘You always fear for them not knowing if something is going to happen and it can be very hard.’ Celine said later that she thought it was ‘very brave’ of Kate to reveal her true feelings and it was a ‘great comfort’ to know she understood the fears of service families ….”  More here.
  • New, purpler prose attacking Canada’s plans for “foreign bases,” courtesy of the Canadian Peace Congress.  “The Canadian Peace Congress condemns and calls for an immediate halt to the Canadian government’s negotiations for military basing rights as part of the Operational Support Hubs Network, and abrogating and renouncing rights already negotiated with Germany and Jamaica. As Defence Minister Peter MacKay has already admitted, Canada’s “military tempo” is at the highest levels since the Korean War. Instead of opening the way for more bombings and destruction with basing rights spread throughout the world, Canada should reverse its military aggression, which is only in the interests of an imperialist minority and against the interests of the peace-loving majority. The basing agreements allow the Canadian military to enter other countries at any time, violating the sovereignty of the host country, in order to rain death and destruction on a third country ….”
  • In an out-of-the-way spot in an old Dutch cemetery, there’s a place that is forever New Brunswick. Anyone visiting the Gorinchem cemetery from this province could pick it out immediately: a small New Brunswick flag is there, and, at the base of the white headstone, a painted rock from McLaren’s Beach in Saint John. Buried in the grave is the body of Harold Magnusson, a 22-year-old from Saint John who was killed in 1944 in the operation immortalized in book and film as A Bridge Too Far. But the mystery of his burial in a civilian cemetery far from the horrors of Arnhem has created a bridge of a different sort for a Dutch woman who has used the story to reach across time and distance to Canadians. “It was as if someone tapped me on the shoulder when I walked into that cemetery and said ‘Solve this puzzle,’ ” Alice van Bekkum said in an interview during a recent visit to New Brunswick. “I became gripped by the story and it has led to wonderful new friendships … I got involved with Magnusson, and I fell in love with Canada ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Jul 11