Helping wounded warriors. “Gary Vienneau has seen first hand how the family is affected when a soldier in the Canadian Forces comes home with an injury. “There are really two casualties – the CF member and the family,” he says. As coordinator of the Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) that serves communities across Southwestern Ontario, Vienneau has seen first hand the physical and psychological injuries that troops can bring home when they have been deployed. He works closely with a range of service providers that assist with post-deployment transitions, both for the soldier and for their family members ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War The “glass is half empty” assessment of the Joint Strike Fighter project in the U.S.“…. test flights for the newer F-35 were suspended, too, because of a valve problem in the plane’s integrated power package. It’s the third time this year that JSFs have been grounded. Tests may resume as early as next week. Then again, they may not. Yesterday, the U.S. military committed to spending another $535 million to buy 38 more Joint Strike Fighters — a family of stealth jets that are supposed to become the multipurpose, affordable workhorses of tomorrow’s fleet. Ninety percent of America’s combat aviation power is eventually supposed to come from the jets’ three variants. But the jets have been anything but cheap. The current cost for the JSF program is $382 billion and rising for more than 2,400 aircraft. No wonder just about every major deficit reduction plan scales back the JSF effort in some way. And, at the moment, they’re not producing any combat power, either. Back in 2002, the plan was to have more than 90 JSFs flying by next year. As things currently stand, the Air Force and Navy might not get their variants until 2016. The Marines — who knows? ….”
Way Up North “It took a major Arctic military exercise to help thaw old Cold War suspicions between Canada, the U.S. and Russia, according to a Canadian Forces report. And despite an “immense” language barrier, the Department of National Defence heralded the success of last summer’s groundbreaking joint exercise with its former Cold War adversary. The report offers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes tensions that led up to the historic attempt at military co-operation, dubbed Exercise Vigilant Eagle. It comes as the second version of Vigilant Eagle took place this week in Alaskan airspace. The exercise was originally set for 2008 but had to be cancelled when relations between Russia and the West plummeted after Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Georgia ….”
CF budget worries (maybe unwarranted)? “A fear is haunting the defence community and the Canadian Forces; fear of deep cuts to the defence budget. These fears are largely unwarranted. The current reductions called for in the 2011 budget are far from unique to Canada. Instead, the cuts follow the example of the United States and Great Britain in calling for restraint and an overall reduction in spending over the coming years. The trepidation throughout the defence community is that we are headed for the massive cuts that defined the so-called “decade of darkness,” but after a close look at the numbers these concerns seem to be largely unfounded. Yet, the budget still hangs ominously as the defence community has already seen budget cuts, didn’t like it and don’t want to go through it again ….”
Kicking War Criminals Outta Canada: Amnesty International’s point to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s counterpoint – more here.
“The government has enlisted Crime Stoppers to help create a large-scale, most-wanted list for fugitives sought for deportation. In an interview with Postmedia News, Public Safety Minster Vic Toews said his department is still in discussions to expand its list of 30 suspected war criminals to become a much broader list for individuals convicted of crimes both in Canada and abroad. Toews said there were a number of things left to consider before the Canada Border Services Agency moves forward with expanding its most-wanted list. “Are there partnerships that we need to establish in order to make this effective? Could we put more than 30 on the list? Could we highlight a few hundred (individuals), for example. What is the impact from a public communications point of view if you put on too many?” he said. Toews said this is where Crime Stoppers, a non-profit organization that solicits the public’s help in solving crimes, comes in ….”
More non-surprises about the C.I.A. keeping an eye on neighbours as well as bad guys. “The Central Intelligence Agency closely tracked Canadian satellite and imaging research during the Cold War as part of the U.S. spy agency’s efforts to keep apace of global technology advances, declassified records show. The CIA saw Canada’s fledgling telecommunications satellite network as an influential project that would set the standard for other nations planning to launch their own systems. The agency also took a special interest in research by an Ottawa university on Soviet commercial enterprises, reveals a still heavily censored memorandum. The records are among several CIA reports and memos dealing with Canada that were released to The Canadian Press under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The CIA drafted a confidential 1972 intelligence memo on Canada’s Telesat communications system and attended high-tech mapping conferences in Ottawa and Montreal the same year ….”
No Fly Zone Libya (2) – Who’s who in the OP Odyssey Dawn zoo (including HMCS Charlottetown in the Med, and 6 x CF-18’s), courtesy of Reuters and the Associated Press.
No Fly Zone Libya (3) – PM Harper’s latest statement: “…. Canadian aircraft and HMCS Charlottetown have joined an international force assembling in the region. Faced with the threat of military action, the regime proclaimed a ceasefire. But the ceasefire was a lie, an obvious lie from the beginning. The facts on the ground are changing in the opposite direction. Canada has said, and leaders have agreed, that we must act urgently. “We must help the Libyan people, help them now, or the threat to them and to the stability of the whole region will only increase. “We must also ensure humanitarian needs are met, and that the humanitarian appeal is fully subscribed. “Finally, we should all acknowledge that ultimately, only the Libyan people can or should decide their future. “But we all have a mutual interest in their peaceful transition to a better future.”
More from the PM: “Canada needs to move quickly but tread carefully as it engages in “acts of war” against a defiant Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his brutal regime, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “We should not kid ourselves. Whenever you engage in military action, essentially acts of war, these are difficult situations,” Harper told reporters in Paris on Saturday following an emergency summit on the crisis in Libya, during which international partners, led by France, agreed to turn the screws on the dangerous despot. “We need to monitor this very closely and be very careful what we do every step of the way,” Harper said ….”
Commentary on Canadian-built LAVs being used by Saudi Arabia to help, uh, sort things out in Bahrain: “…. It does regrettably tend to put Canada’s support for “Responsibility to Protect” policies in the Middle East these days in something of a different light. And yes, at around 2:30 in the video you see the distinctive boat hulls of LAVs, most with the 90mm main gun armament that is unique to the Saudi variant. Made in Canada? Yes, most likely …. This is not, however, an issue that any party courting the Ontario auto union vote is likely ever to bring up to the public, so this shouldn’t be an issue, at least until one of the Saudi drivers runs over a news crew or something.”
More parents of the fallen visit Afghanistan seeking some closure.“The families of 10 Canadians killed in Afghanistan paid tribute Sunday to their loved ones in what could be the last ceremony of its kind before combat operations end in the war-torn country. A next-of-kin memorial service was held at Kandahar Airfield’s Canadian compound. The parents, spouses and siblings of those killed placed wreaths at the foot of the monument dedicated to Canadians who have died as part of the Afghan mission. The father of Capt. Nichola Goddard, who was the first Canadian woman to be killed in action while serving in a combat role, said he felt compelled to visit Kandahar. “For me, it was quite peaceful, more than I anticipated,” Tim Goddard said ….”
What the troops are up to in Afghanistan: “A glance at a map of the Panjwai District tells you where the river is, because that’s where the people are. Villages speckle the landscape around the Arghandab River and its dozens of tributaries, which provide the irrigation water that makes agriculture possible. In winter, when the area receives almost its entire annual rainfall, streams swell with run-off from the mountains and the soil becomes saturated. Unless drainage is provided, many houses are damaged. When the District Governor received a petition from residents of Bazaar-e-Panjwa’i for help with recurring flood damage, he asked ISAF Regional Command (South) for engineering support to execute a drainage control project. Panjwai District is in the Task Force Kandahar (TFK) area of responsibility, so the project came to the TFK Engineer Regiment — specifically, the Engineer Construction Squadron (ECS), the regiment’s project management team ….”
No-Fly Zone Libya (2) – More on Canada’s F-18’s headed into the fight, from unnamed sources. “A source told the Ottawa Citizen Thursday night that six CF-18s originally tasked for a NATO patrol off Iceland have now been ordered to take part in the Libyan mission ….” (Postmedia News) More, from unnamed sources: “Canada is poised to send in fighter jets to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, defence sources told The Canadian Press. Six CF-18 fighter-bombers are being readied at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville, Que. and are expected to deploy overseas once the Harper government gives the official green light ….” (Canadian Press) Yet more from unnamed sources: “The six CF-18 fighter jets Canada is sending to help enforce the new United Nations no-fly zone over Libya could leave as early as Friday to join an assembling international force, and will be based out of Southern Europe, possibly Italy. Ottawa will also send between 120 and 200 military personnel to support the planes …..” One more version from unnamed sources: “Canada is expected to announce that it will deploy six CF-18 fighter jets to help enforce the UN’s just-approved no-fly zone over Libya, CBC News has learned. The jets would take at least 24 hours to arrive at their destination, which has yet to be determined, but defence sources told CBC that Malta and Italy were possibilities. Between 100 and 200 support personnel would be involved, the sources said, adding the announcement was imminent ….” (CBC.ca). Here’s some background information on the CF-188 Hornet, and on 425 Squadron based in Bagotville.
Advice to Libyan insurgents, from Canada’s man at the US Army/USMC Counterinsurgency Center: “…. You have lost round one. Disperse and hide your weapons and ammo- you will need them in the future. Get organized – figure out who’s in charge and who has the plan. Get some external support – a lot of countries have a beef with Kadhafi. Exploit that. Get some training- learn to move, shoot and communicate. Get disciplined – we all want to be Che but you need some Sgt Rocks too. Dig in. Come back to fight another day, but this time try the indirect approach – the guerrilla approach. Don’t go conventional until you are ready – insurgencies lose because they move too fast. Read your Mao and Michael Collins – learn the lessons from someone else’s past ….”
Canada’s Defence Minister on Afghanistan (1) – I’m back!
Canada’s Defence Minister on Afghanistan (2) – A few more details about Canada’s “Kabul-centred” mission later this year.“In addition to lessons on marksmanship and bomb detection, Canadian soldiers will be teaching Afghan forces to read, write and practice medicine when the country’s new training mission begins later this year. Exactly when and where that instruction will occur remains undecided, but Defence Minister Peter MacKay promised quick answers during a visit to Kandahar Airfield on Thursday. The airbase was the final stop on a four-day Afghanistan tour for the minister and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, during which they scouted places where the troop trainers could be stationed. “The determination has yet to be made as to the exact numbers and configuration and location but I’ll tell you I’m able to go back now with a much more informed view and make a recommendation to the cabinet and the prime minister for a final decision,” MacKay said. “There is some urgency. We clearly recognize that the sooner we can get on with having trainers in place, the more this will increase our ability to give the Afghans capacity.” ….” More from the Canadian Press here.
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – “The Defence Department has joined the Harper government in questioning the credibility of the parliamentary budget officer’s report on the costs of stealth jet fighter program. A top military official said Thursday the cost of buying 65 high-tech fighters would be about $15 billion over 20 years, including maintenance costs. That differs from the recent report of PBO Kevin Page that pegged the entire cost to taxpayers at $22.6 billion over 20 years. Page has been a thorn in the side of the Conservative government. His fighter jet assessment was criticized by Laurie Hawn, the junior defence minister, who called it speculative and illogical. Dan Ross, a Defence Department assistant deputy, said Thursday the military has requested a meeting with Page’s office to discuss his figures. Ross told a briefing at Defence Department headquarters in Ottawa that the PBO made a “mathematical error” in calculating the unit cost of the planes, and that its maintenance numbers were off too. His briefing was augmented by an array of slides, and documentation that was distributed to journalists ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – You want the our cost figures? Here you go, then. “The federal government has finally made public a detailed cost estimate for its controversial F-35 fighter jet purchase in the wake of a committee hearing examining whether the Conservatives may be in contempt of Parliament for failing to disclose the material. The document dump follows a similar one a day earlier in which the government tabled a cost breakdown for its package of anti-crime bills. Some 55 F-35-related documents were apparently tabled before the Parliamentary Procedure and House Affairs Committee Thursday, however, those inside the committee room were not immediately aware of it. Shortly after, Dan Ross, the defence department’s assistant deputy minister of materiel, met with reporters to explain the cost breakdown, its methodology and to offer a few more details about why government figures differ from those released last week by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page ….”
Oopsie (2) – Someone Postmedia News thinks is quoted denying the claim. “A Winnipeg teenage military reservist under investigation by the Canadian Forces says allegations of racist activity levied against him aren’t true. The 17-year-old also said while he’d considered attending the white pride march in Calgary Saturday to watch — not participate — he cancelled the plans weeks ago. The teenager says while he is proud of his German-Ukrainian heritage, he does not believe in white supremacy. “I do not believe the white race is the master race. I do not believe any races are inferior. I don’t want any harm to happen to anyone,” he said. The teenager said he upholds all military values. “I don’t care if you’re homosexual, Asian, Muslim — we’re all there for the same reason, and that’s the defence of Canada.” …. The teenager said he’s since taken down postings on his Facebook page, including quotes from Hitler and Mussolini. He said he put them up because he sees them as “powerful,” in the sense of being willing to stand up and fight for beliefs. “I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” he said. “Just because an evil person did and said many evil things, does not mean everything he said was wrong.” He said he’d previously posted on a white supremacist forum, but doesn’t belong to any such groups and has since “matured” in his beliefs ….”
Northwestern Ontario Canadian Rangers help train southern Ontario Reservists on how to fight in the winter in northeastern Ontario. “Sixteen Canadian Rangers from Constance Lake were an important part of a major military exercise to improve the ability of southern soldiers to operate in the North in the winter. The Rangers taught a range of winter survival skills to 115 soldiers from 32 Canadian Brigade Group, including members of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters. That group is part of the Canadian Forces Arctic Response Company Group, which is charged with responding to emergencies in the North. “They’ve taught everything from ice water rescue right down to ice fishing, food preparation, fire starting, improvised shelter building, snaring, and helping the soldiers stay out overnight in shelters the soldiers put together themselves,” said Master Warrant Officer Robert Patterson, Canadian Ranger sergeant major with 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. Rangers also accompanied the soldiers when they went into the bush in two groups for the tactical phase of the week-long exercise. “They went out to ensure the movement of the soldiers was safe,” Master Warrant Officer Patterson said. “They’ve done a fantastic job. This is the first time the Constance Lake patrol has ever hosted an exercise of this magnitiude and they’ve done an outstanding job under the leadership of their patrol leader, Sgt. Albert Sutherland ….” More from the local paper here.
It’ll now (one hopes) be easier for more troops and family members to get help when they need it.“The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today announced the establishment of five new Integrated Personnel Support Centres (IPSCs) dedicated to the care of ill and injured Canadian Forces (CF) personnel, and the wider Canadian Forces family …. These new support centres will be added to the 19 IPSCs already operating under the national Joint Personnel Support Unit, which was launched in March 2009 by Minister MacKay. The new IPSCs will be located as follows: Comox, B.C., Cold Lake, Alta., Borden, Ont., Trenton, Ont., and Bagotville, Qué. A satellite unit will also be established in Moose Jaw, Sask ….” More information on the Joint Personnel Support Unit, under which the centres operate, here.
How one veteran is trying to help other vets who need help.“Most people remember the humble and honourable work of veterans on Remembrance Day. But everyday many citizens unwittingly walk past some who served this country who are among about two dozen of the city’s homeless. Calgary police Const. John Langford, a veteran himself, was working in the city’s core with the mountain bike unit in early 2009 when he discovered fellow former service members among those down and out on the streets. “I ended up talking with a couple of gentlemen who were in the military and one was in the same unit I deployed overseas with,” Langford said Friday. “It certainly struck a chord.” …”
Talking about the Afghanistan mission in Edmonton. “Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber is holding a town hall meeting Tuesday night on Canada in Afghanistan. It’s part of a series of annual forums he has held over the years on various topics. Rathgeber says he got a lot of calls from voters last year when the government announced that it was extending its mission in Afghanistan. Although combat troops are scheduled to leave this July, about 900 other troops are expected to stay in Kabul to train locals. Many had also asked him questions about veterans’ benefits and support programs for troops coming back from the war. “We have a significant number of armed forces personnel in both St. Albert and northwest Edmonton,” he says, so he decided to hold a town hall meeting on the military. The meeting, set for Feb. 22 in Edmonton’s Griesbach district, will feature many officials and military members with experience in Afghanistan, including Edmonton Centre MP Laurie Hawn, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence. Christine Burdett of Veteran Affairs will also be there to answer questions ….”
CF ship, planes help hunt down drug runners. “HMCS Toronto and two Canadian Forces CP-140 Aurora strategic surveillance aircraft return today from the Caribbean Sea, where they were busy performing counter-drug operations as part of Operation CARIBBE. The ship, aircraft and their crews return home following a month-long deployment with the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S), during which 68 bales of cocaine, amounting to approximately 1 650 kilograms, with an estimated value of $33M, were intercepted ….” More from the mainstream media here.