MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Oct 11

  • We have a border security deal (reportedly)!  A much-ballyhooed perimeter security deal between Canada and the United States will come with a $1-billion price tag for new border facilities and programs to make trade and travel easier, The Canadian Press has learned. The Conservative government will use money cut from existing programs to cover the hefty cost of the international pact — an attempt to protect the continent from terrorist threats while speeding the flow of people and products across the 49th parallel. The deal, as described by several sources, is more evolutionary than revolutionary, falling short of the grand vision outlined with fanfare eight months ago when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced negotiations ….”  More here.
  • Libya Mission  Latest ROTO takes first flight downrange“The CP 140 Aurora aircraft continued to add to an impressive list of firsts, flying its first mission over Libya and its first strike coordination and armed reconnaissance-coordinator (SCAR-C) mission during Operation MOBILE. On 22 September 2011, crew from 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 14 Wing Greenwood, flew its first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission over Libyan soil ….” (via CEFCOM Info-Machine)
  • NATO defense ministers are exploring ways Wednesday of ending the alliance’s aerial campaign in Libya and training Afghan security forces for a larger role in their country’s war. In a speech before the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged NATO member states to cooperate more closely and pool their resources in order to make up for the shortfalls that have plagued the alliance’s operations in Libya and Afghanistan. “It would be a tragic outcome if the alliance shed the very capabilities that allowed it to successfully conduct these operations,” said Panetta, who is making his first visit to Europe after taking over from Robert Gates as Pentagon chief in July. European members and Canada provided most of the strike aircraft used in the Libya campaign. But the war exposed shortages in their capabilities in strategic transport, aerial surveillance, air refueling, and unmanned drones, most of which had to be supplied by the U.S. ….”  More on the U.S. poking allies to crank up the military capabilities here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Poking the Defence Minister in Question Period – again – on (based on a book that’s not out yet) being out of the loop on Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Canada fighting the fight (against polio) in Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (3)  Editorial“Part of the rationale for military intervention in Afghanistan was the deplorable state of women’s rights, and the need to free women from the gender apartheid practised by the Taliban. This was a country where women could not have direct contact with men after the age of eight, could not go to school or work outside the home, visit public baths to stay clean, wear nail polish, high heels or be seen in public without a burqa, or a male relative. As the 10th anniversary of the military invasion approaches on Oct. 7, the hard-won gains that women have made over the past decade must be safeguarded. They cannot be sacrificed for the larger goal of ending Afghanistan’s protracted conflict ….”
  • Provincial politicians use CF search & rescue as provincial campaign lighting rod. Newfoundland nd Labrador’s premier and the opposition leader say search and rescue services provided by the federal government must be investigated to see if improvements are necessary. Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale said a recent episode of CBC’s The Fifth Estate on search and rescue has left her with concerns about the military’s service. “It is not satisfactory to the people of this province, to the people who earn their living on the sea, to be at further risk because of a slow response time or policies that affect response time in marine search and rescue,” she said. Dunderdale said she plans to vigorously pursue the issue of search and rescue with the federal government. Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward agreed and went further, calling for a full inquiry into federal search and rescue services. Both Aylward and Dunderdale are campaigning in preparation for the provincial election on Oct. 11 ….”
  • Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (1)  For decades, the issue of suicide in active soldiers and retired veterans was something that no one wanted to talk about. But a number of programs both within and outside the military are finally focusing attention on the issue. How big a problem is suicide in Canada’s military? It’s difficult to say. The Canadian Forces reports that the suicide rate among currently active soldiers is actually lower than that of the general public. But once many of those soldiers are released from the military, research shows their suicide risk can rise to higher levels than that of civilians. Assessing the toll can be difficult, because beyond the clear-cut suicides are the more subtle instances in which soldiers end their own lives. A veteran who drinks heavily to dull mental pain might be engaging in a slow form of suicide. A soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder and anger issues might take reckless risks if he’s lost his will to live. And how about the veteran with depression who ends up homeless and dies far too young? None of these deaths would register on the books as a suicide, but all might well be traced back to the soldier’s time in service ….”
  • Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (2)  From Question Period (QP)“Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of National Defence and I, along with others, attended a conference put on by the military called “Caring for our Own”. One of the concerns raised by some of the soldiers was the fear that the military would not be there for them in their hour of need. Specific worries included PTSD, suicide ideation and suicide itself. The next budget will be under severe pressure for cutting these “soft services”. Could the minister give the House assurances that our vulnerable soldiers and their families will be protected from these budgetary pressures? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my colleague is correct. My friend was in attendance, along with many members who are specifically tasked with how we deal with the scourge of post-traumatic stress and many of the challenges related to overseas deployments. I am very pleased to report that Canada has in fact become a world leader in fighting the stigmatization and raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries. As well, we have increased mental health awareness and we have increased the number of mental health professionals who are dealing specifically with these challenges.”
  • Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (3)  More from QP“Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, there is a great need to enhance suicide prevention programs in Canada. With respect to our veterans, the data is alarming. The suicide rate in the armed services is nearly three times that of the general population. According to a departmental study of all males who enrolled in the regular forces after 1972 and were released before 2007, a total of 2,620 died and almost 700 of them were suicides. Could the minister outline new steps or strategies that his department is undertaking to tackle this crisis among veterans?  Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his important question. While mental health was taboo then, it is a priority for our government now. That is why we have established, in conjunction with the Department of National Defence, 17 operational stress injury clinics that provide services to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress across the country and at various levels that they might experience. This approach is working. As of June, Veterans Affairs Canada is helping more than 14,300 veterans with mental health conditions and their families ….”
  • New fur hats for the troops (and the animal rights activists are unhappy)“The Department of National Defence has decided to add fur to the winter gear of the Canadian Forces, a move that’s getting a frosty reception from animal-rights advocates. The government says fur is part of Canada’s heritage and the winter tuque currently in use doesn’t stand up to the rigours of the Canadian winter. So it’s buying an initial run of 1,000 fur-trimmed caps at a cost of $65,000, for use by guards of honour and Canadian Forces starting this winter …. “There are synthetics that are just as good and that don’t necessitate the killing of animals,” Elizabeth Sharpe of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said from Toronto. “Killing animals for their fur is completely unnecessary and cruel.” Lesley Fox of the British Columbia-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals says muskrats are known to chew off their limbs to free themselves from leg-hold traps ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Defence Minister Peter MacKay, facing questions from the NDP on the upcoming F-35 buy:   “These aircraft, as the House will know, will replace our aging CF-18 fleet of fighter jets. These aircraft, like other aircraft, have served our country extremely well. They are used in Libya today. They have been used in previous missions, but that they aging. As a matter of course we are taking the responsible step of following a procurement process that has been in place for a significant period of time in which a number of countries are participating …. We committed $9 billion for the replacement of the CF-18. In fact, it not only includes the cost of the aircraft, this will include: spares, weapons systems, infrastructure and training simulators as well as the contingency associated with this important procurement. We are purchasing the most cost-effective variant at the prime of peak production when the costs will be at their lowest. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has admitted to that. Why are the NDP members constantly against getting the best equipment for the best forces in the world?”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  The latest from the Associate Minister of National Defence Julian FantinoAn overall $9 billion cost estimate is more honest than relying on individual plane costs, says the minister handling the purchase of Canada’s new fighter jets. Despite a promise by manufacturer Lockheed Martin that Canada will get its F-35 fighter jets at a cost of $65 million each, Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, says the government’s overall $9 billion estimate is the more honest number. The cost of the F-35 depends on the number of planes ordered by other countries, as well as on how early Canada wants to get its order. The manufacturing cost goes down as more planes come off the assembly line, with Canada expecting the U.S. to absorb the bulk of the F-35’s development costs. “There are just so many variables, and that’s why I think the more honest, ethical response to all these issues is the $9 billion figure, which in fact will be the ceiling that Canada will be investing in these particular aircraft,” Fantino told Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Someone to make fake explosives to test detection equipment (more in Statement of Work – 4 page PDF – here), upgrading the range at CFB Valcartier, someone to manage Canada’s presence at the Farnborough Air Show, and CADPAT rank slip-ons.
  • Canada’s top military cop to chair NATO committee“The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM), Colonel Tim Grubb assumed the post of Chairman of the NATO Nations Military Police (MP) Chiefs’ Committee at a brief ceremony last week in Prague, Czech Republic. The ceremony concluded the committee’s annual meeting …. Colonel Grubb has been the CFPM since 2009 and during his tenure has overseen significant transformation in the Canadian Forces Military Police organization ….”
  • The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre engaged in some diplomacy of its own recently when its leaders invited ambassadors and military attachés to its Carleton University headquarters to update them on its activities. Michael Snell, project manager for the centre, told the group of about 30 diplomats about the work the centre has been doing with the 10 training centres that compose the Association of Latin America Peacekeeping Centres. The centre’s three causes, Snell said, are: women and peacekeeping; supporting new training centres; and enhancing police participation in UN missions from Latin America ….”
  • How some of the Americans are doing the War of 1812 anniversary.  Out of the murk of history and the trough of government funding, here comes the War of 1812 again, 200 years old and as ambiguous as ever on both sides of the Canada-U.S. frontier. “The festivities reach a crescendo!” trumpets the Maryland Bicentennial Commission, as if three years of bombarding, cannonading, spearing, shooting, scalping, burning, sinking, drowning, pillaging, invading, retreating, ambushing, marching, fleeing, starving, freezing, and occupying had been a holiday for all concerned. Undeterred by the carnage – after all, the war didn’t kill THAT many guys, compared to, like, Gettysburg or Hitler or whatever – we are going to have “a Star-Spangled tribute to the defense of America” down here, a display at the U.S. Naval Academy of “the British flag captured at Fort York (Toronto),” plus “a week-long maritime event to kick off the bicentennial celebration.” In other words, there are going to be a lot of people in pantaloons hoisting mainsails and firing muskets before this thing is put away for another century ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 26 Jul 11

  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ships (1)  A winning bid by North Vancouver-based Seaspan Marine for one of two federal shipbuilding contracts currently up for grabs would trigger a stimulus package of up to $40 million for the province’s shipbuilding industry, the British Columbia government announced Monday. Pat Bell, B.C. minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, made the announcement at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards. “As promised, our government is helping Seaspan submit the strongest possible bid and this investment focuses on job creation. “We are investing in our human capital by supporting the creation of marine industry jobs for years to come.” As well, B.C. Ferries pledged $20 million to build capacity in the ship repair and maintenance sector ….”  More from Reuters here, the Globe & Mail here and the Government of British Columbia here.
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ships (2)  Vancouver should brace itself for significant change if Vancouver Shipyards Company wins a portion of the $35-billion in federal contracts for new warships and other vessels this fall, a company executive says. In an interview shortly after the company submitted its bid, John Shaw, a vice-president at the parent company Seaspan Marine Corp., said winning the contract would mean expansion of training and apprenticeship programs, and a search for more than 2,000 new employees. “We would be rebuilding an industry. … We’re at a point where we would have to train a whole new generation on shipbuilding,” Mr. Shaw said. “It would be a huge change here.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ships (3)  “Canada is going ahead with a $3.3 billion plan to beef up Arctic security and assert its sovereignty amid competing measures by other countries increasingly interested in the thawing region’s immense potential. The funds will be used to build up to eight Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships, the navy said. In addition to more than $3 billion in acquiring the vessels, another $4.5 billion will be needed to maintain them over an expected 25-year lifespan. International efforts to flag ownership of parts of the Arctic has heated up in recent years as Arctic ice melts, offering numerous opportunities including alternative maritime routes. Canada is keen to stamp its sovereignty on the area it sees as its own amid frequent challenges from Russia. It has bolstered and extended its military presence but is only now beginning to boost its forces ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Research into the “thinking” software for controlling multiple UAVs, and someplace to live for CC-177 techs to live while training in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • More politics with the (possible?  potential?) privatization of Canada’s search and rescue forces?  “…. (Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Kathy) Dunderdale was asked about the speculation the federal government will be looking at the hiring of private operators to provide air search and rescue services …. “As soon as I heard the speculation Ottawa might be considering that, we contacted the Prime Minister’s Office immediately and said again to them the health and safety is the number one priority in this province. It’s an issue to which we’re highly sensitive, we’re still very, very upset over the Marine Sub-Centre, and we’re not letting that go. So please do not exacerbate this any further. And, before you have any consideration at all about changing the way you do this business, you come to Newfoundland and Labrador and you talk to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and you talk to the people involved in this industry before you take any moves whatsoever,” Dunderdale said …. Not long after that statement, the premier made the point there is no issue yet, since the privatization of air search and rescue services remains only speculation.”
  • Minister of National Defence in Winnipeg today to make $ announcement at 17 Wing.
  • Fracas on the West Coast over building heights and airplanes “Time and due process will eventually resolve the controversy surrounding possible overheight buildings in CFB Comox airspace, according to base commander Jim Benninger. As well, 19 Wing will work with Transport Canada to ensure service in and out of the airport continues as normal, Benninger told the Echo. The issue began after the Department of National Defence (DND) rejected the preferred Crown Isle site for a new Comox Valley hospital, on grounds the proposed four-storey building would have exceeded federal height regulations. The Vancouver Island Health Authority had applied for a variance permit for the site in March, but it was ultimately rejected by DND. Following that news, it emerged that DND would be conducting a survey of its airspace, a four-kilometre radius from the base that includes most of Crown Isle Resort ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  It may be almost a month away, but the celebration for returning Canadian Forces members from Afghanistan is largely planned already at Kingston’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 560. The event takes place on Aug. 20, and legion president Allan Jones says it’s going to be big. “We’re a military town,” Jones said. Between 150 and 200 Afghan veterans from the Kingston area, their families, legion members and the general public are all invited to attend, Jones said. The legion hosts a large annual event for Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, Jones said; “We expect it to be as big or bigger than that.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Head of Canada’s Army visits Fort Campbell, KY to award Commendation to U.S. unit for work in Afghanistan in 2008 – pictures at Flickr.com here.
  • Afghanistan (3)  Reservist loses military job after deploying to Afghanistan???  There’s got to be more to this story than meets the page….
  • How poochies are helping wounded warriors“Retired soldier Dave Desjardins is best friends with a 2 1/2-year-old Rottweiler named Maggie. Maggie helps the 41-year-old Ottawa resident pick up water bottles, take clothes out of the dryer, close the fridge door and get down the stairs. She gives hugs. On easily the hottest day of the summer, Maggie sits panting next to Desjardins, who’s on his living room couch, and braces herself so he can get up for a glass of water. “I know you hate when I do this,” he says. He grips her thick neck, tells her to steady, and, struggling against the pain of his hips, stands upright. “That’s my girl. Good job,” he says, giving her huge jowls a scratch and then slowly making his way to the kitchen. Maggie happily trots after him ….”
  • Canadians in Ukraine training, exercising with loads of other troops – this from the U.S. Military Info-Machine:  “Exercise Rapid Trident 11 kicked off, July 25, with an opening ceremony at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center here. “This Partnership for Peace exercise provides all partner nations the opportunity to enhance your capabilities to conduct multi-national and combined coalition operations,” said Kevin Volk, U.S. co-director of the exercise. “This exercise will leave an impression in the history of rapid trident exercises because this year we will conduct airborne operations,” said Maj. Gen. Vyacheslav Nazarkin, Ukrainian co-director of the exercise. Rapid Trident 11 involves approximately 1,600 personnel and will consist of multi-national airborne operations, situational training exercise lanes and a field training exercise. In addition to U.S. Army Europe, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and Ukraine, participants include: Latvia, Belarus, Moldova, Slovenia, Canada, Poland, Serbia, the UK, Lithuania, Estonia, California and Utah National Guard and U.S. Air Force Europe ….”
  • Congratulations!  Ordinary Seaman Yvette Yong of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Discovery (Vancouver) aims a kick at her Chinese opponent prior to winning Canada’s first ever Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) gold medal in the taekwondo women’s under 46 kilogram event 23 July during the 2011 World Military Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.” (via Flickr.com)
  • Calgary OK’s Support the Troops stickers on city vehicles (but doesn’t make them mandatory).  “City council approved a plan on Monday that will see some city vehicles decked-out in yellow ribbons that say “Support Our Troops.” But the decals will not be mandatory, city council decided. It will up to individual operators of city vehicles to decide whether to participate in the campaign, which was suggested by Ald. Shane Keating. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it was important to make the decals optional. “I think that’s a lot of what the military is fighting for. So we have to find the right balance between making sure we are supporting people, but we’re also supporting the rights of our employees to have their own opinions,” he said ….”
  • Let’s never forget the Korean war. “…. Over the course of the next three years, The Memory Project Archive will collect 516 Korean War testimonials from veterans across the country, one for each of the fallen Canadians from that conflict …. Let’s make sure that we remember the Forgotten War. If you are, or know, a veteran of the Korean War, help us ensure these stories become part of an essential legacy of Canadian military history. Lest we forget.”
  • Newfoundland mayor honours U.S. veterans, wants to memorialize disaster“Joe Vendola, 91, slowly made his way through the Long Island National Cemetery. The summer heat wave was beginning to cool down, with a fresh breeze. Vendola’s face filled with excitement as he recognized the tombstone of an old friend and teammate from the USS Truxtun, Andrew Dusak. Painful memories followed immediately, as he remembered the night when 110 sailors from his ship lost their lives right before his eyes. At 4 a.m. on a stormy February in 1942, three U.S. naval ships, the USS Truxtun, USS Pollux, and the USS Wilkes lost their way by the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The Truxtun and the Pollux wrecked. According to the maritime history archive, the Pollux-Truxtun disaster is considered one of the worst accidents in U.S. naval history. A total of 203 marines perished. “It is a pilgrimage of honor for me, to visit all the sailors. It’s really special to be with Joe today, he was very excited to touch base with the community,” said Mayor Wayde Rowsell of St. Lawrence, Canada …. Rowsell wishes to work with the United States to build an International Park on site of the tragedy. The park would be built to honor and keep these acts of courage alive, and to “never forget the generosity of a great nation of great people,” the mayor said. It would be developed and maintained by both governments. A letter of proposal was sent to Congress recently ….”