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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 Oct 11

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  • Canada’s defence department must shed top military brass and bureaucrats today to focus on front-line troops for the priorities of tomorrow: the Arctic, cyber defence, space and special operations, says the author of a controversial report on transforming the armed forces. Retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie told senators on the national security and defence committee Monday it’s time to make “moderately tough choices to invest in the future.” National headquarters in Ottawa has become too bloated and overall structure has too much overhead and “tail,” Leslie said, recommending an administrative overhaul to trim $1 billion by cutting the number of full-time reservists, civilians and officers and slashing by 30 per cent of the $2.7 billion now spent on consultants, contractors and other service providers. “Transformation is all about the future – reducing the overhead and investing in the front-line troops, making the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence leaner, better able to respond and more deployable,” Leslie said ….”  More on this here and here.
  • The Canadian Taxpayers Federation seems to agree.  “…. It’s time for the Harper government to act on Leslie’s cost-cutting ideas and move more of Canada’s military muscle off seat cushions at headquarters and into the field, where it is needed.”
  • Afghanistan (1)  A bit more mainstream media coverage of the training mission, or at least part of it“…. It’s amazing watching …. woman train in that they are not wearing veils and every day fly in the face of what radical Islam sees as the role of women. “They are very brave and we are proud of them,” said Canadian Major General Michael Day, who heads the training program here. “Back in their villages some of them would be killed for just coming here.” Day knows there is a long way to go. But you have to start somewhere. By the end of this year, there will be 195,000 members of the ANA and already in most parts of the country they are taking the lead in security here. Canadians, Americans, Danes, Georgians are here more as trainers and mentors.” 
  • Afghanistan (2)  More mainstream media coverage, this time at least showing a photo of troops doing the training. 
  • Afghanistan (3a)  Minister of National Defence denies he was kept out of the loop by PMOthis from Question Period (QP) in the House of Commons yesterday“…. that is false …. we have always worked closely with the Prime Minister and with cabinet ….”  More on that here.
  • Afghanistan (3b)  Tying in the planes with Afghanistan – this again from QPMr. Matthew Kellway (Beaches—East York, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence continues to spring leaks about the minister’s misuse of DND assets. By now we have all heard that the minister takes government jets like most Canadians take the bus. Now we find out that the Prime Minister personally kept the Minister of National Defence out of the loop on the Afghan war. Why is the Prime Minister defending a minister that he himself has so little confidence in?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as I and the Prime Minister have said, we use government assets for government business. That is exactly what has happened. With respect to Afghanistan, we have made a magnificent effort on behalf of Canadians. They can be very proud of the work our men and women in uniform and our professional public servants have put forth in Afghanistan. As a government we have supported them. We have given them the resources. Unfortunately, the member’s party opposite cannot say the same thing …. ”  More on the layest QP back & forth here.
  • Afghanistan (4)  A couple of events (Toronto and Ottawa) linked to a new book on Afghanistan by commentator Terry Glavin. “Solidarity: Calling all friends of Afghanistan in the GTA. COME FROM THE SHADOWS. “Join Terry Glavin and friends to celebrate the publication of his new book, Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan,” at Dora Keogh’s Trad Irish Pub, 141 Danforth Ave, Toronto, Tuesday, October 11 · 7:00pm – 8:30pm, plus whatever happens afterwards (free admission). Official Launch: Army Ottawa Officer’s Mess, 149 Somerset Street W., Ottawa, Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 7:00 PM, Admission: $15.00 (students $10.00). Tickets for Terry’s book launch are now available at Compact Music (190 Bank, 785 Bank), and Collected Works (1242 Wellington) ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  One reporter doesn’t buy the $65M per plane price tag being promoted by the company. “…. the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin and allied governments around the globe are thinking hard now. The plan could still fly if buyers hang in. But will the bargain prices come true? For a clue, check the Israeli defence budget. The Israelis, like John McCain, know something about fighters, and currently their budget for 20 planes is not anywhere close to $65 million each. It’s more than double that: $137 million each. Perhaps they don’t believe in deals that seem too good to be true.”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Meanwhile, the company’s latest estimates“The F-35s in low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 4 are expected to exceed their contracted cost target, but fall below the negotiated ceiling price, says Tom Burbage, vice president of F-35 program integration for Lockheed Martin …. The LRIP 4 per-unit cost targets are as follows: $111.6 million (CAD$ 117.7M) for the conventional takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) version; $109.4 million (CAD$ 115.4M) for the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) aircraft; $142.9 (CAD$ 150.7M) for the first production carrier variant (CV) ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Medical fridges, a.k.a. “Mobile Temperature Management Units”.
  • Well done to Rick Mercer (who also happens to be Honorary Colonel of 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron at 12 Wing Shearwater)!  A leap of faith is not in his job description, but Rick Mercer will try just about anything for the TV camera. For a segment on Tuesday’s The Rick Mercer Report on CBC-TV, Mercer jumped from a plane while in the arms of a Canadian Forces Skyhawk at the Windsor International Airshow, held on the weekend of Sept. 10-11. “I’m not the kind of guy who would willingly jump out of a plane,” Mercer said. “It took a lot of psyching myself up. But if I was going to do it, I would do it only with members of the Skyhawks.” ….”
  • “…. (Saskatchewan’s) Status of Women Office in the Ministry of Social Services is proclaiming October as Women’s History Month in Saskatchewan. This year’s theme, “Women in the Canadian Military Forces: A Proud Legacy,” celebrates women’s contributions, now and throughout history, to the Canadian military forces ….”
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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Sept 11

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  • Afghanistan (1)  Canadian General drops by northern training base in Afghanistan (courtesy of the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan/Combined Transition Command – Afghanistan Info-Machine)  “Regional Support Command – North recently hosted a visit by Canadian Army Maj. Gen. Michael Day, the deputy commander for army operations under NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan/Combined Transition Command – Afghanistan. NTM-A/CSTC-A, in coordination with key stakeholders, generates and sustains the Afghan National Security Forces, develops leaders, and establishes enduring institutional capacity in order to enable accountable Afghan-led security. This is Day’s second visit to RSC-N, and during his stop he viewed newly delivered D-30 artillery cannons and the Regional Basic Warrior Training center at Camp Shaheen, near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. He also received updates on proposed expansions to the Afghan National Army training facilities ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  CBC.ca has an online survey asking, Should Afghan translators who worked with Canadian forces be granted refuge?
  • Afghanistan (3)  Congrats to all.  “Michael Hornburg watched television coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks in his Calgary home with his son Nathan, who had become a reservist only weeks before. The 18-year-old had joined the King’s Own Calgary Regiment while still in high school. That day, Hornburg felt a personal, horrible feeling as his son sat next to him. “I somehow had a premonition that day that 9/11 would touch our family on a personal level, that it might directly affect us,” he said on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Cpl. Nathan Hornburg was killed in Afghanistan six years and two weeks after 9/11. Nathan had volunteered to go to war. He drove a tank equipped to rescue other vehicles, which he was doing when killed in a mortar attack. “My son’s vehicle had a crane on it, not a cannon,” Michael Hornburg said. “He was typical of a lot of the courage you see in all these military members.” On behalf of his son, Michael Hornburg received the Birchall Leadership Award on Sunday to recognize integrity and responsibility in the Canadian Forces. Usually given to one annual recipient, this year’s award was presented to seven individuals to represent Task Force Afghanistan. “This award is on behalf of all of those wounded or killed,” Hornburg said. “We take our losses as sources of pride. We use them to become better people, not bitter.” Other local recipients included Col. Omer Lavoie, commander of 1 Mechanized Brigade Group, and Warrant Officer David Schultz, a previous recipient of the Star of Military Valour for personal bravery ….”  More on the award here (from the Land ForcesWestern Area Info-Machine)
  • Afghanistan (3)  A new Canadian film, Afghan Luke, by the guy who brought you Trailer Park Boys.  “Trailer Park Boys” co-creator and director Mike Clattenburg isn’t offended by the suggestion that a nuanced satirical film on Canada’s role in the Afghan war is a bit of a surprise coming from him. “I guess people would expect me to do crazy, screwball stuff, but we did that for 10 years,” the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native tells me in a hotel room in downtown Toronto. “Guys in their underwear and housecoats, drunk trailer park supervisors . . . I’ve been doing that stuff for a while, that stoner comedy. “I was excited to do something I hadn’t done before.” Clattenburg was in Toronto Sunday for the premiere of his new movie “Afghan Luke” at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Afghan Luke” tells the story of ambitious journalist Luke Benning (Nick Stahl) who goes rogue in Afghanistan after his editor spikes a story on Canadian snipers who may be cutting off the fingers of their kills in the country. While that’s the synopsis, what follows is much more of satirical tale of loosely collected stories of a strange and distant land that cannot be understood, let alone tamed by Western military powers. As Clattenburg puts it, it’s “80 per cent drama, 20 per cent comedy.” ….”  Already some discussion of the film (mostly based on the trailer and advance media) at Army.ca here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  More of what’s coming came out of Canada’s Defence Minister meeting with Australia’s “Australia and Canada share a common concern that the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will be delayed, possibly requiring acquisition of an expensive interim air combat capability.  To present a united front, Australia and Canada will now conduct top level talks on procurement and capability issues of mutual concern.  As well as JSF, that will also touch on submarines, with both Australia and Canada experiencing big problems on maintaining submarine capability.  Visiting Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Canada wasn’t backing away from plans to acquire 65 JSF aircraft but shared all of the same concerns as Australia.  He said the good news was that the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant of JSF, to be acquired by both Canada and Australia, was progressing well, unlike the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) and carrier variants.  “We are purchasing them at a time when they will be in peak production around 2014-15. Our fleet of F-18 Hornets will have to be taken out of use in 2017,” he told reporters.  “So there is a degree of urgency for us when it comes to this procurement being on time and being on cost.”  …. Defence Minister Stephen Smith said he and Mr MacKay had agreed to conduct a regular strategic dialogue on shared procurement, acquisition, capability issues.  He said he was very concerned that delay in JSF meant it was rubbing up against the Australian schedule for retiring older F/A-18 Hornets around the end of the decade.  “I have always been of the view that this project will get up because the US is absolutely committed to the capability,” he said.  “But the risk for Australia and other partners like Canada is on the delivery side, on the schedule side and also on the cost side.” ….”  Nothing on the visit on Minister MacKay’s site yet – a nice picture, though.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Good question from Mark Collins.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Wanted:  folks who speak Spanish to act as bad guys, villagers for training in Wainwright, Alberta.
  • Border Security (1)  “It may seem heartless to put a price tag on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people and affected the lives of so many more. But economic implications of that event and of the ongoing battle against terrorism cannot be ignored. While the United States incurred the lion’s share of costs related to 9/11 and the security measures – including military interventions – that came after, Canada has also coped with economic consequences. For the most part, the harm to Canada is manifest in impediments to trade ….”
  • Border Security (2)  “Glass is half full” view of border security talks between Canada, U.S.: “…. The goals of the initiative are pragmatic, not theoretical and the results need to be tangible and mutually beneficial. Success is not preordained but Canada should never refrain from bilateral agreements carrying the greatest potential for reward. With clear and consistent political will from the top and healthy doses of imagination and determination from officials, innovative solutions can be agreed that will serve the interests of both parties.”
  • Border Security (3)  “Glass is half emtpy” view of border security talks between Canada, U.S.: “…. The protection of privacy is the subtly acknowledged elephant in the room in these discussions. In the past few years there have been two commissions of inquiry on cases in which the privacy rights of Canadians were violated by the sharing of information with the United States. The men affected became guests of nasty regimes with life-changing consequences for them. Both the Auditor General and the Privacy Commissioner have added their voices on the need for greater privacy protections. This government and previous ones have ignored recommendations for changes and have been reluctant to improve existing protections by updating the out-of-date Privacy Act of 1983. If Canadians are not vigilant they may soon discover that the Americans have more control over their privacy rights than we do at home.”
  • Royal Canadian Artillery:  Helping prevent avalanches for 50 years. (via Army.ca)  “Canada Command honoured the centennial of Parks Canada and the 125th anniversary of Glacier and Yoho National Parks with the presentation of three retired 105 mm Artillery Howitizers at the Rogers Pass Discovery centre at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 in Revelstoke, B.C. The guns are on display at the Rogers Pass as monuments and memorials in recognition of a half-century of avalanche control operations to protect the Trans-Canada Highway and the railway through Glacier National Park ….”  More from The Canadian Press here (YouTube video).
  • While 9-11 highlighted the bonds between Canada and the United States, another major anniversary will mark just how the two countries decided to become friendly in the first place. The Conservative government is gearing up to announce its bicentennial plans for the War of 1812, a major undertaking that will have Canadians reaching into their high-school memory vaults and municipalities vying for cash to spruce up their historical landmarks. “It has led to 200 years of peace between Canada and the United States,” Heritage Minister James Moore said in an interview. “We’re two countries with two very different identities and we obviously disagree from time to time, but we have the longest border and the most successful neighbouring relationship of probably any two countries in the world … and all of that started with the end of the War of 1812 and it’s something to be recognized.” The conflict, which lasted until 1815, pitted the growing United States against British forces mostly in Upper and Lower Canada. The U.S. had grown weary of British naval blockades hampering their trade abroad, and of First Nations armed by the British Empire stunting their expansion into the northwest of the continent ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Sept 11

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  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P  In late April 2011, the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) said it was doing an initial probe into the 2008 suicide of Corporal Langridge of CFB Edmonton.  Now, the MPCC says it’s going to hold public hearings into the suicide – no dates set yet.  More from the media here (Google News search).
  • Libya Mission  One columnist’s view:  “…. If the foreigners’ motives really were humanitarian — they wanted to stop Gadhafi’s atrocious regime from killing his own subjects, and thought that Libyans would be better off without him — then they actually were using force as an instrument of love. Not “love” as in the love songs, but love meaning a genuine concern for the welfare of others. Most resorts to force do not meet this criterion (although those using the force generally claim that they do). The United States did not invade Iraq out of concern for the welfare of Iraqis, for example. But once in a while there is a shining exception, and this is one of those times. The British, French, Canadians, Swedes, Qataris and so on would not have done it if it involved large casualties in their own forces. (In fact, they had no casualties.) Most Western soldiers didn’t think the operation would succeed in removing Gadhafi, and the outcome has been greeted with surprise and relief in most of the capitals that sent aircraft. But they did it, and that counts for a lot.”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (1)  Canadians are more concerned about a terrorist attack on Canada now than before 9/11, says a new (Ipsos-Reid poll conducted for Postmedia News and Global TV). Enhanced airport security, no-fly lists and Canada’s participation in the Afghanistan war are just some of the considerable measures taken after 9/11, but Canadians are still worried about potential terrorist attacks within our borders. Half of the respondents said they felt “no change” in safety levels with military intervention and just under half feel ‘more safe’ as a result of domestic security measures ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2)  The CSIS Info-Machine is sharing some stories from officers about their feelings about 9/11 here and here – a bit of a “Canadian milestones in counter-terrorism since 9-11” selected chronology here.
  • Wanted:  some damned good number crunchers and technogeeks for breaking codes.  “It boasts some of the top math minds in the country, it’s looking to recruit more, and you still won’t find its name listed among any universities. The Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing is like a school for spies – a government-backed “classified research institute” that exists to entice academics who can help the government create and crack codes in the service of national security. The federal government has actually employed a small stable of arms-length academic cryptographers for several years now, but this summer it opted to redouble and rebrand the effort. In doing so, Ottawa has stepped up its quiet drive to lure some of the smartest PhD-calibre mathematicians away from ivory towers and into applied government work ….”  And where’d the name of the new institute, part of Communications Security Establishment Canada, come from? “…. In the 1940s, William Tutte, a math genius, figured out ways to spy on encrypted, high-level Nazi communications, a contribution so profound that some observers now credit him and his British colleagues for helping hasten the end of the Second World War. After the war, Mr. Tutte moved to Canada and had a distinguished academic career at the University of Waterloo ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Canadian Major General Michael Day talks to Army News about the Afghan training mission (video of phone interview here), saying he sees some progress:  “…. Two years ago, the army was shrinking, literally we were losing more people than we were gaining. Today, not only are we growing by four to five thousand every single month, but we now have selection process that vets those individuals that are not suited. So we are in great shape on that ….”
  • Afghanistan (2a)  7 Jul 11:  CF Info-Machine tells us Canadian takes over command of Consolidated Fielding Centre in Afghanistan.  ~6 Sept 11:  Foreign Affairs Info-Machine sends RSS feed notice that it’s decided to share this “news” on Canada’s main web page about Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan (2b)  What the dental surgeon used to do in Afghanistan (via CF Info-Machine) – he’s been back for a couple of weeks now.
  • Afghanistan (3a)  A Macleans columnist reminds us to be wary about negotiating with the Taliban, even if that’s how things look to be unfolding. “…. In the event the Taliban do re-establish themselves in Kabul, those Afghans who go to the mountains will likely include those Afghans who most share our values and most desire our friendship. Then what will we do?”\
  • Afghanistan (3b)  Terry Glavin reminds us to be wary, too“…. The Taliban have made it quite plain, by word and deed, that they have no intention of negotiating anything except the general outlines of the civilized world’s capitulation to them and the forward-planning terms of NATO’s surrender of the Afghan people to their custody ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch  English-language propaganda sites back online – for now.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Wanted:  four-wheel light utility vehicles for 1 Canadian Division (more details in part of bid document here), and checking if CF is using the best test to see if patients receiving transfusions need more or not.
  • New Brunswick is looking for feedback on its ideas for job protection for Reservists.  “Finding the right balance can sometimes be a tricky and nerve-testing procedure. But efforts to do just that are exactly what’s happening these days within the part-time military community as officials juggle ideas in an effort to find ways to make the lives of reservist soldiers in this province a little more secure. In April, residents were asked to participate in a provincial government consultation process and provide their views on how to offer better leave protection to reservists working in civilian jobs or pursuing post-secondary studie …. Ideas were collected by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour and placed in a preliminary report called What We Heard: Responses to the Review of Canadian Forces Reservist Employment and Education Leave Protection in New Brunswick. (PDF) …. If you have ideas on how you would like to see reservists protected in this province, now is the time to step forward. Contact the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.”  Contact info:  labour-travail@gnb.ca, fax (506) 453-3618 or snail mail at Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Review of Reservists Employment and Education Leave Protections, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1.
  • Canada has has new deal for annual defence think tank get together.  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced …. that Canada is hosting the third annual Halifax International Security Forum from November 18th to 20th in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With Foreign Affairs as the media partner, this year’s Halifax International Security Forum features over three hundred politicians, academics, policy makers, and journalists from forty countries around the world. Following the 10th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and Canada’s recent transition to a non-combat training role in Afghanistan, this year’s forum is especially poignant, focusing on key sensitive and emerging global issues …. As the only event of its kind in North America, the Halifax International Security Forum fosters discussions covering a wide range of topics, including the future of the transatlantic alliance, security initiatives in the Middle East, revolutions, responsibility to protect and making better use of resources to deliver on key security and defence commitments. The Halifax International Security Forum is even stronger with Foreign Affairs, the conference’s media partner. Minister MacKay took the opportunity to announce a three year funding partnership for the Halifax International Security Forum from both the Department of National Defence and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ….”
  • Remember the list o’ war criminals Canada was looking for your help in hunting downGuess where one of the guys on the original list is?  “An accused Serbian war criminal says his life has been ruined by an Ottawa-led manhunt, even though he left Canada for his homeland six years ago. Dimitrije Karic, also known as Dimitrije Mita, 51, of the Serbian municipality of Kovin, said he came to Canada in 2003 and filed a failed refugee claim. He complied with an order to leave Canada in 2005. “Is anyone, who was wearing a uniform in war in former Yugoslavia, a war criminal for you?” he said in an Aug. 30 e-mail to QMI Agency. “If it is so, there are several hundred thousand war criminals throughout Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.” He lived and worked at two companies in Medicine Hat, Alta., during his time in Canada, documents show ….”
  • Remember Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006?  His folks are telling reporters Canada should get Hamas to let him go.  What’s Canada saying so far?  “…. Chris Day, director of communications for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, told the Tribune in an email, “Hamas is a listed terrorist organization. The government of Canada has no contact with Hamas.” Canadian aid is supplied to the people of Gaza through “established aid channels and with established organizations” and not via Hamas. Should Hamas and Fatah form a unity government, Day said, “Canada cannot support a government that includes Hamas.” In May, Canada was a signatory to the G8 Declaration of Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy, which stated in part, “We demand the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit [sic] without delay.” When asked what concrete action Canada can or will take in regard to Gilad Schalit, Day said, “Minister Baird has been very clear in calling – as G8 leaders did at Deauville – for Gilad Shalit’s [sic] release…. We will continue to press this case at every opportunity.” ….”  But not directly to the folks holding him, given the bits in green.
  • The re-incarnated NHL’s Winnipeg Jets (have) unveiled their new uniforms …. The Jets, who returned to Winnipeg with the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Manitoba’s True North Sports and Entertainment in May, held a news conference to unveil the team’s new uniforms at Royal Canadian Air Force base 17 Wing. The jerseys consist mostly of two shades of blue: Polar Night Blue, found on many of today’s RCAF aircraft, and Aviator Blue, which is similar to historical colours used by the RCAF ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 Sept 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  Ooopsie….  “Government House Leader Peter Van Loan “misspoke” Saturday when he told a radio program the Conservative government wants to extend Canada’s military role in Libya beyond its scheduled end date. The Conservative MP for York-Simcoe was asked about comments made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week, which indicated that Canada would stick with the NATO-led mission until the end. “Yes, it will be our intention to extend the mission for a little bit, at least, and we’ll have to do that by going to Parliament,” Van Loan said on CBC Radio’s The House. “That’s what we have done for the previous motions where we have gained all-party support for the mission, and I think, I’d be optimistic that there’d be good support for that.” an Loan’s director of communications, Fraser Malcolm, later clarified that the MP had “misspoke,” saying that the decision to seek an extension is in the hands of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, to then be put to Parliament for approval ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  HMCS Charlottetown crew members share their memories of the mission now that they’re home. “At night, crew aboard HMCS Charlottetown could see and feel the explosive blasts as troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi fired at Libyan citizens within the city of Misrata. “On the flight deck you could feel the vibration from bombs exploding. It would go right through your body,” Ordinary Seaman Ashton Metcalf said Friday, after officers and crew of the warship enjoyed a rousing and emotional welcome home at the Halifax navy dockyard after their six-month deployment ….”
  • Libya Mission (3)  One African’s perspective on Canada’s role:  “…. Whether seen as a victory for NATO or the triumph of democracy, Canada has been part of Libya’s success story. This event will go down in history as Ottawa’s contribution to the fight against tyranny in Africa.”
  • Afghanistan  Canadian General says things have to change with training Afghan troops.  “…. At one point this summer, the pace of desertions climbed to an annualized rate of 35 percent, though it has since declined. NATO’s training command has developed an extensive plan to attempt to lower attrition further, saying an acceptable goal would be 1.4 percent per month — or about 17 percent a year. July’s attrition rate was 2.2 percent. “If we’re in the same situation in 3.5 years” — when Afghans are scheduled to be in charge of their security — “then we have a problem,” said Canadian Maj. Gen. D. Michael Day, a deputy commander in NATO’s training mission in Kabul.”
  • A former member of the Guatemalan military who holds both Canadian and American passports and who is accused of war crimes in Guatemala will be extradited to the United States, a Canadian court ruled Friday. Alberta’s Chief Justice in Neil Wittmann ruled that Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, 53, should be sent to the US for trial on charges of false statements made in government application forms to become a naturalized American citizen ….”  A bit more here.
  • Mid-Canada Line cleanup on Hudson Bay under way.  Crews and local residents in the northern Ontario First Nations community of Peawanuck are teaming up to begin the long-awaited cleanup at a Cold War-era military base. Site 500 is the largest of 16 mid-Canada radar sites scattered across northern Ontario. The base was home to several hundred people who worked at the site when it operated in the 1950s and 1960s. Now the site is home to a small camp of contractors starting the long-awaited project of cleaning up the mess left behind — a junkyard filled with abandoned vehicles, thousands of leaky fuel barrels and barracks with asbestos in the walls….”  A bit of the backstory here.
  • When street names were contemplated for a new housing development in the west England town of Pershore, councillors initially decided to honour several varieties of plums — the main fruit grown in the area, and the focus of an annual harvest festival. But planning officials have squashed that plan in favour of a street-name tribute to about a dozen of the war dead buried in the adjacent Pershore Cemetery — most of them Canadian servicemen killed in accidents at a nearby airfield during the Second World War. Dismissing the proposal to celebrate the Purple Pershore, Pershore Yellow and other plum varieties as “boring and banal,” elected planning chief Judy Pearce has ruled that fallen Canadian airmen such as RCAF Sgt. Ernie Desjardins of Climax, Sask. — who died in the botched landing of a Wellington bomber near the town in 1942 — are more deserving of recognition than the tender fruit farmed in the region ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Feb 11

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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Dec 10

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  • Tanks from the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada are covering Vandoos in Zangabad, and head off some ammo for the Taliban Info-machine“…. Farmers in this otherwise bucolic hamlet, long known for its support of the insurgency, vented their frustrations at the convoy of vehicles as it cut a swath across their land, making way for the area’s first major roadway.  “I was never told about this,” Abdul Rahman, a local land owner whose grape field is being cut in half by the new gravel road, said through a translator.  The road is to be eight metres wide, but the disruption is far wider: to discourage the Taliban from planting bombs, engineers have cleared 25 metres of land on either side of the project.  Rahman threw up his hands as mine-sweeping tanks churned up the field in front of him. “What am I going to do with that?” he railed. “They might as well take the whole field.”  It was up to the district governor to consult with residents, but Rahman and several other landowners who turned up at a meeting with coalition officers said they weren’t told the exact route.  Rahman said he tried in vain to convince engineers not to bisect his land, and even offered to allow his personal mosque to be demolished if it meant a different route.  The officer commanding the route clearing was mortified at the request and the optics it would have presented for the locals, to say nothing of the propaganda bonanza for the Taliban.  “It’s weird, but quite frankly I don’t want to have Canadian soldiers being seen levelling a mosque when there’s a clear option to go somewhere else,” said Maj. Eric Landry, the commander of the tank squadron ….” Good call.  Some CF-generated copy of the Afghan push supported by the Vandoos and others here and here, with a Wikipedia page already started on OP BAAWAR.
  • Congratulations Robert & Heather! A soldier returning from duty in Afghanistan proposed to his longtime girlfriend at a Windsor, Ont., airport on Monday. Sgt. Robert Bialkowski went to great lengths to ask his girlfriend of eight years (Heather Greene) to marry him in front of a cheering crowd of friends and family …. After a hello kiss, Bialkowski handed Greene an apple and got down on one knee. Her response: “Of course!” Friends and family shouted “It’s about time!” …. “
  • How Canadian cash is helping keep Afghan jail guards on the job“…. A Sarpoza prison guard’s life away from the job is exceedingly dangerous. One of the warden’s lieutenants was killed in November, two guards have been targeted and killed in recent months, and night letters and threats are common.  It’s why the warden is praising a Canadian initiative giving his staff better pay in recognition of the risks. The threats and the fear were having a debilitating effect on Sarpoza’s staffing levels at a time when Correctional Services Canada mentors are preparing to exit Kandahar in the new year.  “You feel for them … but we were training people and they’d quit,” said Ian Chinnery at the Camp Nathan Smith reconstruction team in Kandahar City ….”
  • Chaplains as religious mediators on the battlefield? The idea was discussed at a recent conference in Ottawa“…. Maj. Steve Moore, a United Church padre, organized the low-key meeting to probe the possibility of making connections between military chaplains and religious leaders in communities in the midst of the conflict.  “I’m getting some traction,” he said from his office at Saint Paul University. “It’s incremental.”  Moore began thinking about this project in Bosnia in 1993 with the Second Royal Canadian Regiment battle group, living in a compound amid the communities of Roman Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosniaks and Orthodox Serbs.  “We weren’t in the conflict, but we weren’t far from it. It was nasty. For me, those experiences never left me. I had to do something.”  He worked with his Roman Catholic counterpart to get to know the religious leaders in Sarajevo. “In fact, they made the first move, inviting us for dialogue. We were invited into their homes.”  Political leaders had co-opted religion, inflaming the population. This left religious leaders torn. “They were worried about the kind of life they would leave for their children. Would (the children) think that religion was just a means of war?”  At first, the padres met only with the Muslim mufti, who oversaw 60 mosques, and the Roman Catholic priest. The Serbs weren’t interested. But when the tour of duty changed, the next two chaplains were able to build on what the first two had done. In September of 1993, all three religious groups, Serbians, Muslims, and Catholics, held an interfaith celebration for peace. Here in Canada, that would hardly be noticed. But there, in the midst of religiously fuelled war, “it was unprecedented,” said Moore ….”
  • Some recent research indicates that American female war vets “have a suicide rate nearly three times greater than the general population of women”.  How’s this number compare to Canadian stats? We don’t keep them right now, but should know something soon, according to a Veterans Affairs Canada spokesperson responding to a question from Postmedia News“Unfortunately we do not have data similar to that used in the American university publication you referred to. Statistics regarding suicide rates amongst Canadian Veterans are not currently kept. However, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Canadian Forces have commenced a “Life After Service Study”, to examine transition from the Canadian Forces to civilian life. One of the study components will have Statistics Canada link VAC and Canadian Forces data on CF members with service from 1972 to 2006 (2006 is the end-date as it matches the latest data in the national mortality database). This study will allow VAC to compare suicide rates between Veterans and the general Canadian population. Data is expected in early 2011 ….” More from National Public Radio in the U.S. about this research.
  • This may be disappointing news to video game developers, but speaking at a public forum during a conference on special forces in Kingston this week, the head of Canada’s special forces says special operations work is NOT like the games“…. (Brig.-Gen. Michael) Day, who has been attached since it stood up in 1993, said the unit, described as a made-in-Canada response to terrorist threats and issues of national security requiring a nimble and highly trained force of specialists.  But it is not, as portrayed in wildly popular movies and video games, a collection of rogue operatives creating mayhem and destruction behind enemy lines with neither the knowledge or support of their commanders. With two teenage boys, Day is quite familiar with the popular portrayal.  “Very few special operations can be conducted without the support of conventional forces,” Day said, and noted that due to the high tempo and close relationship between special and conventional units in Afghanistan, army commanders understand and appreciate where his unit fits into the puzzle in a way they may not have a decade ago.  Day stressed that special forces are a complement to the conventional army and vice-versa ….” And how about calls for more public oversight for the special ops units? ” …. “Isn’t it ironic that on the very day some are calling for more oversight, I am standing up and introducing a public forum like this,” he said.  “And I certainly welcome the idea of having conversations about oversight.” …. “We’re trying to find a middle ground, somewhere between I’m not telling you anything and I’m standing here naked in front of you,” said Day ….”
  • News flash – Postmedia News notices women with niqabs serving in CF“Wafa Dabbagh is many things. She is a tiny, bubbly bundle of energy who loves Zumba fitness. She prays five times a day, keeps an immaculate home and bakes a cake for her beloved neighbours each weekend. She has a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in business administration and a cancer diagnosis, the last of which she treats like a bothersome cold. Dabbagh is also a pioneer, the first member of the Canadian Armed Forces — and still only one of a handful — to wear a hijab, the Muslim headcovering for women. After almost 15 years in the naval reserves, she is now a lieutenant-commander, the equivalent of a major in the army. Dabbagh is certified to shoot a C7 rifle and a 9 mm pistol, and is in the process of studying to qualify for promotion to a command position. On Monday at Rideau Hall, Gov. Gen. David Johnston awarded the first Operational Service Medals to 50 recipients, including Dabbagh, who was recognized for her participation in Operation Proteus, a Canadian training mission in Jerusalem ….” One day, it won’t matter whether she’s wearing a niqab or not – a job well done is a job well done, full stop..
  • Roger Clement, who said he firebombed an RBC bank machine in Ottawa “as a partial protest toward the bank’s policies toward the Olympics and the Alberta tarsands” gets 3 years, 6 months for the firebombing. More from the Canadian Press, the BBC and CBC.ca.  And it didn’t take long for the Liberals and NDP to put the boot in, either.
  • Streamlining terrorism trials, better Witness Protection Program, hunting down terrorist money better and improving co-operation between cops and intelligence agencies. Those are some of the highlights of Canada’s new plan (more detail here) to prevent another Air India disaster.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban Info-machine’s English-language site is back with claims of attacks in Kandahar and Zabul.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Dec 10

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  • First, a correction:  Remember the Canadian contract listing where the CF is looking for help to improve storytelling in yesterday’s update?  It seems I put the wrong link in – this is the correct one.  Many thanks to Richard, who drew my attention to this.
  • Vandoos into Zangabad: “Taliban fighters in the notorious village of Zangabad aren’t about to just melt away, the commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan warned Monday as Canadian troops officially took control of the long-standing insurgent stronghold.  “Yeah, they’re going to fight. This is their home turf,” Maj.-Gen. James Terry told The Canadian Press at a patrol base in southwestern Panjwaii, the troubled district where a combined force of coalition and Afghan soldiers is pushing forward.  So far, though, “it’s going real well,” Terry said ….”
  • Canada sending medicine, medical equipment to Afghanistan “…. the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation (CIDA), highlighted the first phase of Health Partners International Canada’s (HPIC) Capacity Building and Access to Medicines (CBAM) project, a five-year project that will provide Afghans with reliable access to medicine and medical supplies ….  For more information on the Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project visit www.hpicanada.ca and www.Afghanistan.gc.ca ….”
  • The Globe & Mail manages an e-mail interview with the commander of Canada’s Special Operations Forces, Brigadier-General Mike Day – this on the alleged lack of accountability we hear suggested from some out there“Q:  There’s nothing you’re doing that the Prime Minister wouldn’t know about, right?  A:  All the senior leaders hear what we’re doing. This idea that nobody knows – it’s [expletive]. ” More from the Globe here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Taliban’s sites are down for now, but not before you get to see lies about Canadian deaths.
  • Remember this little bank firebombing incident around the G8/G20, aimed at sending a message to “resist the trampling of native rights, of the rights of us all, and resist the ongoing destruction of our planet”? Someone’s pleaded guilty, and now he’s about to be sentenced.
  • The government is expected to announce today a plan/strategy to prevent another Air India bombing from happening: “The Honourable Vic Toews, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism will release the Air India Inquiry Action Plan ….” More from the Globe & Mail here and Postmedia News here.
  • So, what’s the former head of the Military Police Complaints Commission, Peter Tinsley, up to these days? Running for office, it seems: “…. Peter Tinsley, the former chief of the Military Police Complaints Commission — one of several public servants who have parted ways with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government — announced on Monday that he’ll be the Liberal candidate for the Ontario riding of Prince Edward-Hastings in the next election.  And Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is hinting that Tinsley may not be the only person the Liberals will be recruiting from among the swelling ranks of public servants and whistleblowers who have publicly sparred with Harper’s government.  “Will he be the only one? Watch this space,” Ignatieff said ….”