News Highlights – 1 Jul 11

First off, Happy Canada Day!

  • Afghanistan (1)  “Whazzup for Canada Day?” meme.  “Every day is grey at Kandahar Airfield. The sprawling military base, known as KAF, is always covered in layers of dust from the crushed stone roads, the concrete walls, concrete buildings and bomb shelters, and the constant traffic of tanks, trucks and military aircraft. On top of that, you’ve got 30,000 soldiers, dressed in desert khakis, who, by design, blend into the landscape. Colour is almost like a dangerous outlier here. But there is one splash of colour that lights up this dull place — the Maple Leaf ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  The Treasure Hunter just knows where to search. As other Canadian soldiers are looking to get out of Afghanistan, he’s still combing every inch he can find. Combat Engineer Sgt. Stephane Mailloux has a particularly special knack for finding the weapons caches that insurgents try to hide here. On this day, he stands in front of the other members of Bulldog Company at this forward operating base, and accepts a special coin for finding an amazing number of weapons along with the ingredients for improvised explosive devices. At last count, the man they’ve dubbed the Treasure Hunter has sniffed out about 87 hidden stockpiles ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  “Sometimes, you have to travel far from home to fall in love with Canada again. Sometimes, the best of our dominion shines brightest in distant, deranged reaches. Sometimes, the qualities that make us a fine and honourable nation — a country of virtue — reveal themselves in the most benighted of places, where the word “Canada’’ is uttered with such envy, like a prayer. I came late to the concept of patriotism, a downtown Toronto kid of immigrant parents, who for the longest time believed herself to be American, or maybe second-class British, because of the Queen’s portrait on a classroom wall and God Save the Queen as anthem. It appears children of later generations suffer from no such identity confusion, weaned at an early age to the distinctiveness of their nationality, their birthright, a message pounded into their brains by teachers, mass media, Can-cult and Olympic gold medal hockey games. It’s almost unseemly — un-Canadian, dare I say — to take so much pleasure in ourselves ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  “Op OMID ATAL 09: Canada’s last partnered combat operation in Kandahar”  (Courtesy of the CF Info-Machine)
  • Afghanistan (5)  “Ribbon-cutting at Outpost Khyber: The Panjwa’i Road opens to traffic” (Courtesy of the CF Info-Machine)
  • Afghanistan (6)  The Canadian head of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission, Grant Kippen, speaks out on recent electoral shenanigans. “…. President Karzai has the perfect opportunity to step back from the current precipice and provide the leadership that is required to decisively match actions with the words he delivered in a speech to the NATO Summit in Lisbon last November: “Our Constitution, a harmonious blend of our Islamic values of justice and the universal principles of human rights, is our most important achievement of the last nine years … we need to enhance the checks and balances among the three branches of the state. … We are also committed to strengthening Parliament as an institution. I will work with the future Parliament to strengthen their constitutional role.” ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  More than 20 claimed killed in alleged attacks in Kandahar, Zabul.
  • Joshua Caleb Baker, 1985-2010, R.I.P.  One of two soldiers charged with manslaughter in the death of a colleague is a Calgary-based firefighter and reservist with the King’s Own Calgary Regiment. Maj. Darryl Watts was the officer in charge on a training range near Kandahar city, Afghanistan, when an explosion killed Edmonton-based Cpl. Joshua Caleb Baker on Feb. 12, 2010. A longtime reservist, Watts has been a firefighter for more than 10 years and was on military leave from his job at that time. The fire department said Watts promptly informed his superiors of the charges and he remains on active duty. “As far as CFD is concerned, his performance has been exemplary with the Calgary Fire Department,” said acting fire Chief Ken Uzeloc. “His leadership amongst his crew, his professionalism, his competency as a firefighter, he’s very good and the department has never had an issue with Mr. Watts.” ….”
  • Libya Mission  HMCS Vancouver preparing to head out to replace HMCS Charlottetown.
  • The Conservative government is strengthening the symbolic power of the military in public life by having a member of the Canadian Forces play a prominent role in citizenship ceremonies. In an operational bulletin issued earlier this year, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration said highlighting the service of members of the armed forces is a way to underline to every new Canadian the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship. The bulletin, which describes military service as one of the highest expressions of citizenship, states that members of the military should be seated on the main platform with the citizenship judge, that they can stand in the receiving line congratulating new citizens and that they may give a two- to three-minute speech. Where possible, the bulletin says the preference is for veterans of the war in Afghanistan …. Michael Fellman, a professor emeritus of history at Simon Fraser University, said it’s part of a gradual militarization of Canadian culture under the Conservatives. “The Tories are in a long-range campaign to change Canadian values and make them more conservative,” Prof. Fellman said. “This is a way to show that the military is at the core of the meaning of citizenship …. Major Pete Saunders, a member of the air force who served overseas in support of the war in Afghanistan, has participated in four citizenship ceremonies over the last year … “What we want to impress upon [the new citizens], much in the same way as the RCMP officer, is that we’re here to serve them. We’re not here to beat them down. We’re not here to cause them fear” ….”
  • Meanwhile, “Randy Crowell wouldn’t make much of a soldier. He is, by his own estimation, past his prime – “too fat and too old” to join the ranks. The 51-year-old Edmonton dentist does, nevertheless, have a soft spot for those doing what he does not. He’s the type to shake the hands of soldiers he passes in the street, to raise his voice eagerly while singing their praises, and he itches to make a lasting tribute. So began Dr. Crowell’s populist mission: to persuade Edmonton, a military town, to rename a major road “Heroes Boulevard” in honour of its troops. However, his grassroots campaign has run up against unlikely opponents – the city and the Canadian ForcesLocal military leaders cringed at the name, city staff say – specifically, they thought that referring to all members of the military as “heroes” would dilute the tribute of Ontario’s Highway of Heroes, the route travelled by processions carrying the bodies of soldiers who died overseas. Local base officials also thought that soldiers, who generally consider themselves to be people doing a job rather than heroes, would be uncomfortable with such a name. The city, meanwhile, balked at the cost of changing signs ….”
  • CF-Royals Link (1)  “For royal tours to Canada, equerries are chosen from the commissioned officers of the Canadian Forces — typically a major or lieutenant-colonel is appointed for the Queen while a captain is selected for the child of a monarch. Prince William wanted a search and rescue pilot for his equerry ….”
  • CF-Royals Link (2)  “Prince William has been cleared to fly a Sea King helicopter during a flight demonstration Monday in Prince Edward Island, the Canadian military has confirmed. The 29-year-old prince has flown Sea Kings before, having served in the Royal Air Force as a search and rescue pilot since September 2010. The prince and his wife Kate are to arrive in Ottawa on Thursday to begin a tour that will also take them to Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Alberta, before leaving July 8 for California. The couple is slated to arrive in Charlottetown on Sunday night before departing the next morning for Dalvay by-the-Sea, the waterfront resort where William is expected to board a CH124 Sea King with at least two Canadian military pilots and a navigator. Military spokesman Lt. Tyrone Grande said Wednesday the prince will be on board the aircraft during a so-called waterbirding demonstration, which will involve landing the amphibious helicopter on Dalvay Lake ….”
  • Remember this explosion at a Quebec recruiting centre, with this group claiming responsiblity, last summer?  Police are still working on the case.  “Authorities are confident they will lay charges “in the near future” in the bombing of a military recruitment centre almost one year ago. Canada’s elite counter-terrorism squad set up a command post at the Canadian Forces facility in Trois-Rivieres, Que., Thursday to encourage new witnesses to step forward. “We don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” said Sgt. John Athanasiades, a spokesman for the elite Integrated National Security Enforcement team. “It’s advancing very well and I’m confident that in the near future we will lay charges in this investigation.” ….”  Lots of good information and discussion at here.
  • Oooopsie.  “A Canadian sailor’s decision to sneak stun guns, switchblade knives and other prohibited weapons into the country aboard a warship was “an act of childish immaturity,” his lawyer says. Ordinary Seaman Andrew James Yakimak, 22, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Halifax provincial court to a Criminal Code charge of unauthorized possession of prohibited weapons and three Customs Act charges: attempting to smuggle prohibited items, failing to report imported goods and making false statements to border agents. Judge Brian Gibson accepted a joint recommendation from lawyers and gave Yakimak a 15-month conditional sentence. The young man was charged after customs officers searched the HMCS Athabaskan at the Halifax Dockyard on Dec. 2 and found two stun guns, two switchblades, a can of pepper spray and five brass knuckles. Yakimak purchased the weapons at a flea market while the ship was in Florida ….”
  • The U.N. extends its peacekeeping mission between Israel and Syria Canada has two officers involved in that one.