News Highlights – 30 Mar 11

  • Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, Royal 22e Régiment, R.I.P. Arriving back in Canada this afternoon – more here.
  • Libya Ops (1) – Canadian General says all good to go in transfer of ops to NATO command.
  • Libya Ops (2) – American General on who’s in charge of what in Libya, the short version (“#NATO is now in charge of ALL military operations in #Libya: Humanitarian, Arms Embargo, No-Fly Zone, and Protection of Civilians.”) and the longer version.
  • Libya Ops (3) – Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya required four sorties by NATO aircraft in the past 24 hours, the Pentagon said Tuesday. As of 1000 GMT (6am EDT Tuesday), NATO carried out four flights to police the no-fly zone against the Libyan regime, along with four other sorties in support of the mission, according to information released by the Pentagon. The figures followed comments from US and allied commanders that the regime’s air defenses have been knocked out in earlier coalition raids, with Moamer Kadhafi’s aircraft effectively shut down under a no-fly zone now firmly in place. The four no-fly zone sorties were flown by Canada and Spain, using F-18 fighter jets, said a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ….”
  • Libya Ops (4) – Guess which Foreign Affairs Minister wasn’t at a big meeting on Libya this week?
  • Libya Ops (5) – TorStar columnist“The life and death issue that no major party leader wants to talk about in this election campaign is war. Canada is involved in two now. But to listen to the leaders you’d never know. Our latest war is being waged against Libya. Like the endless adventure in Afghanistan, this one, too, slipped by beneath the radar of public consciousness. Yes, there was a debate of sorts in Parliament. But it was short and perfunctory. The Conservative government and all three opposition parties agreed that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is a bad dude, that the United Nations was right to authorize attacks against his country and that Canadian fighter jets should join in with gusto. Then they got back to the real business of Canadian politics: slagging one another over which party is the most dishonest ….”
  • One man’s “gag order” is another man’s “be very careful what you say during an election campaign.”The federal government has restricted media interviews of officials in Afghanistan because of the election campaign, a move that one critic says hampers the public’s understanding of Canada’s mission in the war-torn country. The restrictions became known after The Canadian Press requested an interview this week with Tim Martin, Canada’s top diplomat in Kandahar. The request was for a story about a transfer of command ceremony that took place Tuesday at Camp Nathan Smith on the outskirts of Kandahar city. Such events happen from time to time and Tuesday’s ceremony was expected to mark a major milestone as Canada was set to hand over command of the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s training centre to Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior and NATO forces …. A spokesman for the Canadian International Development Agency rejected the interview request, saying Martin would not be granting interviews in the duration of the five-week election campaign. Adam Sweet said an order was in effect restricting federal officials from talking to the media aimed at preventing them from making public comments that could influence, or appear to influence, the outcome of the election. “We act with as much restraint as possible, confining ourselves to public business and this rule applies to our communications activities as well,” Sweet said. Nina Chiarelli, the acting director of communications for the prime minister, denied there was an order in place that prevented federal officials from speaking with reporters. But she said communications with the media are restricted during an election ….”
  • Former OMLT’eer Bruce Ralston sounds off on his blog about the recent Rolling Stones article on American soldiers accused of assassinating innocent Afghans“…. Like the vast majority of soldiers in the theatre, these sick little f__ks had as little contact as possible throughout their tour with local nationals, who were about as real to them as sprites in a video game. This was a predictable consequence of all the distance we have put in this military context between Us and Them, the “Them” in this case being the people we were sent to protect. Our whole approach to force protection, with all of its interacting with the host nation only across razor wire or through gunsights, is a concomitant cause of these atrocities ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff promised Monday to re-examine a deal to buy the next-generation F-35 stealth fighter plane, but military experts say it would be pointless for a Liberal government to hold a “fly-off” competition to replace Canada’s deteriorating CF-18 fighter-bombers given that there is no alternative that would suit the Canadian Forces’ needs. “We are going to replace the CF-18 -we care about the sovereignty of Canada. But we’ve got time to get this right. [The Conservatives] tried to hustle the country into a purchase without a competitive process” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) –  New fighter jets Canada plans to buy will be more than $100 million each — at least $25 million more per plane than government estimates — according to a top U.S. budget watchdog. Conservative government officials have said 65 new joint strike fighters being built to replace Canada’s F-18 jets will cost about $75 million each, about $9 billion with training and an additional $200-$300 million a year in maintenance. But Mike Sullivan, director of acquisition management at the US General Accountability Office, said he doesn’t know where that estimate comes from. “That’s not a number that I am familiar with at all,” he said in an interview Tuesday with CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, cautioning he hasn’t seen the methodology behind the numbers. Sullivan said the estimated cost of the F-35A model that Canada is buying is “in the low 100 millions.” “Probably somewhere between $110-115 million,” he said. A prominent Conservative admitted to CBC that the cost of the F-35 fight jets might not be as the government has promised. Earlier on Power & Politics, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn said Canada is buying the planes at the peak of their production, making them cheaper than the $133 million the U.S. estimates their jets will cost. Hawn also said the $133 million estimate is an average of three models being built, of which the Canadian jet is the cheapest ….”
  • Poochies helping Canada’s wounded warriors.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Lockheed Martin Canada gets big (+$22M) gig building battle simulators for Gagetown, Valcartier, Petawawa and Wainwright.
  • A bit of plaid military history being made. “An elite unit of Second World War commandos with a reputation for daring and stealth that earned it the nickname The Black Devils are being honoured with the creation of an original Scottish tartan. A new tartan design will be officially filed with the Scottish national tartan registry for the First Special Service Force, a Canadian-American unit created in 1942 and disbanded after barely a year of intense warfare. The creation of the tartan is being spearheaded by the Helena, Montana-based Shining Thistle Pipe Band and the First Special Service Force Association, which represents the remaining members of the unit and their descendants. The force trained at Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena before heading into combat. “We want to not only recognize and honour them, but to hear their stories before they are lost,” said Bill Woon, the executive director of the association and the son of a Canadian member of the commando unit ….” FYI, today’s Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) perpetuates the Canadian element of the First Special Service Force.
  • More class acts from a classy guy (and an… interesting interpretation of the military environment from an unidentified source). Police found child porn on serial sex criminal Russell Williams’ computer but laid no charges in exchange for him pleading guilty to murder and sexual assault, a new book says. The former commander of Canada’s largest military airfield wouldn’t admit to downloading pictures of teenaged girls in sexual positions, Globe and Mail reporter Timothy Appleby writes in “A New Kind of Monster.” A source quoted in the book said Williams couldn’t face the stigma attached to child pornography, though he was willing to plead guilty to murder, rape and a series of bizarre sexually motivated break-ins. “This is a guy who structured his life around how he saw others act, and that’s how his morality base came about,” said the source, who was involved in the case. “In the military, you can kill people, it’s accepted … it’s within the realm of human behaviour. And in war, rape is within that realm as well. The one thing that isn’t, and stands outside that, is (sexual abuse of) children.” ….” Note to book author Tim Appleby and whoever his source is:  if the source is quoted correctly, and if the source really thinks this, s/he’s wrong.  Rape is NEVER acceptable in any context in the CF, and killing is ONLY to be carried out when following accepted rules of engagement (usually as a measure of last resort).  If this reflects what the source thinks, that source is sadly mistaken.

WHAT’S CANADA BUYING? Big (and little) Accommodations and Adjusting Sleep in the Arctic

  • Wanna build trainee shacks in Petawawa? “…. DEFENCE CONSTRUCTION CANADA (DCC) – #HQ1368A9- Construct Training Accommodation Facility, Petawawa, Ontario.  The work includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the supply of labour, material, supervision and equipment necessary for the construction of a 3 story, 96 room training accommodation building …. The estimated cost for this opportunity is in the order of $13,687,000.00 …. The tender closing date is: January 20, 2011.  The tender closing time is: 14:00 hours, local time ….”
  • How about a big naval building in Esquimalt? “…. DEFENCE CONSTRUCTION CANADA (DCC) – #HQ43604A- FMF Cape Breton – Phase IV, CANTASS Area, Esquimalt, British Columbia.  The work includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the supply of labour, material, supervision and equipment necessary for construction of new areas and renovation of existing areas of the FMF Cape Breton facility, Esquimalt, British Columbia …. The estimated cost for this opportunity is in the order of $6,031,000.00 …. The tender closing date is: January 11, 2011  The tender closing time is: 14:00 hours, local time ….”
  • Tents, anyone? “…. The Department of National Defence, Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, in Oromocto, New Brunswick, has a requirement for the supply and delivery of a quantity of 200, 3 person 3 season tents to weather light snow, heavy rains and wind, plus work in hot climates …. Maximum packed weight must not exceed 5 lbs. including fly.  Delivery of all tents is preferred by February 18, 2011 and absolutely no later than March 31, 2011 ….”
  • CF needs portable chopper landing pads for those hard-to-land-in spaces: “…. The Department of National Defence, 1 Wing, has a requirement for the provisions of eight (8) man portable Helicopter Landing Pads to support the Canadian Forces (CF) tactical aviation operations in austere areas …. The objective of this acquisition is to obtain man-portable, helicopter landing pads capability that will reduce environmental damage to aircraft, improve operational performance and increase safety …. The deliverables must be received no later than March 31, 2011 ….”
  • How do we play with sleep & light cycles (and maybe give them melatonin) to help folks work & live better in the Arctic?…. The Department of National Defence, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), Toronto, Ontario has a requirement for a contractor to provide service for conducting a research and development literature review and a Gap Analysis on circadian interventions. The contractor will also review DRDC’s scientific literature manuscripts prior to submission for publication ….” More in Statement of Work here (PDF), and a bit more on the topic here (via metasearch engine) and here (via metasearch engine).
  • Emergency knives for aircrew:  “…. The Contractor is required to provide the Department of National Defence with Hunting knife set, aircrew emergency knife, used on immersion suits, special features complete with metal sheath, fabric patch, cleat and lanyards, manufactured by Egginton Bros. Limited in Shefffield, GB, part number AEK/COMP.  Firm Quantity: 100 each to Montreal, Quebec and 100 each to Edmonton, Alberta.  Delivery: January 31, 2011 ….” News Highlights – 2 Dec 10

  • Looking into Canadian (and American) special forces incidents“There are calls for public oversight of an elite military unit amid allegations that a Canadian soldier was involved in an unlawful killing of an Afghan.  Federal politicians and a former member of the military are making the calls in light of a series of closed-door investigations in Ottawa that have been looking into the explosive claims involving the covert unit, Joint Task Force 2.  The allegations included claims that members of JTF2 witnessed American soldiers killing an unarmed man, and, in a separate incident, that a member of JTF2 killed a man who was surrendering.  Earlier this year, CBC News reported that the first probe, named Sand Trap, looked into the allegations that a Canadian was involved in the 2006 shooting death of an Afghan who had his hands up in the act of surrender. That probe ended without any charges.  Sand Trap Two, which is looking at the claims against American forces, is still ongoing ….” More on earlier allegations here, from Agence France-Presse here, and discussion of the latest at here.
  • Remember the Canadian Chinook crash/hard landing in August in Kandahar? The initial report from the investigation is out: “Chinook CH147202 was conducting a sustainment mission that involved carrying coalition troops and supplies to military installations outside Kandahar Airfield (KAF).  While flying at low altitude from the forward operating base (FOB) Masum Ghar to the Panjwaii District Centre in Kandahar Province Afghanistan, the aircraft was forced down due to an in-flight fire.  The source of ignition is linked to insurgent fire directed towards the aircraft.  Immediately following the sound of a detonation, flames and black smoke entered the cabin from the left side of the open rear ramp.  Inside the cockpit, the smoke began to hamper the pilots’ visibility …. An examination of the wreckage did not provide any direct evidence of the type of weapon(s) used by the insurgents ….” You can read the rest of the report here.
  • Some CF-generated material out of Afghanistan, from a sailor writing about how cultural learning can work both ways, and an engineer working with Afghan contractors on getting work done outside the wire.
  • Columnist and former CBC reporter Brian Stewart (sorta) agrees with the new Canadian training mission in Afghanistan: “…. By staying on, we extend the risk that our own communities may be hit by a retaliatory attack and this point deserves to be highlighted by a full and open debate.  My own view favours extending the training mission as it has been proposed.  Serious nations can’t cringe in the face of terrorism and allow the likes of al-Qaeda to dictate their foreign policy. And I am sure many people will respect both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff for taking such a bipartisan approach to help our hard-pressed allies.  That said, both leaders are equally wrong in not seeking a full debate before Parliament before setting us down this path.  As flawed as it is, Parliament is still the only venue that can represent the entire country and set out the pros and cons of such a change in direction, particularly when it regards a conflict that is now veering off into such dangerous waters.”
  • And the anti-war brigade finds an excuse to get rolling again! “…. The public debate that has opened up in Canada on the extension of the war mission in Afghanistan opens new and unprecedented opportunities to mobilize Canadians in demanding that all Canadian and foreign troops leave Afghanistan. This is the starting point of any effort to repay the people there for the terrible destruction that has befallen them at the hands of the U.S., Canada and their other warmaking allies.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Tank allegedly destroyed in Kandahar.
  • What’s Canada Buying? Cleaning up a CF-18 crash site in Lethbridge and stem cell research to help wounds heal faster. More on the Lethbridge clean-up tender here, and the tender documents (warning:  mostly technical “what we want to see in the bids, and in what format” stuff) here.
  • Why a sole-source buy for new F-35 fighters?  Because honestly, they’re the only ones that meet all our needs – we checked! “…. Only Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 met all the criteria required to fulfil the variety of missions Canada’s armed forces demanded, said Andre Fillion, director general of major project delivery (air) for the Department of National Defence …. A briefing for journalists at St. Hubert’s airbase, several high-ranking officers said an exhaustive list of 14 mandatory requirements for the aircraft’s capabilities was drawn up during an analysis period that began as far back as 2005.  “Without them, an aircraft could not be considered,” said Major William Radiff, a fighter pilot on staff at DND’s directorate of air requirements.  A subset of 56 less absolute requirements was also included after extensive consultation across DND.   Lt.-Col. Gordon Zans, also of DND’s next generation capability team, said his briefing was designed to “dispel the impression, after Ottawa’s surprise announcement, that Canada did not do its due diligence.”  All emphatically denied the scenario that the requirements were devised to ensure that Lockheed obtained the deal ….”
  • Former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier for Premier of Newfoundland?  Why not opines QMI/Sun Media Ottawa bureau boss David Akin: “…. The premiership would be his for the taking and Hillier is said to be seriously considering it.  He still has a keen desire for public service but is also wise enough to know he risks significant harm to his current excellent public image by mixing it up in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.  Hillier is great on leadership but the knock on him is he was never much of a policy guy. Where is he on health care? On equalization?  And while everyone knows Hillier loves the Toronto Maple Leafs, no one’s quite sure if he wears a blue or red jersey when it comes to politics.  Sources who worked with him during his military career tell me Hillier once described his political views in private conversation as “to the right of Attila the Hun” but in public he has tried to maintain his political neutrality and independence.  Still, he, too, is one of those outsized Newfoundland personalities that would enliven our national political life. And our national political class could certainly use his candour, wit, and good judgment.”
  • An interesting quote & caveat to keep in mind on the Wikileaks fracas, via the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Blog:  “It is difficult, though by no means impossible, for a journalist to obtain access to original documents.  But these are often a snare and a delusion.  Just because a document is a document, it has a glamour which tempts the reader to give it more weight than it deserves. This document from the United States Embassy in Amman, for example. Is it a first draft, a second draft or the finished memorandum? Was it written by an official of standing, or by some dogsbody with a bright idea? Was it written with serious intent or just to enhance the writer’s reputation? Even if it is unmistakably a direct instruction to the United States Ambassador from the Secretary of State dated last Tuesday, is it still valid today?  In short, documentary intelligence, to be really valuable, must come as a steady stream, embellished with an awful lot of explanatory annotation. An hour’s serious discussion with a trustworthy informant is often more valuable than any number of original documents.” Click here to find out who shared these gems of intelligence. News Highlights – 15 Nov 10

  • If you’re a soldier in Petawawa, it may get harder to get counselling for you or your family. This, from the Canadian Press“Hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa who sought counselling at a nearby hospital in eastern Ontario must get help elsewhere.  The Pembroke Regional Hospital says it can no longer afford the adult outpatient service that saw more than 400 soldiers a year seeking treatment outside the military health system.  Individual counselling has been dramatically scaled back with the retirement this year of four social workers who are not being replaced. Marital sessions are no longer offered.  Soldiers had received free counselling for anger, stress, depression and relationship problems ….”
  • Canada’s buying lotsa real estate – in Afghanistan. This, from Postmedia News“Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs has bought millions of dollars worth of land and property in Afghanistan over the past two years, contributing to a 410% increase in its spending on real estate and capital works since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power.  Foreign Affairs spent $24.5 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year on real estate or renovations in Afghanistan — nearly one third of the $85.3 million the department spent on diplomatic digs around the world. It spent another $1.5 million in neighbouring Pakistan …. Paul Dewar, NDP foreign affairs critic, said money would be better spent on programs than real estate at the moment.  “Everyone knows the costs in Kabul. The price of land is similar to Manhattan right now in terms of buying real estate there …. Why would you buy in a market that is incredibly inflated right now because of what some people call the UN gold rush?” ….”
  • Guess what the chatter o’ the day on Parliament Hill’s going to be today? Canada’s role in Afghanistan is expected to be high on the agenda as Parliament resumes sitting on Monday, even though NATO has yet to announce firm plans on troop levels and what exactly it wants from Canadian forces ….  While the Liberals appear to be onside with the government, the NDP and Bloc are not ….”
  • One Canadian officer in Afghanistan, speaking to Postmedia News,  has an interesting perspective on what Afghan security forces should be learning: “Col. Paul Scagnetti’s small unit at the Afghan Army Command and Staff College has already been doing for 18 months what the Harper government is about to order hundreds of soldiers to do after Canadian combat operations cease in Kandahar next summer: train Afghans to bring security to their country.  “If Canadians want bang for their dollars, this is it,” he said.  “Every soldier wants to be on a combat mission, but if they have to do something else, training is actually more important,” said Scagnetti, who was a high school teacher in Timmins, Ont., for 31 years and who has been an army reservist for almost as long.  “In the long-term, this (training) is an enabler for peace, because you end up with an Afghan teaching an Afghan, who brings security to other Afghans. And there is now a generation of Canadians with combat experience with lessons to pass on.” ….”
  • Another idea for a Canadian role in Afghanistan, according to Postmedia News, is protecting women’s rights “Championing the emancipation of Afghan women is emerging as a possible non-military, post-combat role for Canada as politicians and activists debate the future of the costly mission in Afghanistan …. Ottawa has yet to unveil its full strategy for Afghanistan once combat troops pull out of restive Kandahar in July 2011 but, on Monday, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights will begin hearing from experts on what role Canada might play in supporting the promotion and protection of women’s rights in the war-torn country ….” More on the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights here.
  • Yet another idea for an alternative future mission, courtesy of Scott Taylor at the Halifax Chronicle-Herald“….Harper could have announced the establishment of a vocational school staffed by a corps of well-remunerated recruits from the Afghan-Canadian diaspora. Without a linguistic barrier and no religious or cultural chasms to bridge, these instructors could quickly mentor thousands of students to literacy and competency within a variety of essential trades.  In other words, Afghan-Canadians would teach Afghans how to construct and maintain the basic infrastructure necessary to improve the day-to-day lives of other Afghans.  Instead, we will be sending thousands more Canadian soldiers to teach young Afghan men how to fight.”
  • According to the Canadian Press, A new report, partly funded by the Foreign Affairs Department, says western nations have misunderstood the war aims of the Taliban and it cautions any potential peace deal with them could be a threat to human rights …. The report suggests many insurgent fighters have taken up arms in retaliation for perceived military aggression by NATO — a sentiment echoed Sunday when the Afghan president asked western armies to restrain their operations ….” You can find the report, “Dangerous Liaisons with the Afghan Taliban:  The Feasibility and Risks of Negotiations,” as well as an executive summary, here.
  • Blog Watch: Mark Collins on “Since When Does the PM Alone Have the Power to Make Military Mission Decisions?”
  • Also from Mark, a reminder that training can, indeed, happen without trainers facing combat.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost two dozen U.S., AFG troops alleged killed in attacks in Kandahar

DND to Memorialize Petawawa’s Fallen in AFG

This, from MERX:

“….DEFENCE CONSTRUCTION CANADA (DCC) – #PA076902 – Construct Afghanistan Memorial Monument, CFB Petawawa, Ontario

The work includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the supply of labour, material, supervision and equipment necessary to construct Afghanistan Memorial Monument. The work is to be completed in two phases. Phase one (1) will include the fabrication and installation of the granite monument and reinforced concrete foundation. Phase two (2) will include all site work associated with the granite monument including plaza, sidewalk, barrier free ramps, flagpoles, landscaping, pavement markings and signage….”

I’ve shared some material from the bid documents here at