Personnel Exchange in Canada
Sep 15, 2007

Arriving in Canada in October 2005, as part of the Canada/U.S. Personnel Exchange Program, I was quickly put to work – assigned to deconflict and monitor a variety of collective training issues as they relate to current operations. As a member of the Army Training Authority (ATA) Detachment Ottawa, my ­primary role was to plan, monitor and coordinate collective training events for Army land force units (commonly referred to as Land Force Areas or LFAs). These collective training activities may be in support of a Canada based domestic exercise, NATO Partnership For Peace (PFP) exercise, or other cross border training activity involving the US Army Reserve or US Army National Guard. I also had the opportunity to work with US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) during the planning for Exercise Ardent Sentry 2006.

ATA Detachment Ottawa, a small section in terms of personnel, is headed by a Canadian Army Regular Force (Active Component) Lieutenant Colonel (pronounced “Left-Tenant” Colonel by Canadians).

There are also two Foreign Military Training (FMT) billets, focusing primarily on the British Army Training In Canada (BATIC) program.

The other slot, a Canadian Army Reserve Warrant Officer, serves as the section coordinator and FMT representative. The Warrant Officer also has the responsibility to facilitate cross border approval requests for Canadian Forces personnel (Army, Navy, Air Force) going to the US for training purposes. The Warrant Officer works closely with Forces Command (FORSCOM) and Northern Command (NORTHCOM) on the majority of cross border related travel between Canada and the United States. For visits other than training, those requests are routed through the Canadian Defence Attaché in Washington DC.

Upon arrival, I was given the responsibility to oversee both domestic and international exercises. As you may imagine, my TDY schedule was quite hectic.

ATA Detachment Ottawa serves as the principal Army “planner” to a majority of the collective training events. Each quarter, the Canadian Army G-3 hosts a tasking conference to confirm or designate lead areas for force generation. However, due to the number of Canadian Army Regular Force personnel (approximately 19500k) and Canadian Army Reserve (approximately 16300k), it is often difficult to identify an LFA to support a designated exercise. As a result, my section leads the initial Army planning effort with the force employer such as Canada COM, Joint Task Force North for example, to identify what forces are required and to conduct initial coordination with various units/agencies within the exercise.

Before I arrived to Canada, I had never traveled to Europe in my 20-plus years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve. However, my ­primary duties here at the Army Training Authority required travel throughout Europe and Canada on a semi-regular basis. This, by far, was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.
Nov 2006 – Major Robinson (3rd from left) served as Senior Provincial Reconstruction Team Observer Controller Trainer (OCT) at the  Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre, CFB Wainwright. These OCTs, all from the MP and CIMIC trades, were serving in ­support of the PRT at CMTC.

Canadian Army Reserves
My impressions of the Canadian Army Reserves is that this is a truly professional group of Soldiers.

These folks attend “parade” (battle assembly) on Tuesday evening each week and one weekend every month. The Canadian Army Reservist does not enjoy the same benefits as those U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers. For example: Canadian Army Reservists are paid at a rate of 85% of total pay when not on operational duty (compared to Canadian Regular Army personnel); they have no re-employment rights if injured in the line of duty; receive only meager enlistment entitlements (education and bonuses); and were only recently authorized access to a pension plan. Yes, I call that true dedication!

The Canadian Reserve force pool is not as large as what we are accustomed to in U.S. terms. Canadian Army Reservists are not bound by mobilization policies, so it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain qualified reservists. One of the ­primary factors seems to be the strength of the Canadian economy. Canada, specifically in the Northwest Territories, is abundant with natural resources such as oil and diamonds. As a result, many Canadian Forces personnel are opting to explore better paying opportunities in the civilian market.

Nevertheless, Canadian Reserve personnel are highly motivated, and eager to get the job done. Reservists contribute approximately 600 soldiers for each rotation to Afghanistan. Training is normally about 12 months, with a 6-month rotation to theater. Canadian Forces’ rotations are normally 6 months, with some specialties requiring a 9 or 12-month commitment. Mobilization of U.S. Reserve Component personnel has recently been mandated not to exceed 12 months, and typically, dwell time is at a 1:3 ratio.

One of the major collective training events for the Army Reserve in Canada is Exercise Maple Defender at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright in the province of Alberta. This exercise validates a reserve battle group formation at the brigade level; Maple Defender is the reserve version of the Regular Force ­validation exercise (Maple Guardian) prior to deployment to Afghanistan. In my opinion, Canadian Army Reservists have performed in an extraordinary fashion.

From my perspective, additional personnel are critical in the Civil Military Cooperation-CIMIC (Civil Affairs-CA) and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) areas. CIMIC and PSYOP reside solely in the Canadian Army Reserve. As an experienced Civil Affairs (CA) and PSYOP qualified Officer, I observed an urgent requirement to expand these capabilities to the Regular Force. Our experiences in the War on Terror and other contingency operations have proven the significance of both CA and PSYOP. These non-lethal enablers operate throughout the levels of war and support our instruments of national power.

Although some improvements have been made in this area, more can be done by establishing concrete training relationships with the U.S. Army/Army Reserve.
Possibilities for Canada / U.S. Reserve Component Interaction
I would say that increased cross-border collective training between Canada and the U.S. is an absolute necessity for interaction and interoperability. As an example, the Cross Border Working Group (CBWG) was created several years ago to serve as a vehicle to plan and coordinate  collective training events with the U.S. Army Reserve, U.S. Army National Guard, and Canadian Army Reserve forces.

The Contemporary Operating Envi­ron­ment (COE) has definitely caused both countries to change its baseline training methodology. Multinational/coalition operations are the order of the day and we must maximize our collective training with other countries, like Canada, as a means to understand our capabilities and limitations as a team. The primary focus of these types of events ensures that our soldiers build relationships with those of other countries. Our first experience as coalition partners should begin in training, not when we arrive in the theater of operations.

The U.S. Army maintains approximately 122 exchange positions in 13 different countries – the U.S. Army Reserve has one in Canada. Likewise, the Canadian Army has many exchange positions throughout the world, but only one Army Reserve billet in the United States. The Reserve Component of both countries continues to make a major contribution to the current operations.

There are advantages to a more ­consistent approach and adding more exchange opportunities (minimum 2-year assignments) to other coalition military departments. The U.S. Army Reserve is no longer a strategic reserve, but an operational asset that has proven its abilities to support our Combatant Commanders.

In terms of courses, both the U.S. and Canada should continue to investigate “instructor exchanges” on a routine basis. These exchanges afford military personnel from both sides of the border the experience to instruct (based on area of concentration) within the parameters of a multinational environment. This type of exchange is, quite simply, another avenue to “build the joint and expeditionary mindset.”

The U.S. Army Reserve continues to provide an array of support functions to multinational and coalition activities across the range of military operations.

Joint training for US Army Reserve ­soldiers should be a primary focus for ongoing professional development programs if we are to improve future integration within the joint and interagency environments. I would recommend that joint training and qualification standards be awarded to Army Reserve Soldiers, just as they are for our active component counterparts. The 2007 Army Communica­tions Guide refers to “ends, ways, and means” for the current Army construct. Our senior leadership must take a proactive approach in expanding Army Reserve joint, interagency and multinational opportunities for both Troop Program Unit (TPU) and Active Guard Reserve (AGR) personnel.

The Exchange Experience
What advice could I give my successor? I would suggest that it is important to learn the culture and history of Canada. Canada is a great country with a rich ­history and many traditions, especially in the military. The Canadian Army operates much like the U.S. military – both countries are undergoing numerous transformation initiatives to better prepare its forces for future challenges. If given the opportunity, take some time to explore the northern parts of Canada. There are a variety of winter warfare and sovereignty exercises that you may participate in some of the “cooler” parts of Canada.

Next on the Horizon
Interagency coordination and joint training are areas that truly interest me. I am enroute to a CA and PSYOP position at the U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC) located at Fort McPherson in Georgia. The US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) was recently realigned under the USARC as a means to add more modularity to the conventional Army Reserve force. This should be a great opportunity to see how CA and PSYOP will be integrated into the Army Reserve Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model.
Major Eric Robinson is currently a Liaison Officer at Fort Bragg North Carolina.
© FrontLine Defence 2007