Projecting Power
BY GEN WALT NATYNCZYK
© 2010 FrontLine Defence (Vol 7, No 3)

Pumped and Proud
I applaud the CDA (Conference of Defence Associations) and their theme this year of power projection and the Canadian Forces, because we’re living it… there’s a lot of uncertainty, but there’s a lot of optimism. That’s how, certainly, I feel about the Canadian Forces and what’s happening today.

I’ve traveled from coast to coast to coast and around the world to see our men and women in action. The Canadian Forces have been busier – busier in the last 12 months than indeed since the 1950s. It’s a great time to be wearing a uniform.

From Vancouver to the Grand Banks to Alert, and from Haiti to the combat outpost in Afghanistan, and deployed in 16 other points around the world, our men and women are serving Canada and they’re making our country proud. They stand tall and they wear their uniforms proudly.

They’re deployed because Canada’s prosperity and Canada’s security begins 10,000 km away, in a place like Kandahar.

I want to take this opportunity to tell you about the things we’re doing well, and where I know we need to do better.

In April we had 12,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and women and special forces troopers either deployed in operations ­outside of Canada or on training preparing to go on mission. Some 2,800 men and women in Afghanistan, a total of about 400 between Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East, 4,000 were just coming home from the Olympics and we’re drawing down from 2,000 in Haiti. Additionally 3,800 are just returning from Fort Irwin ­California where they’ve been on six weeks of training preparing for the next rotation in Afghanistan.

In the past few months, I’ve visited nearly all of them. They’re all pumped. They’re all proud and they’re glad with the missions that they have right now. We are blessed with men and women who have the skills, the discipline, and the professionalism to do the job. They’ve got a global reputation second to none.

We’re a modest force. We’re a professional force. Wherever we go, the Canadian is the go-to person. Sitting there about two weeks ago in Port-au-Prince and talking to the commander of MINUSTAH and he’s got a team of five Canadian staff officers. He said, “I just need a couple more because your Canadians are the go-to people who make the mission happen.” That’s the way it is around the world.

Now, the Canada First Defence Strategy tells us that the defence of Canada is our top priority. It’s always been, always will be. Let me tell you a little bit about that. Minister MacKay and I visited the Joint Task Force Games in Whistler and in Vancouver, where we had just over 4,000 men and women who were supporting the RCMP and securing the Games. I’ll just say the RCMP did an absolutely outstanding job of leading that effort for security.

Next, I went to see the F18s at the Vancouver airport in three clamshells, all ready to go. We took the navy’s Orca patrol ships through English Bay and Howe Sound, went up the back side of Whistler with the Griffon helicopters, and then did a patrol with everyone

It was a fantastic experience. The lessons about the integration with the RCMP and police forces from across the country will endure, whether it be the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Sûreté du Québec, Toronto police force, right through to the OPP. We had police forces from across the country, and that sense of fusion, of integration will indeed last for generations.

Operation Podium was a success as well because we maintained a low profile. This was about the Games. It wasn’t about the Canadian Forces and security. This is the kind of low profile we maintained.

Arctic
Who can forget last November when three of our SAR Techs (Sgt Randy McOrmond, and MCpls Rob Richardson and Eric Beaudoin) parachuted onto an ice floe to rescue a young hunter who was being stalked by three polar bears? It’s the kind of mission our men and women in the SAR world do.
 
 
26 April 2010 – CFS Alert – General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff (left), and the Honourable Peter Mackay, Minister of National Defence, meet with Search and Rescue technician, Corporal Van Sickle, after the closing ceremonies of Operation Nunalivut 10.

We’re rebuilding our experience in Arctic operations. Last August we hosted our largest in a series of sovereignty operations and exercises in the north. We had the air, land and sea working together with the Rangers alongside our partners in government, the Coast Guard, RCMP and territorial first responders, all under one joint commander. But we need to do more.

I was pleased to see the Arctic companies begin their series of exercises. You may have read about this – that occurred just recently in Churchill and indeed today on Ellesmere Island. Projects are advancing in the north with regard to the docking facility in Nanisivik, the training site in Resolute Bay and indeed moving an important program along like the Arctic Offshore Patrol ship.

Partnerships
Now the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) also says that we need to be a dependable partner in North American security and we’re doing it. Since assuming my job as the Chief of Defence Staff, I’ve enjoyed the benefit of excellent relations with those who lead the U.S. forces such as the commander of NORAD, General Gene Renuart. General Renuart hangs up his flight suit upon his retirement in May but before he retired I had the pleasure of presenting him a meritorious service cross for his outstanding contributions to Canadian security.

CFDS also directs us to contribute to international peace and stability and to project leadership abroad. I believe that we’re doing that. I believe we’re projecting leadership – the security of Afghanistan and Haiti, CTF 150, the Congo, Sierra Leone, the Middle East and many other locations. Again, the Canadians, even on a small mission, are the go-to people.

Changes in Afghanistan
This past Christmas I was with the troops in Afghanistan and I was struck by the changes that are occurring as a result of the United States and all NATO partners reinforcement and the new focus – the new focus on counterinsurgency strategy. After four years of visits and closely following the campaign, there are reasons for cautious optimism.

I met with the Commander of ISAF, General Stan McChrystal, and I also met with the Chief of General Staff of the Afghan Army, General Bismillah Khan.

I met with our troops, met with diplomats, and the aid workers on the ground. What came through loud and clear is that 2010 will be a tough year again but it’s also a year where we could turn the corner in Afghanistan.
 
 
November 2009 – Task Force Kandahar Commander, Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard receives a briefing from Captain James O’Neill of Delta Company.
 
A year ago there were only two battle groups in Kandahar province – Canadian and American battalions. Today, in around Kandahar, we have four battalions and the Air Wing and another U.S. battalion is arriving later this month. In addition, the Afghan army is growing stronger and gaining experience in securing its own country. We’re showing others what right looks like, so much so, that our U.S. allies have placed confidence in our commander on the ground, Dan Menard, and placed three U.S. task forces under Canadian control.

The surge of NATO forces and the growing strength of the Afghan security forces are being laid on top of a counterinsurgency strategy where the priority is protecting Afghans and protecting Afghans where they live. For the first time, NATO has the forces to do what needs to be done in southern Afghanistan. Significantly, what the Pakistan military is doing in addressing the security threats along its border region is significant. This is a very important development.

We needed to make every effort to achieve a tipping point now in 2010 so that the growing Afghan police and security forces are able to handle their own security. That’s why I’m telling the operational commanders to focus with greater intensity on the next 17 months where we, our NATO partners, and Afghans have the opportunity to make a real difference.

I’m sending a message to our troops. We need to focus on achieving results today, tomorrow, next week and next month. We know the decision about July 2011. I understand that. But right now the focus is on progress today, tomorrow and next week. The insurgents, the Taliban, will try and prevent progress – but united and partnered, Canada with its allies, Canada with Afghans, will enable an Afghan success.

Our soldiers, our sailors, air men and women, and special forces troops are on top of their game. They’re working within the whole of government team with DFAIT, CIDA, the RCMP, and Correctional Services Canada. We have transitioned in the last 12 months to the strategy and we’re leading the way because of the ­leadership of BGen Jon Vance, LGen Mike Gauthier, and LGen Marc Lessard.

BGen Dan Menard is carrying on in the same way with the confidence of all of NATO’s chain of command there. Our troops have moved out of the large fort operating bases and deploying into platoon groups. Canadian platoons with Afghan platoons, living in the villages, shoulder to shoulder with our Afghan partners to build a zone of security. We are working to build the capacity of the Afghan government and its institutions from the local level on up.
 
 
13 February 2010 – Group photo of aircrew members (Griffon and Chinook) involved with OP Moshtarak. Task Force Freedom, Canada’s ­Helicopter presence in Afghanistan prepared for the largest air assault since the Second World War. The mission of the Canadian component (3 Chinooks, 4 Griffons, and approximately 60 Canadian Forces members) was to insert British, Estonian and Afghan troops into the village of Nad Ali, an insurgent hot spot. Locals were warned to stay inside their homes.
 
Right now governance in Afghanistan is fragile but we have a plan and it’s going to take time. Through the NATO training mission in Afghanistan there is a renewed commitment to provide more and better training to the Afghan national army and the police. But it’s not only in Afghanistan where we’re training. We’re training Afghan leaders right here in Canada. Afghan officer cadets are training and studying alongside of our own cadets at the Royal Military College.

We thank them for their courage and wish them the very best in a career leading Afghan forces. It’s about growing the capacity of Afghan governance and national institutions that will help set the conditions for success in Afghanistan.

I want to mention a young leader who mentored the Afghan army, Master Corporal Robert Genereux, an infantry platoon weapons attachment commander from 1RCR. In Afghanistan he lived, worked, slept and ate with our partners in the Afghan national army, teaching them and by his own example.

On his last tour, he left his forward operating base on a mounted patrol. When his patrol came in contact with the Taliban, he dismounted his vehicle and braved enemy fire to go to the aid of an Afghan national army foot patrol that had been hit by an IED and then ambushed.

For his calm leadership and courage under fire, MCpl Genereux received the Commander CEFCOM commendation, and he could not do this without the love, care and support of his wonderful wife, Cassie.

Haiti
I was on my way back from Edmonton, where I had been visiting wounded soldiers in the Edmonton hospital, when the earthquake occurred. About 35,000 fleet, flying over Saskatchewan and Manitoba, working with the Minister, we made a decision to deploy to Haiti.

By early morning, the Hercs and the C17’s were on the way. In a very short period of time we were delivering effects and saving lives in Haiti. Within a few days we had a 2,000 person joint task force under the command of Brigadier General Guy Laroche. We were among the first nations to deploy and contributing to the effort to save lives in the midst of terrible destruction.

I can remember asking the joint staff here in Ottawa to put together an exercise. They said, Sir, we can’t do it. We’re way too busy. We’ve got Afghanistan. We’ve got the Olympics. We’ve got the G8. We’ve got the G20 coming up. We’ve got way too much happening – can’t do it, way too busy.

Well, guess what. We have a joint operation in Haiti. In Haiti we’ve deployed two ships, seven helicopters, 3e battalion Royal 22e régiment, an engineer squadron, a logistics battalion, the first field hospital and a 200 person DART, and they’re all doing an incredible job together, air land and sea working together as one integrated team. We’ve achieved exactly what we were aiming for in transformation, all working together.
 
 
March 2010 – Canadian Forces engineers and firefighters install a new cement drainage pipe to improve the drainage system that runs under the taxiway at the Jacmel airport in Haiti.
 
We saw a scalable DART capability with strategic effects right from that first aircraft on the ground all the way through to a full 2,000 person joint task force. We saw the effect of the C17 when Canadians were overflowing the Embassy. The Ambassador asked the joint task force commander if we could move out 300 folks. The only aircraft on the ground was a C17, no seats there, but we made an operational decision to move them out by strapping the passengers to the floor. It’s the capability of that incredible aircraft that we saw in operation, along with the flexibility and agility that we have gained over these past few years.

We also see the effect of working together with DFAIT, with CIDA, with Public Safety, the RCMP and National Defence coming together quickly and delivering government intent. But we can also do this kind of operation because the intense training and our experience in Afghanistan, CTF150, and off the Horn of Africa.

It’s being ready for operations at the high side, being ready for combat, that allows us to do stability or humanitarian operations. You know, we can respond because all of our forces, air, land and sea, have experience in mounting expeditionary force projection operations for combat or humanitarian operations on the other side of the world.

Since their arrival the day after the earthquake, Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen/women have helped countless people and brought comfort to those in most need. We’ve delivered over 1.5 million litres of water, a million meals, cleared tons and tons of debris and supported thousands of displaced persons by building shelters. Our troops have treated over 18,000 injured and even helped deliver babies.

Our response in Haiti is what right looks like. Master Warrant Officer Eric Larouche, who led the Haitian Operation, was one of the team that parachuted in to rescue Boxtop 22, the Herc that went down on its approach into Alert many years ago.

On the Haitian operation we put SAR Techs, firefighters and medics on one of the first flights going into theatre. So, from that first flight we have strategic effect. Master Warrant Officer Larouche was one of the first to actually get off the ramp onto Haiti’s soil. He and his SAR Techs worked through the rubble, treated the injured, found and rescued Canadians. You know, some real live Supermen don’t wear blue and red. They wear Day-Glo orange!

Now I’ll turn to other areas where I think we’re doing alright. Another key area in CFDS that we are delivering on is meeting our personnel targets to grow and sustain the Canadian Forces. Last year I told you that recruiting and retention were challenges for us. This year I’m signalling that we’ve done really well. We’ve reached our interim expansion target ahead of schedule.

Regular force stands a little more than 68,000 people and we’ve met our 30,000 target for the reserve force. We’re closing the gap between the total and our trained effective strength. Last year when I was here our attrition rate was 9.2%. Today we’re down below 6%.

Future Improvements
Those are some of the things that I think we are doing right. Let me spend a few minutes now where I think we have room for improvement. First we need more momentum in recapitalizing our major land, sea and air fleets as laid out by the government in Canada First Defence Strategy.

A few weeks ago I spoke with a young CF18 pilot in Comox during his deployment to the Olympics. That aircraft is top notch, but he reminded me that the wings and landing gear are still 25 years old.

The point is, the aircraft entered service in 1982 and, despite the upgrades, they’re getting old and they need to be replaced soon. It is clear that we will have to replace our fleet before long, especially the Hercs and Buffs of the Fixed Wing SAR program.

We need to start cutting steel on ships. We have not built a major war ship in Canada since 1996. That’s why we’re working with our partners in industry. I know many are anxious to rebuild the ship construction capability in our country.

We need the sustained industrial capacity to build a government fleet of about 50 large vessels over the coming 30 years. Our supply ships are over 40 years old. You were listening to a brand new record from the Beatles when that ship was commissioned. Okay, it’s time for a new ship!

Our destroyers, which are vital for command at sea and vital for air defence, are approaching the age where a birthday cake for those ships would require a permit from the fire marshal. Again, we need to start cutting steel on those ships. It is, as I said at the CDA AGM last year, my number one equipment priority – because it’s the hardest. You can touch an aircraft – whether it be a C17, C130J, Chinook, a Foxtrot model – you can touch the vehicles because the vehicles are out there. But you need to build ships and I need support in that regard.

This past summer the government of Canada also announced investments with regard to the family of land combat vehicles and LAV 3 upgrades to rejuvenate the army’s fleet of vehicles.

Health and Support
Another area I think we need to improve is support to our people in uniform and their families. We recruit individuals but we retain military families. I’m concerned that despite our best efforts we have not made sufficient progress to address the pressures on our families, especially with our current operational tempo. It was amazing. When I asked General Leslie to send a battalion to Haiti, I said you’ll need a battalion of about 500, 600 folks, you know a few companies and so on. He quickly lined up 800 soldiers who all wanted to go.

Just like the soldiers at the Olympics – they all wanted to go to Haiti. It’s always the way. We put on this uniform because we want to go somewhere and make a difference for Canada. Yet the pressure, the pressure is always on our families. So many of those soldiers that went to Haiti, they came forward right away, asked for waivers. They had not even finished the reintegration process from their tour in Afghanistan that ended in the fall because they wanted to go. They wanted to make a difference. But we need to give people a break between their tours.

More importantly we need to have our men and women in uniform reconnect with their families. The short notice deployment of our troops is a great example of that, but with the proper support, our families can understand. They can cope and thrive. This is an area we need to continue to improve in certain areas like housing, medical care, child care and child education.

Another issue that really troubles me is post traumatic stress disorder, mental illness, depression and suicide. Our leadership of the Canadian Forces is united in the view that one suicide in the Canadian Forces is one too many. In June we launched the Be a Difference Campaign, a mental health awareness campaign with the goal of breaking down the stigma that some unfortunately associate with mental illness including post traumatic stress disorder. Education of everyone is absolutely essential.

The military members, their families, their peers, our leaders, chain of command – all essential to save lives. To that end, our Surgeon General and Commander of Health Services, Commodore Hans Jung has convened an international panel of the best practitioners to look through the methodologies to move ahead on a campaign plan on mental health and suicide prevention. We’ll continue to make every effort to support the mental well being of our men and women in uniform.

Another area that I’m pleased to report progress, is our care for our wounded, ill and the families of our fallen comrades. We’ve created the joint personnel support units and their satellite stations to support our ill and injured with physical and mental disabilities. It’s not perfect yet, but it is better.

The support and cooperation we’ve received from Veterans Affairs Canada and the leaders of industry have been absolutely invaluable and very much appreciated. We have witnessed the tremendous generosity of the community events that are supporting three fundamental funds – the military families’ fund; the Soldier On fund that enables wounded servicemen and women to actually regain their independence through sports and the hospital comforts program. At the Paralympic Games, 19 injured Canadian Forces members have been invited to be torch bearers and to watch some of the Games.

Soldiers like Master Corporal Mike Trauner, who was wounded in an IED strike in Afghanistan in 2008. Let me tell you, Mike Trauner has demonstrated outstanding courage and, like many other wounded soldiers, have broken all the records with his determined rehabilitation. Next week Mike is hoisting the Canadian flag on behalf of all Canadians during the opening ceremonies for the Paralympic Games. Our wounded warriors will have an opportunity to have a look at the Olympics and thanks to a generous donation by the True Patriot Love Foundation for Soldier On our wounded warriors will have a family member travel with them to attend the Games. For many having family there is absolutely essential for their support. This opportunity in Vancouver will encourage our wounded warriors to form their own Olympic dreams. Mike is training to compete in rowing and shooting in the 2012 Games. Good luck to you Mike, you are an inspiration to us all.

Families of the Fallen
The families of our fallen will forever remain an integral part of the Canadian Forces family.

The work of several hundred assisting officers over the past decade have been commendable and reflects our commitment to the families of the fallen. We will maintain contact with these families. We will provide the moral support and enable communication networks to be established between the families of the fallen so that they can transition through the various stages of grief. They must know that Canada honours our fallen comrades.

Reflection
I recently attended the memorial for Jack Babcock, the last living Canadian soldier of the Great War. We honoured him and his incredible spirit. A young boy from Sydenham Ontario, he joined the Canadian Army at the age of 15. We honour his memory and the generation that he represented that served Canada in the Great War.

Mr. Babcock’s passing gives us the opportunity to reflect on the end of that era when Canadians gave so much for their country. They fought in the trenches, on the high seas and they took the Ridge at Vimy. That generation put Canada on the world map.

I also have another upcoming milestone. This year, in fact on May 4th to be precise, the navy will mark its centennial. We have a lot to be proud of in our navy. From 1910 to the Battle of the Atlantic, operations in the Pacific during World War II, the Korean War, the myriad of successful operations between then and today – absolutely outstanding navy.

We have a force that is second to none. Sometimes we’re really hard on ourselves and we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We are working around the globe. The sun does not set on the Canadian Forces. The priority is here at home but on the other side of the world, like bringing security to a place like Kandahar, saving lives in Haiti, ensuring that a peacekeeping mission in Congo, training in Sierra Leone, working on the West Bank of the Middle East and indeed even continuing on in Kosovo.

We have ended our mission in the Balkans, in Bosnia. The last of our people came home in March. Just think about that – 18 years. We went into Bosnia those years ago and I still remember the headlines in the newspapers, but I signed off the directive a few months ago, ending our mission in Bosnia.

I reflected on that when I went to a NATO meeting. I looked at the General beside me and it’s the Chief of Defence of Croatia. Croatia and Bosnia sent peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan. Who would have thunk? And yet again the men and women of the Canadian Forces past sacrifices, past service have brought peace on the other side of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what men and women are doing today. They’re doing it for us. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of you and thankful for all of your support and I’m proud to be your Chief of Defence Staff. Thank you very much. Merci.

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Editor’s Note: This editorial is based on General Natynczyk’s address to attendees of the Canadian Defence Association’s Annual General Meeting in March 2010.
© FrontLine Defence 2010

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