Test your Skills
Michael Hill
Jul 15, 2011

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Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been the largest threat to our Canadian Forces and have accounted for a large proportion of the deaths of many a brave soldier. This is often a reality that the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters of the Canadian Armed Forces grapple with every day, and why our support – both at home and afar – is, and will always be, of the utmost importance.

“In any conflict, it’s all about measures versus countermeasures,” explains Michael Martin, president of Valley Associates Group, an independently owned provider of equipment to the Canadian military. “There was a certain level of threat when the Canadian Forces went into Afghanistan. They went in with a certain level of protection, and the insurgents – the Taliban – learned how to defeat that level of protection. They upped their game, so, even in today’s training capacity, we have to up our protection while maintaining capability.”

As a developer and provider of systems and equipment to the Canadian military, Martin is well aware of the threats soldiers face and the tools needed to weather those dangers. “We’ve moved away from conventional Force-on-Force conflict to an IED conflict, where there’s really almost no limit to the amount of explosives somebody can bury,” says Martin. “We need to provide our soldiers (our sons and our daughters) with the type of protection – the best protection – while giving them the capability they need to do their job.”

When it comes to supporting Canadian troops, Martin, who is a former Air Force man himself, isn’t satisfied with simply developing equipment. He also sits as a council member of 33 Signals Regiment Foundation, an Ottawa-based non-profit organization that assists reserve soldiers.
The brainchild of Justin R. Fogarty, Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of 33 Signals and counsel with Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie LLP, the Foundation brings Canadian business executives and community leaders together with retired veterans to bridge the business world with our troops. The Foundation diligently accumulates funds to afford organizations like Canada Company and True Patriot Love with much need finances that support Canadian soldiers. This includes aid for families of fallen and injured soldiers, and scholarships and bursaries for soldiers wishing to pursue an educational career. “We decided to do more than raise money for the regiment,” says Fogarty, “but also to bring attention to some of the areas where the government isn’t able to help out and support families.”

Fogarty explains how the Foundation has also supported an initiative with major Canadian universities to waive tuition fees for soldiers and their families; the importance of safeguarding civilian careers for soldiers; and the need for adequate resource centres for veterans, as he makes clear, “We’re going to have lots of soldiers come home, and each soldier is going to have their own set of needs depending upon their families. They’re going to need counselling and assistance.”

“We go about our day-to-day business and often the thought doesn’t enter our mind that somewhere in the dirt there’s a Canadian soldier doing their job. We’re very pleased to be able to, and humbled, I’d have to say, to be involved with the great work of 33 Signals. It’s a new foundation; we think it’s got tremendous legs,” Martin explains.

Show your Appreciation
While the 33 Signals Foundation’s admirable work is certainly commendable in the highest regard, Martin understands that not every citizen can dedicate that much time and money to a cause. However, philanthropy isn’t limited to mere monetary pursuits. Sometimes spending an afternoon at a veteran’s home, a local legion hall or just saying “thank you” to a soldier on the street are all significant means of expressing appreciation for our fellow Canadians in arms. As Martin notes, “These are the people that take the risk to do the job, and they deserve our gratitude and support.”
The Harper administration has begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, but for many, the war doesn’t end there. The visible and invisible injuries inflicted on our troops remain – physical and psychological scars that may never properly heal – and many must painstakingly adjust to the new paradigm presented by life after war. They have stood bravely in front of us in battle and we must supportably stand behind them at home. As Martin concludes, “It isn’t always [on] the Department of National Defence to fix everything, or the government of Canada to fix everything. We in the community have the ability to assist, and we should do that.”

Test Your Shooting Skills
In late September, the Foundation will be hosting its major fund raising event. It will be the elite corporate sporting event of the season. The event is “Foundation Thunder” – an Executive Precision Shoot, and Skills Competition. The competition is limited to twenty-five teams. Each team will be comprised of two to four participants. Overseeing the competition will be Canada’s leading tactical shooters and snipers.

Each participant will use the weapons employed by the Canadian Forces and be issued a special operations kit (boots, combat pants, shooter’s shirt, shooter’s glasses, and boonie hat). The teams will participate in a series of individual and group skills competitions.

For more information, visit www.33sigs.org
© FrontLine Defence 2011