Friday, September 23, 2011

Fullbore Friday


A little different FbF this week. I want to take a moment to give a nod to our little brother up North - the Canadians.

We fought two wars against them, then created the largest demilitarized border in the world with freshwater seas free of warships. We fought side-by-side often since.

When it was time for the West to stand, there were few nations that went in relatively caveat free and ready to go; Great Britain, Canada, The Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia and a few Special Operations force contributions by Norway, New Zealand and a few others. Those who went North, West, and Center - only partial credit.

Some, like the Poles, did come in stronger later - but when it counted in the beginning; Canada was there.

They have a lesson for us - not just in their economy - but in what they learned from their experience in Afghanistan. I invite you to poke around a bit at The National Post. It is a little too much on the "all vets are damaged, let's have a good cry" POV for me - but it is what it is.

Mercedes Stephenson's article is worth a full read. In part:
Canada leaves the Kandahar mission with a reputation for having the best small army in the world. Canadian soldiers are respected around the globe for their battle-hardened professionalism, innovative application of counterinsurgency doctrine and holding their nerve in Kandahar, while other NATO allies cowered on heavily fortified bases munching lobster instead of fighting insurgents. The Americans, who lead the mission, have noticed: Jon Vance, a Canadian general, was entrusted to command thousands of American troops when the U.S. surged into Kandahar last summer.

Canadian soldiers now experience the alien sensation of being on the receiving end of allies’ envious glances, coveting Canadian equipment — top of the line, brand new kit bought for the mission. No more making due with duct tape and borrowing from big brother America.

In short: We’ve come a long way, baby. The Canadian Forces are back. The army, especially, is a far cry from what it was when Canada sent troops to war nearly a decade ago.

As Canada entered the war, experts warned the Canadian military was on the brink of collapse. They predicted that ancient equipment, anemic spending and the bleeding of experienced personnel would produce a exponential and nearly irreversible decline. Canadian troops deployed to Afghanistan wearing bright green camouflage poorly suited Kandahar’s ubiquitous brown dust. Ill-equipped soldiers were forced to drive around in open-air Iltis jeeps that most Canadians wouldn’t feel safe in on a major highway, let alone around a war zone. Strategic airlift capability, long written off as an extravagant expense by previous governments, suddenly became an obvious necessity.
...
Deep cutbacks during the Chr├ętien years had left us unable to live up to our international obligations and, worse, the expectations we held as a country convinced it always punched above its weight.

The cost of these cuts — disarmament by neglect — resulted in an increased risk to our soldiers and decreased operational effectiveness on the ground in Kandahar.
...
We can’t forget that, or accept arguments suggesting that the Canadian Forces no longer need the public’s support or continuing modernization. Even in these times of budgetary pressure, the one thing that we truly cannot afford is to forget the lessons learned in Kandahar.

Nickel and diming ourselves into another decade of darkness will exact too high a price: the blood of Canadian soldiers in future conflicts. Putting the military on the back burner means death on the battlefield — a cost no Canadian or Canadian government should be willing to pay.
As we enter our own arguments about budgets - we should accept the wisdom of our Canadian friends - and thank them for their work in AFG.

81 comments:

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

YAY CANADA!  I see that the Canadians have thier RCAF back, I hope RCN is soon to come.

ewok40k said...

Canadians were along the Poles that summer of 44 when their combined armored thrust sealed the Falaise gap... Go Maple Leaf!

Maogwai Cat said...

I really like Canada's Navy, too. (I got to be on the Air Det on HMCS Provider many times between '81-'85) Never understood how a Master Corporal from the PPCLI was the Cook on a Naval Vessel. But they told me that's how it was in the Forces.

Good times.

Anonymous said...

BZ

Mike M. said...

It's good to have the Canadians back in battery.  Because they have always punched way above their weight.  In World War I, they were considered elite troops.  On D-Day, they had a beach all to themselves.  Not a bad record.

Anonymous said...

Since polls of Afghanis have consistently rated all Nato forces as having a more objectionable presence than even the relatively unpopular Taliban, the issue is rather a moot distraction.

KenofSoCal said...

I thanked them each time I was at Abbotsford or a guest aboard HMCS Brandon (MM 710). The Canadian airmen and sailors were always friendly, open and had good sense of humor when dealing with their southern cousins.

Aubrey said...

And were fighting one of the nastiest German divisions at that beach...keep in mind the share of the burden they bore in the Battle of the Atlantic as well. Given my prior life I deal with Canadians a ton, and as much as I make fun of them (and havereal issues with the way their country and society are going now) I respect the heck out of the things their military has accomplished.

11B40 said...

Greetings:

During my all-expense-paid tour of sunny Southeast Asia in the previous century, I had a Canadian volunteer in my infantry squad. He was a "strac" trooper and never failed me on the hunt or in a fight. Whenever I hear about the dirtbags who fled north during that period, I kind of smile to myself and think that I sure got the better of that deal. 

I don't know what we did to deserve neighbors like that but we sometimes seem to be so unaware of them that it's almost like ingratitude.

avidus said...

As a former soldier in the Canadian Forces thanks very much for this post.  I served during the dry years under the brutal budget cuts.  During that time every time we visited or served with you "Yanks" we we blessed with your generosity.  When you saw our state of kit many US soldiers would just start handing over their spares, saying how they could always get more.  Though our green berets did often cause some laughs as we were mistaken for SF, kind of.  I've found memories of such occuring in Fort Drum.

The important thing about the CF was that even under brutal budget cuts training stayed hard and standards didn't slip.  As one Battle School's motto went: "Train to fight.  Fight to Win."  We did and we do.  I'm amazed by the standard of kit now being issued.  Much of that we had to buy ourselves when I served.

I was also quite taken aback when I visited your D-Day museum in New Orleans.  It had a very good area focused on Juno beach when our troops landed.  It was the only built up beach with concrete sea walls and beach town pre-made for defences, filled with crack defenders.   And if you'll permit a wee bit of pride, the Canadians were the only ones to make their day-one objectives.  Albeit the Waffen SS units we ran into stopped us cold Day Two +.

One commenter previously mentioned that we're quitting Afghanistan - leaving the field as it were and that's true.  But that's a decision of parliament.  While we were there we did the job - closing with and destroying the enemy regardless of terrain, weather or time of day.

Andy said...

Had the honor and privelege to fly alongside the RCAF (when they were the CAF-Air) back in the 80's from Comox, BC all the way to Newfoundland and Labrador.  Absolutely professional aviators and nasty fighters, par excellence.  Oh, and I was humbled to be always included as an "Honorary Canadian" anytime we chose up sides for Crud games against the USAF. 8-) [What happens in the Officers' Mess, STAYS in the Officers' Mess]  Later on, I had the opportunity to work with their Navy as well, as we worked out the kinks in a Navy/CG program.  Again, they punch well above their weight.  I want 'em on our side, anytime!

James said...

Yea and most of us will remember that. Other countries who call themselves allies who have much higher populations, defense budgets and industry can be counted on to sit on their asses and complain while never leaving base in anything smaller than a armored convory.

Canadians, Australians and a few others most smaller militaries and countries Really fight and work with us.

US, Canada, Australia, UK.

One big screwed up family. Admit it world.......if we werent here you would get board

Retired Watchdog said...

When someone beats on a neighbor for no reason we will jump in and pound back !   

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