Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bits & bites

Some scattered commentary:

  • We'll obviously have to wait for the final results of the flight safety investigation, but if the preliminary scuttlebutt is accurate, I'm actually reassured. As I said in a Facebook comment:

    I hope this isn't a mechanical failure, although that's entirely possible. As the army has discovered, the talcum-powder grit makes for extremely rigorous maintenance requirements - way more than we're used to. I suspect it was a pilot becoming disoriented in a dust-ball on take-off - although that's just a wild-assed guess on my part. If that's the case, though, the fix is simply about better training and situational awareness.

    That might not have been the best phrasing, but what I was getting at was that a training fix is easier to push through at this point than a major equipment purchase.

  • This G&M editorial is mostly on target, but it goes too far in its praise for the Conservatives in power:

    The allotment of $5-billion for armoured vehicles now clearly demonstrates the government's commitment to rebuilding the Armed Forces.


    Canada arrived in Afghanistan without the required protection or equipment, and soldiers paid the price for that in blood. Soldiers accept unlimited liability. In turn it is the government's responsibility to give them the equipment they need. The Conservative government has done just that.

    Look, I'm as happy as the next guy - belay that, I'm far happier than the next guy - that the Family of Land Combat Vehicles (FLCV) projects are being funded. Kudos to those politicians who made that decision.

    But one funding announcement for the Army doesn't mean the Conservatives are committed to rebuilding the CF. They're making progress, to be sure, but there are miles to go before we rest on this one, folks.

    The biggest problem is personnel - not recruiting, but retention and training. And even the Conservatives have had to scale back their modest expectations on that front and accept that today's government must pay the price for bad decisions made by previous governments.

    Even on the equipment side, though, which is the easiest to fix (throw enough money at an equipment problem, and just about every one will quickly disappear), this government has a mixed record.

    Like it or not, the biggest equipment priority is the navy, not the army. We need ships built yesterday: replenishment, transport (and not both in one Frankenstein's monster of a platform, please! Yes, I'm looking at you, JSS), destroyers, subs that work (under the arctic ice, preferably), a plan to replace the frigates, a proper plan to deal with coastal patrol...the list goes on. And the longer we delay, the tougher our dilemma.

    The Conservatives are doing better than the Liberals did, I'll give them that. But you won't find me throwing laurel wreaths at them the way the G&M did.

  • I'm all for getting a better grip on mental health issues, and especially suicide in the CF. But the spin in this TorStar story bothers me:

    The defence department is overhauling the way it tracks military suicides to give a more accurate – and likely darker – accounting of the mental toll Canadian soldiers are suffering, the Toronto Star has learned.

    The project, to be completed by next spring, will record the self-inflicted deaths of former soldiers and reservists going back to 1972. Up to now, only the suicides of actively serving, full-time soldiers have been registered, and the military has prided itself for having a suicide rate below that of the larger Canadian population.

    But adding tens of thousands of new death records into the mix will likely inflate that proportion by including soldiers deployed in the Korean War and conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa, as well as Afghanistan.

    Many of those who have killed themselves will have been released from the military for reasons of mental health, substance abuse or misconduct, and may have gone on to a lonely end far from the view of the defence department.

    Save me the "oh, the military is intentionally downplaying its stats" slant. How many employers track the mental health of those who have left the organization?

    And while I'm at it, save me the "new and dangerous class of offender" crap too. Our mental health system was far, FAR less developed in WWII and Korea, and a far, FAR greater proportion of the population fought and were traumatized during those conflicts. We didn't see the societal fabric of Canada unravel during the late forties and fifties, did we?

    Pay attention to mental health? By all means. Blow problems out of proportion? No thank you, TorStar.


Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Regarding retention:

'Canadian Forces Base Gagetown is playing a key role as Canada's army steps up efforts to train soldiers for leadership positions as the military goes through the highest level of attrition in three decades.

"We are fundamentally tackling the kind of challenges that we haven't seen in years," said Col. Steve Bowes, commander of the Combat Training Centre.

He didn't put figures on the level of senior attrition.

"We're going through a one-in-30-year generational cycle when it comes to leadership," Bowes said.

"The Canadian Forces that we see today, largely in terms of leadership, came in in the late '70s and '80s, and because of that demographic punch, disproportionate numbers are exiting the army."..

Bowes said it's a misconception that the attrition is due to the military's involvement in Afghanistan. In reality, he said, it's a function of the fact the army expanded then retracted in the early '90s and is now seeing a demographic shift and a large number of experienced members are retiring as the military is growing again.'


10:41 a.m., July 10, 2009  

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