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Reservists in AFG

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MARS

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Didn't see this posted anywhere else.  Please delete if it has.

An article from Christie Blatchford, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081028.wblatchre28/BNStory/National/columnists

Fighting for the honour of serving their country
Reservists, who compete for limited number of spots on each deployment, finally get respect after years avoiding chopping block

CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

October 28, 2008 at 5:09 AM EDT

BROCKVILLE, ONT. — When Task Force 3-08 was fully in place in Afghanistan by the end of last month, few Canadians realized that 537 of the 2,500 newly deployed troops - more than a fifth - are reservists, or part-time soldiers.

Six rotations and almost three years after the Canadian army first moved into Kandahar province, reservists remain the untold story of Canada's mission there.

Eight of them, drawn from regiments across six provinces, have lost their lives while in Afghanistan, in ways typical of the infinite variety of guises in which death arrives in that part of the world - in battle and by mortar, in roadside bombing and suicide attack, through traffic accident and accidental shooting.

An unknown number of others - the Canadian Forces doesn't release information about the wounded - have been injured, the most famous of them Captain Trevor Greene of Vancouver's Seaforth Highlanders, who while sitting bare-headed at a village meeting in the spring of 2006 was nearly killed by a man with an axe.

But as the reserves were for decades unloved by the big brains at the Department of National Defence in Ottawa - only four years ago, some of the country's 125 militia regiments actually ran out of ammunition - so does their contribution today go largely unnoticed.

In Afghanistan, reservists - the preferred term is "citizen soldiers" - take the same risks and do the same jobs as full-time members of the regular force (and once deployed, they are paid the same and receive the same benefits).

Indeed, it's become a common aphorism in the Canadian military, if not an outright article of faith, that if, as the American war reporter Ernie Pyle is widely attributed as saying, there are no atheists in foxholes, neither are there any reservists in a firefight.

The intention is honourable, meaning that finally, after years of ignominy, Canadian reservists are getting the respect they deserve. But there actually are differences between regular-force and reserve soldiers, if not when it matters most.

In a country with no mandatory military service or draft, all Canadian soldiers are volunteers.

But this is doubly true of reservists, who compete with one another to fill the limited number of spots available each mission (until recently, there was a cap of 300 reservists for each Afghan rotation).

And reservists pay a separate price that by definition cannot be asked of the career soldier: They routinely put either job, professional development or schooling on hold in order to take part in the lengthy "work-up" training which, when combined with the six-month tour, means a commitment of a year.

Corporal Joaquim (Jake) David, for instance, is one of 11 members, part of the current rotation, from the 48th Highlanders in downtown Toronto.

The 29-year-old Filipino native, who considers his service a way of giving back to his adopted country, had to quit his well-paying job as a co-leader on the assembly line at car-part manufacturer Magna International; the company, like many, has no "military leave" policy.

He quit in May last year, so he could prepare for the extensive predeployment training.

Or consider Major Lawrence Hatfield, a Newfoundland-born lawyer and reservist with Hamilton's storied Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Now 37, Major Hatfield deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2006, and actually took a rank down to captain so that he could avoid a desk job and serve with soldiers training the Afghan National Army.

But he couldn't leave his practice unattended for almost a year.

So Major Hatfield and his wife, Shari, also a lawyer, put their heads together: His practice was the busier and more profitable of the two, so she quit her law firm to take over his work - and function as a single parent to their two youngsters, Lauren and Lawson.

"Not the stereotypically privileged girl who attends law school," Major Hatfield says of the wife he admiringly calls "the poster woman for military wives. ... She never once asked me not to go," he says. "In fact, she knew I had to go."

Major Hatfield's beloved regiment has 25 soldiers on the current deployment, the largest the Argylls have fielded since the end of the Second World War. The unit has also sent its highest-ranking officer ever, Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Compton, to Kandahar.

The reserves have been under the gun since 1992, when a report from the federal auditor-general suggested they were providing little value for money.

In truth, the report was most critical about the lack of comprehensive planning for the reserves in the department.

But within two years, those same planners were on the brink of issuing orders to close half the militia units across Canada. In the climate of the day - the forces broke and facing further budget cuts - slashing the militia appeared a ready-made quick fix.

As a direct result, a group called Reserves 2000 formed to fight what became a drawn-out series of skirmishes to save the militia.

Probably no regiment was more under siege than the Brockville Rifles, one of the three smallest units in the country and one of a few to bear its community's name in its own.

The regiment's earliest roots - it was mobilized as the 41st Brockville Battalion of Rifles to meet the threat of the Fenian raids launched from across the border by radical Irishmen whose goal was to force England to grant Ireland independence by taking Canada hostage - predate Confederation.

In a way, says commanding officer Rob Parent, now just returned from a stint in Kabul, the regiment, formed as it was to repel a threat from the United States, is "the most uniquely Canadian institution we have."

Riflemen like the Brocks, as the soldiers are called, were the first quick-reaction force, their job to move stealthily. Thus the regimental uniform is subdued: black belt, black gloves, even black buttons on the jacket.

The unit's struggle for survival saw either at least three separate efforts to shut the regiment down or one every two years for about a decade, depending on who's doing the remembering.

But what's inarguable is that the reason the regiment is alive today is, as former honorary colonel John Selkirk says, that it meant enough that the people of Brockville fought for it.

Being under attack by Ottawa "seemed to be a regular occurrence," says Ben TeKamp, an international rowing judge who was the Brockville mayor from 1998 to 2006.

"Some of those bureaucrats said 'Oh, we don't need these armouries in small-town Canada' ", he says, "and every two years, there were rumours they were going to cut or amalgamate the regiment.

"And we'd go on a campaign, lobby our MPs, our minister, even high-ranking national defence officials, get them to understand that ... Brockville welcomes the regiment.

"It was necessary to go to bat for them on a regular basis," Mr. TeKamp says.

He says the tide began to turn with the ice storm of 1998 - the western equivalent came in the form of the Red River floods a year earlier; the Maritime version, the Swissair crash near Peggys Cove, N.S., also in 1998. In all three cases, it was reservists who rode to the rescue and did the dirtiest jobs.

Mr. TeKamp had been in the mayor's office only three days when the ice storm hit, and with power down in the area for four days, he saw the Brocks and their fellow citizen soldiers, as many as 600 in total, at their finest.

"If it hadn't been for the militia," he says simply, "I don't know where we would have turned."

Roger Hum, a native Brockvillian and now-retired teacher, joined the Brocks in 1962 and stayed involved for more than four decades, wearing different hats, as a soldier can only in a small regiment, from deputy commanding officer to recruiting officer.

Now 61, he says the regiment has "been on the chopping block at least three times. ... The threat of downsizing was always there. If we hadn't lobbied the city fathers ... if the citizens of Brockville weren't backing us up," the Brocks would no longer exist.

Every reserve regiment asks its members to give a minimum of a weekend a month and one night a week, and for the Brocks, it is Thursdays.

Mr. Hum remembers the 1970s, when there were few exercises for the troops, "no ammo" and no courses. Mr. Selkirk too, the executive director at Reserves 2000, remembers summer reserve jobs that were abruptly cancelled, leaving students in the lurch.

And all of them, even some of the young soldiers now deploying for Kandahar, remember Thursday nights when the parade square in the old armoury - it was built in 1902 -was almost deserted downtown.

"I remember being on the parade square and there being never anyone above me to teach me," says Sergeant Kevin Colwill. "One time, there was me and three or four guys."
Now 30, this is Sgt. Colwill's second tour to Afghanistan, his fourth overseas deployment as a reservist in 12 years. He's that oxymoron, a full-time reserve soldier, also called a Class B reservist. It means he works only as a soldier, but receives 15 per cent less pay than he would in the regular force. In exchange, he's the master of his own fate.

Astonishingly, for a small outfit from a small Eastern Ontario town of about 25,000, there are 15 Brocks on the current rotation.

In their makeup, they reflect the real strength of the unit - it is more akin to an old-fashioned "county" regiment and has a catchment area of about 100,000 - and how it was misunderstood as disposable.

Many of the young Brocks are, like those interviewed by The Globe before they deployed, from neighbouring farms or nearby villages.

Corporal Justin Mensen was raised on a farm near Delta, Ont. He is the first in his family to join the military. He had a year under his belt at Carleton University in Ottawa when he signed up. He felt a compulsion to go overseas, he says. "Why did I join if I didn't want to go over?"

Corporal Josh Hopper from Lyndhurst, Ont., about 45 minutes by car from Brockville, was one of the first to sign up for what is now the regiment's great success story, its high-school co-op program, which sees students get credits - and good pay, $44 a half-day - for their service.

Corporal Kyle Tennant, now 24, joined for what he now calls selfish reasons - at the time, he was hoping to study physical therapy at college then work in that job in the army.

His marks didn't make the cut, but by then he was a Brock and stayed in while he studied for two years at Carleton University and two more at Algonquin College.

He signed up for Kandahar, he says, because "I wanted the right to wear the uniform. I wanted to know that I did my part."

His girlfriend, a graduate in human kinetics from the University of Ottawa, like many young Canadians, hadn't even heard of the military reserves when they started dating.

But the young woman has since joined a reserve unit herself, the 28th Field Ambulance based in Ottawa, and is back in school studying nursing. And Cpl. Tennant, who in his own words "joined for my own gain" and thought he'd do one tour and get it out of his system, now suspects he may want to do another.

In the bad old days, when the regiment was at its most beleaguered and the parade square empty, the Brocks were often dismissively called "the Broken Rifles."

These days, there may be as many as 130 troops on parade on Thursday nights. There was a fresh class of 30 recruits this summer and the co-op program is spreading to other towns: The Rifles are broken no more.

Perhaps one day soon Canadians will learn the difference, as Mr. Selkirk says scornfully of Ottawa military bureaucrats at their worst, between "knowing the price of everything, and the value of fuck all."












 

JSR OP

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UP THE BROCKS!!!

Col Selkirk was my first CO, and Maj Hum was the Recruiting officer when I went through The Armoury's  doors way back in 1988.

Best of luck to all deployed Brocks.

Stay safe troops
 

Greymatters

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A good article but I dislike how it implies that the headquarters of the DND dislikes and poorly supports the reserves, or is actively trying to shut down units.  Efforts to shut down armouries, and lack of funds so that ammunition can be purchased or that troops cannot be trained, can be laid solely at the doors of the political elite in our government...   
 

dapaterson

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The preservation of dozens of small units (and the Brocks do not parade 130 - nowhere close), all lead by LCols with CWOs is unsustainable - from a qualitative perspective, at least.  What prevents a military presence in Brockville from being commanded by a Major?  Why must it remain a seperate unit?  Why can't we take a set of geographically proximate units and have a single Commanding Officer, with several Officers Commanding below to keep things running in each location?

Imagine if there wasn't the constant churn to produce another group of LCols and CWOs - with no jobs three years from now when their tenure has expired.  Imagine if we could reduce the HQ burdens somehwat - why, we could even increase the size of units.

Alternatively, imagine if we behaved this way on deployed operations - and insisted that evey time we met a small time mayor it had to be the BG commander (another LCol) -instead of a Sgt or even MCpl?


It's appropriate that the lobby group is called "Reserves 2000" - they're firmly locked in the past.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I recall a move to make Reservists purely Civil defense personal, also remember become Op tasked and then had that taken away. The fact that reservists contiuned to serve in the 70,80 & 90's despite being the plaything and punching bag of NDHQ and the DND. Anyone who didn't go through that period will not understand how hard it was to maintain morale in a constantly shifting world lacking direction and purpose.
 

OldSolduer

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Greymatters said:
A good article but I dislike how it implies that the headquarters of the DND dislikes and poorly supports the reserves, or is actively trying to shut down units.  Efforts to shut down armouries, and lack of funds so that ammunition can be purchased or that troops cannot be trained, can be laid solely at the doors of the political elite in our government...   
I'm not sure if that is what Ms Blatchford intended to get across. Remember, politicians sometimes wear uniforms too.
 

Steel Badger

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Colin P said:
I recall a move to make Reservists purely Civil defense personal, also remember become Op tasked and then had that taken away. The fact that reservists contiuned to serve in the 70,80 & 90's despite being the plaything and punching bag of NDHQ and the DND. Anyone who didn't go through that period will not understand how hard it was to maintain morale in a constantly shifting world lacking direction and purpose.

Bang on Colin....    And in the 80's we served signing pink paysheets..... meaning that the Army would pay you if the money to do so was ever forthcoming.....
 

CountDC

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dapaterson said:
The preservation of dozens of small units (and the Brocks do not parade 130 - nowhere close), all lead by LCols with CWOs is unsustainable - from a qualitative perspective, at least.  What prevents a military presence in Brockville from being commanded by a Major?  Why must it remain a seperate unit?  Why can't we take a set of geographically proximate units and have a single Commanding Officer, with several Officers Commanding below to keep things running in each location?

Imagine if there wasn't the constant churn to produce another group of LCols and CWOs - with no jobs three years from now when their tenure has expired.  Imagine if we could reduce the HQ burdens somehwat - why, we could even increase the size of units.

Alternatively, imagine if we behaved this way on deployed operations - and insisted that evey time we met a small time mayor it had to be the BG commander (another LCol) -instead of a Sgt or even MCpl?


It's appropriate that the lobby group is called "Reserves 2000" - they're firmly locked in the past.

Sounds like some units in Nova Scotia - Highlanders with companies all over the place, 1 Fd in Halifax with 84 Bty in Yarmouth. I believe Newfoundland does the same thing with the Regiments there.  Seems to work fine there so why not everywhere else?  Biggest problem with running the military is dealing with the politics - inside and out.
 

Neill McKay

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dapaterson said:
The preservation of dozens of small units (and the Brocks do not parade 130 - nowhere close), all lead by LCols with CWOs is unsustainable - from a qualitative perspective, at least.  What prevents a military presence in Brockville from being commanded by a Major?  Why must it remain a seperate unit?  Why can't we take a set of geographically proximate units and have a single Commanding Officer, with several Officers Commanding below to keep things running in each location?

Was exactly that sort of consolidation not done a few years ago?  In New Brunswick, the Royal New Brunswick Regiment has companies in several locations (and I believe each Battalion perpetuates one or more former smaller Regiments).  I had the impression that this was done in the '90s but I may be mistaken.
 

Eye In The Sky

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N. McKay said:
Was exactly that sort of consolidation not done a few years ago?  In New Brunswick, the Royal New Brunswick Regiment has companies in several locations (and I believe each Batallion perpetuates one or more former smaller Regiments).  I had the impression that this was done in the '90s but I may be mistaken.

1RNBR and 2RNBR are still seperate Bn's, with Coy locations throughout NB.
 

OldSolduer

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dapaterson said:
The preservation of dozens of small units (and the Brocks do not parade 130 - nowhere close), all lead by LCols with CWOs is unsustainable - from a qualitative perspective, at least.  What prevents a military presence in Brockville from being commanded by a Major?  Why must it remain a seperate unit?  Why can't we take a set of geographically proximate units and have a single Commanding Officer, with several Officers Commanding below to keep things running in each location?

Imagine if there wasn't the constant churn to produce another group of LCols and CWOs - with no jobs three years from now when their tenure has expired.  Imagine if we could reduce the HQ burdens somehwat - why, we could even increase the size of units.

Alternatively, imagine if we behaved this way on deployed operations - and insisted that evey time we met a small time mayor it had to be the BG commander (another LCol) -instead of a Sgt or even MCpl?




It's appropriate that the lobby group is called "Reserves 2000" - they're firmly locked in the past.


Our two infantry regiments have banded together formally to create a tac inf gp. We did this very informally years ago. Now it is a formal practise, until we can sustain two regiments once more, if ever.


We have one LCol between the regiments and one CWO. It seems to be working.

To quote the captain of Leonidas' bodyguard...."It's a hell of a good start" ;D
 

Neill McKay

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Eye In The Sky said:
1RNBR and 2RNBR are still seperate Bn's, with Coy locations throughout NB.

Yes, but each Company has, I assume, only a Company-sized HQ -- as opposed to there being a separate Regiment in each place where there is a Company.  I'm not trying to argue here, just get a better handle on the organization of the militia.
 

Eye In The Sky

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dapaterson said:
The preservation of dozens of small units (and the Brocks do not parade 130 - nowhere close), all lead by LCols with CWOs is unsustainable - from a qualitative perspective, at least.  What prevents a military presence in Brockville from being commanded by a Major?  Why must it remain a seperate unit?  Why can't we take a set of geographically proximate units and have a single Commanding Officer, with several Officers Commanding below to keep things running in each location?

The first question that comes to my mind, and the one that IMO would be the show-stopper is that infers that certain units would disband and rebadge as Unit A.  Is that what you have in mind?

If so, inside politics is what would and likely has stopped it.  Once it started, where would it start and when the dust settled, what units would be the ones that were still standing, why and how many of the Officers, WOs, NCOs and soldiers of the now-disbanded units would actually change cap badges?  I can't speak of other areas, but in 36 and 37 CBG, most people are extremely loyal to the units they are in.

There was talk once about making my old unit (PEIR) D Sqn of the 8 CH.  If that would have happened, I can almost guaruntee you that alteast 80% of the Officers, WOs and Snr NCOs would have opted to turn their kit in.

Not saying its right or wrong, but, with most units in LFAA CBGs, that is just the way it is and its not likely to change soon (if ever).
 

OldSolduer

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We here have intermingled our troops, the lone criteria is that if there is enough of one regiment to form a section, that is the norm. we do have some crossing of Regimental lines, and the troops are very understanding.
We have our BIQ qual troops in two platoons and one platoon of BMQ/SQ qaul troops awaiting SQ or BIQ.
 

Eye In The Sky

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N. McKay said:
Yes, but each Company has, I assume, only a Company-sized HQ -- as opposed to there being a separate Regiment in each place where there is a Company.  I'm not trying to argue here, just get a better handle on the organization of the militia.

I can't answer that for sure.  However to use an example from 36 CBG, you have 1 NSH with locations in Truro, New Glasgow/Pictou, Springhill, Amherst (small but still there).  Truro is the Bn HQ.  There is 1 CO, 1 RSM for the lot, with Coy HQs in 2 or 3 of the other locations.  My info as to which ones are Coy HQ might be dated alittle so I'll leave it at that.

2 NSH is a different unit, in Sydney and North Sydney Cape Breton, and although they (1NSH and 2NSH) are Bns, they have their own COs and RSMs and are the same unit in name only.  
 

CountDC

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Steel Badger said:
Bang on Colin....     And in the 80's we served signing pink paysheets..... meaning that the Army would pay you if the money to do so was ever forthcoming.....

sorry - LOL - New Year Paysheets without fail - Jan to Mar pink was the colour of choice for VOLEM. Royal pain end of Mar when the money came in and all those paysheets had to be posted at once - especially when we did them by hand before the OOPS system for reserves came along.

I am sure everyone remembers the cut back in 97 when they did major cuts to all the HQs to give more troops on the ground. LFAA went from somewhere around 250 to 92, supposedly the same for the other Army HQs.  

Can't argue that for years reserves have been looked down upon by the regular force. Often regular force would not salute reserve officers, even CWO's doing a CT were made to go to Cornwallis. Times have changed a lot and the reserves are getting a lot more well deserved respect now. Mind you I think in some cases reserves were hurt by the conduct of a few. Remember a Cpl transferred to Halifax from I believe it was Toronto in mid 80's and he was shocked that we actually did infantry training.  The unit he came from was a social club at the time.
 

manhole

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We had  Reservists from 89th Bty 3 Fd Regt do a tour last year to Afghanistan.  They are fine young men who have been serving their country for quite a few years.  Reservists do a fine job at supplementing the regular force.  They are to be commended for their service - sometimes under less than ideal conditions, i.e. non-supportive employers, limited training days, unpredictable paychecks, etc.  I had the great honour of serving with the Reserves for 32 years and I met some keen and motivated young men and women over that time.  In fact, this morning,l I had occasion to speak with a young lady who is now the first female TSM to be appointed, I believe,  in the 3 Fd Regt.  I salute all those who serve in the Reserves.  Ubique  :salute:
 

Old Sweat

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Let me stick my oar in here. Since the Brockville Rifles is being discussed, let's review its geographical position. Sorry if this is pedantic, but you should get my drift. Brockville lies on the St Lawrence about an hour's drive east of Kingston and about the same west of Cornwall and south of Ottawa. All four centres are home to one or more reserve units. Let's deal with the three in the Seaway Valley, the SD&G Higglanders in Cornwall, the Brockville Rifles in Brockville and the PWOR in Kingston. (In the last, there is another reserve unit, the H&PE Regt, another hour's drive to the west in Belleville.) So let's address these four units covering a few hundred kilometres of Highway 401.

Could we achieve major personnel savings by having one battalion headquarters and four sub-units stretching along the southern border of Eastern Ontario? (I know the Hasty Ps have a company in Pterborough, so maybe it becomes five.) First - what about personnel administration? I submit that each will have to maintain an orderly room and an adjutant et al by any other names to service their personnel. The same with a QM and a recruiting cell and a tasking cell and a . . . Oh, and did I mention somebody to sort out the pay issues? Maybe in these cases where the geographical spread is fairly large, the savings are only in the nature of a few relatively senior positions, along with perhaps the honouraries. Is it worth the hassle? We are not talking about, say the Minto Armoury in Winnipeg, with two infantry regiments under the same roof. To my tiny mind, we will end up with five 'separate' units, one commanded by a LCol and the others by (bolshie-minded) majors, each self-administering, but suddenly with three angry senates and honouraries all pulling all the political strings they can reach.

Will someone please explain the errors in my thinking to me? Please use real life examples in similar geographical and demographic situations.
 

gun runner

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 "  Reservists do a fine job at supplementing the regular force.   They are to be commended for their service - sometimes under less than ideal conditions, i.e. non-supportive employers, limited training days, unpredictable paychecks, etc.       I salute all those who serve in the Reserves.  "

Thanks for the kind words FIDDLEHEAD. Know that it is appreciated by all of us, reservists and former reservists alike. I served in the RCA in the late 80's early 90's, and can attest to the days of yore! Again, thanks. Ubique
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Before we post about amalgamation/tactical groupings I highly recommend a read through this thread http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/24381/post-1170.html#msg1170.

Cheers

T2B
 
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