Press-Republican

Columns

November 1, 2013

Reviewing Canadian troops

It’s called Veterans Day south of the border and Remembrance Day in Canada and in other nations in the British Commonwealth and elsewhere around the world.

For the first time in a dozen years, Nov. 11 comes with no significant number of Canadian soldiers deployed on a mission overseas, either in a combat, training or peace-keeping role.

The last of the nearly 1,000 Canadian troops assigned since 2009 to the United Nations-led mission to train Afghan security forces will be returning home in the next few weeks.

Apart from that, according to government statistics, small numbers of Canadian military personnel are deployed on UN missions around the world, from Haiti (39), to Mali (40), the Sinai Peninsula (28) and Kosovo (5). A Royal Canadian Navy ship is on anti-terrorist patrol in the Arabian Sea with a crew of 250.

Back on home soil, Canadian troops are involved regularly in marine operations, including search and rescue, and in time of civic disasters, such as the massive flooding that struck Calgary back in June, where some 2,200 soldiers came to the rescue.

With the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Canada’s first real combat mission since Korea, and the seemingly extreme reluctance of western forces to get involved in further “boots on the ground” missions around the planet, the federal government has launched a revamp of army operations called Defence Renewal.

Spending on Canadian Forces is the largest single item in the federal budget (as it is in the United States and pretty well all industrialized nations), some $18 billion. It’s spent on 68,000 personnel in uniform, plus about 25,000 civil servants.

What’s more, the federal government is committed to huge expenditures on new fleets of fighter jets, helicopters and ships to replace the current inventory of aging machines. This summer, for example, retired and active personnel got together for a big celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the acquisition of the Sea King navy choppers.

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