Armed forces stretched to the limit

Recently, journalists from community newspapers across Canada participated in briefings in Ottawa that included Canada’s deployment of navy, air force. and ground troops around the world in peacekeeping and rebuilding efforts.
Those participating learned that Canada’s forces are playing a vital role in many operations involving the United Nations and NATO.
James Sawka shortly will be deployed to the border between Israel and Syria, where he will be part of the 190-troop Canadian commitment to the United Nations that has been in place since 1974 observing the ceasefire between these two nations.
It is known as the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.
This is the second deployment for Sawka, whose first overseas rotation was in 2000-01 to Bosnia.
Canada’s commitment to the Balkans through NATO is 1,200 soldiers, and several young men and women from Rainy River District have done tours to the region.
During “Operation Apollo,” roughly 1,200 navy personnel aboard as many as five ships at a time were deployed to the Persian Gulf region to intercept and inspect ships that may be harbouring or supplying terrorists.
In addition, our air wing supplied three Hercules aircraft with support personnel while, at the same time, 750 soldiers from the Third Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI) Battle Group were deployed.
Canada currently is providing humanitarian aid to Iraq by assigning C-130s to fly in food supplies. And Canada now is in the midst of deploying 1,800 troops back to Afghanistan.
In addition to those commitments, Canada also now has troops in Cyprus, supervising the armistice agreements between Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia.
Canada has assigned 1,000 personal to NORAD. Because of our commitments in 2001 and 2002 in the Gulf, Canada’s naval forces were not able to sail in NATO joint naval training exercises.
According to a senior military officer, Canada has a total of 61,500 armed forces, of which 25,300 are considered combatant. Of the 14,000 land forces, fully one-third are committed and in the field at any one time.
Canada’s navy has 4,000 combatants, and fully one-third of the force was being deployed into the Gulf during “Operation Apollo.”
Canada’s military plans to have one-third of their forces deployed in the field, one third-training to be deployed, and one-third returning from deployment.
Virtually every 18 months, our forces find themselves deployed outside of Canada. It takes a toll on family life.
When asked about future commitments of Canadian forces, the senior military officer noted that issues on the table include the Middle East peace process and the reconstruction of Iraq.
If Canada were to participate, it would place even more troops on deployment.
Canada, in going to Afghanistan with its 1,800 troops, have had to rent transport aircraft to fly equipment into the region. Because our C-130 Hercules aircraft are aging, the maintenance is increasing and, as a result, the total time allotted to fly the aircraft has been reduced by almost 25 percent.
In the near future, Canadians will have to decide how important it is to participate in peacekeeping—something that is a long tradition. As NATO and the United Nations call for more missions, Canada will have to consider expanding its forces and modernizing much of its equipment if it wants to be a full participant.
It will be costly. Peacekeepers require the tools to make peace. Currently our forces are stretched to the limit.

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