Monday, June 30, 2008

And a fine job you did, General Hillier.

CP's John Ward purely creams himself in a spasm of Hillier worship:

Rick Hillier reconnected Canadians with Forces

Updated Sun. Jun. 29 2008 1:48 PM ET
John Ward, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Rick Hillier brought a refreshing bluntness to the country's top military job, but his true legacy may be that he re-introduced Canadians to their soldiers and instilled a pride in both...

"He reconnected the Defence Department to the Canadian public and that is a critically important thing, and it's turned the prospects of the Defence Department right around," MacDonald said.

"The public support is there in spades."

Quite right, John. Those red T-shirts are all the rage these days, and you can't swing a dead cat without whapping into a car with one of those cool yellow "Support the troops" magnetic ribbons on it.

Sadly, all that support hasn't quite translated into, you know, actual recruiting. But red T-shirts are good. No, really. We're cool with those.


Cameron Campbell said...

Umm.. Canadian Forces personal are no longer embarrassed to wear their uniforms in public and they aren't treated as some kind of foreign other.

And the recruiting numbers are a political construct, not a military one.

M@ said...

When were Canadian Forces personnel embarrassed to wear their uniforms in public?

And what good is improving the image of the military at all if we can't even take care of the men and women who sacrifice everything they've got for this country?

Ti-Guy said...

When were Canadian Forces personnel embarrassed to wear their uniforms in public?

Right after Canada's defeat in Vietnam.

Let's face it; a good proportion of our population has been mentally living in the USA for the last 40 years. All of this militarism has been imported, wholesale, from the US; it pains me to see it in service of such an imperial, ultimately futile project as the Afghanistan mission, which a generation of spotty teenagers and a generation of doddering yuppies (like John Ward and Jack Granatstein, among many others) think is exactly the same as WW2.

Cameron Campbell said...

After Somalia?

The last 20 years or so when people like t-guy made them feel like retarded sociopaths?


Lindsay Stewart said...

i beg to differ cameron, i don't think that i am by any means alone in feeling proud of the canadian forces. the general perception that many canadians have held since the end of ww2 is that they are a noble peace keeping force. further i think most of those same canadians saw somalia as a shameful, aberrant and non-typical event which was dealt with in an appropriate manner. even as much as many people oppose or feel ambivalent towards their current mission in afghanistan, it is the politicians whose motives are questioned.

where there are breakdowns, as there will be in any conflict (detainee handling protocols etc) those are also largely seen as the failure of civilian and departmental leadership. canada's forces do not have a long and public record of incidents like haditha, abu ghraib or my lai to contend with. their deployments have been non-aggressive, positive and low key. we do not as a nation, perceive ourselves as conquerors and warriors but rather as peace makers and conciliators and i think that's how most canadians would like to remain, fat steve excepted.

M@ said...

So we're crediting Rick Hillier for turning around 15 to 40 years of our serving members' national shame? Sorry, I don't buy it.

Incidentally, I was in uniform myself until around the time of the Somalia inquiry (that is, after the worst of the Airborne's offences were made public), and not once was I ashamed to wear my uniform. But I was just a reservist; there's a real soldier in the neighbourhood. Alpha Male, have you ever been ashamed to wear your uniform in public?

The fact is that Canada had political issues around its military throughout the cold war (probably at its height under Trudeau's bizarre ideas). At the end of the cold war, it was politically and economically advantageous to limit the spending on the military. Now we're increasing our combat work in the world and it takes time to turn the ship. (Acquiring major new equipment can have as much as a 20-year purchasing cycle for the military.)

There's no doubt that Hillier has been good as far as aligning and equipping the forces with what they need given the role we've decided to play in the world. I do give him credit for that. The idea, though, that he single-handedly saved the CF from being a national shame and serving members from being social pariahs is, I think, false. And we're still suffering from many of the issues -- manpower and budget limitations being two key ones -- that we suffered from the day Hillier was hired.

Cameron Campbell said...

Oh, I don't buy that he single handily did anything but (finally) improve (not make perfect, but improve) the communication function of the CF.

Viz the embarrassed to wear uniform thing, I'm just repeating what I've read on other sites.

As for the actual post, my problem isn't discussing whether Hillier did or didn't do a good job, it's judging his performance based on politically expedient numbers made up in a policy vacuum.

Ti-Guy said...

The last 20 years or so when people like t-guy made them feel like retarded sociopaths?

Take that back. I've never done that. I've lived all over the World and I've always been impressed by how courteous and professional Canadian soldiers are in public.

Re: Somalia. What PSA said.

Cameron Campbell said...

Fine, I take it back.

I'm only able to base your feelings about CF on how you went on about the beer you're buying them.

Ti-Guy said...

I only do that with those who start getting lippy online and insist I'm a Taliban-hugger.

Anonymous said...

I only have my own personal expereince to go off of. Back in the early 90s when I would get heckled getting on the bus. When I was not allowed in bars because I looked military. Oh, and occasionaly even today on-line when I come across a den ofinbred village idiots like over at

Even today, troops can not travel to and from work in uniform if they are taking public transport, especially alone. Troops today in Toronto (our most "progressive" city in Ontario) are targetted for heckling, and much worse. Reservists have been hospitalized for wearing their uniforms at night. No, we do not release press information on stuff like that... There is a real threat of copy cat crimes.


Gen Hillier also made several institutional changes to the CF from inside that are not really apparent from the outside:

He has forced a change from management back to leadership. The is no small change to us, but from the outside I imagine it is difficult to see the difference between terms. Basically, managers do not lead. They point things out, then walk away. Leaders are out front demanding performance and showing the way.

This leads into ther next change.

Ethics training, and rebuilding the ethical fiber of our being. Do not confuse this with religious morals. The Gen has demanded a much much higher ethical standard from all soldiers under command, and has instituted training across the board for all members, starting with the DP1 series of training (basic training/boot camp). The desired end state is that all members behave in a fashion which would make the Somalia Affair impossible in the future.

Can we make it impossible? I do not know, however these to small things to you, are huge to us in uniform. It is the basis of Esprit d'Corps (and I am not talking Scot Taylor's magazine).

Since Gen Hillier took the office of CDS, he has made us all much more accountable for our actions. I have no doubt he also made several at NDHQ and DND very uncomfortable, because he demands leadership from the front, which several in the above places could not do.

In the end, yes, there were times were I could not wear my uniform in public. Those days are gone now in most places.

M@ said...

AM -- the question was not whether you could wear your uniform (I too was told not to wear it on public transit, and I wore it anyway, and was never heckled or taunted by the good people of Hamilton) -- but whether you were ever ashamed to wear it. I suspect that it would take a lot more than heckling or anger to make you ashamed of your uniform. And I share with you the goal of making reasons for shame -- such as the Somalia affair -- obsolete, and completely foreign to our members.

The emphasis on the ethics training, btw, is something you've mentioned before, and is of great interest to me. I hope that all our CF members value it as highly as you do.

It's also really interesting to hear that the management is feeling a shakeup as you've described because of Hillier though. Do you see this as a long-term change, or do you think that it will fade when Hillier's memory does?

Anonymous said...

I am hoping that the change will continue. There are too many careerists out there thinking of "number one" as opposed to the greater good. I will leave it at that, as the rest is an internal thing, which we are trying to sort out with things like, ethics training.

The Maple Leaf (warning PDF file)

On page 11 of that issue of the Maple leaf, we find an example of the continuing ethics training. This is not, I say again NOT the sum of our ethics training. The training starts on BMQ/BMOQ (Pte/OCdt) and goes clear through to the DP4 (Sergeant Major/Col) training levels.

Regular issues of the Maple Leaf appear on line... Though, to an outsider, I imagine they appear to be more propaganda then anything. It is written in our language, which could be different at times.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention, the Maple Leaf is not targetted at civilians. It is targetted at military personelle and DND civilian employees.