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The Galloping Geezer
Jack Downey ~ The Galloping Geezer

"Photo Credit to Julie Ann Biggs out on the Mekong River, Cambodia Vietnam Border."

Jack Downey Comments on Canadian Issues to Inform and Amuse.

What Happened to Canada's Armed Forces?

(Visiting Afghanistan in Green Camouflage and Returning in Black Bodybags)

Image provided by Combat Camera -

Everywhere you go today, in and out of the Armed Forces, you hear 'what happened to the military?' They cannot get recruits, their equipment is out dated, and they're over extended. The very infrastructure is crumbling for want of funding, etc. There is no simple answer, but there is a Starting Point from whence it began.

Away back in the Trudeau era, there was a Minister of National Defense named The Hon. Paul Hellyer. According to his resume, he 'spent a couple of years in the service' (note no rank or branch is given), by calculation with his age, probably in his late teens. One could hardly classify him as much more than a 'Herbie' (military jargon for a raw novice). Yes, he was intelligent in many areas, however he did not have the intelligence to follow Albert Einstein's advice 'The first sign of intelligence is to admit you are ignorant.' Had Paul followed this advice, he would have declined the Defense Portfolio. Instead, believing his own PR, Paul authored the worst Canadian Military blunder since the Dieppe Raid in WW2.

The weapon of destruction Paul Hellyer used was called Unification. Paul did have other moments, but I will deal only with Unification; as he did have the courage to resign when his party (Liberals) would not accept and pass a Housing Bill he authored. But Unification blundered on, through many subsequent Defense Ministers, until we ended up with the military shambles we have today. The destructive treatment of the CF (Canadian Forces) has been cumulative and there are many shoulders to spread it on. The Prime Ministers the Rt. Hon. P.E. Trudeau and the Rt. Hon Jean Chretien are ultimately to blame. Again, two very smart men who may know geopolitics, but neither one seems to have understood the complex inner workings of the military machine. WW2 Japanese War trials established for all times that "A commander is always responsible for the action of the Troops under his command.' and 21 Japanese War Criminals including Tojo danced on a rope as a result. Lets take a look at the road the CF have been taken down since Paul Hellyer cranked up this Unification Tin Lizzie.

CF senior officers, then, now, and in between, must accept a portion of the blame for the terrible blunders that were heaped on the men and women serving in the CF. The oft stated "Our Political Masters in Ottawa say..." is a weasel excuse and really means "I'm all right mate, good pay, great perks, a grand pension for life and, if I don't rock the boat, a great chance for double dipping in a government job on retirement." This asinine 'Yowsah Maser' remark indicates a Master Slave relationship at the highest level of command. This is not the role we expect from those senior positions. They must, by the very nature of our political and military structure, advise the Minister in the strongest terms possible what is required to fill the tasks set out by the Minister and protect the men and woman under their command. If there is an unresolved conflict, integrity calls for their resignation, en mass if necessary. I am not talking about a 'Palace Revolt', but about an obvious requirement of leadership. Does the fact that the Hon. Paul Hellyer resigned, when his own government refused to pass his Housing Bill, not show that the 'Maser' can leave the plantation to the good and steady slaves in times of trouble and strife? Why didn't the senior slaves resign?

The Unification that Tore the CF Apart

The door knob of the unification plan sounds good and looks good on paper and appears to provide a sound financial hinge. But a door is a door and a door knob is a knob and, once the door of unification was opened by Paul Hellyer, out rolled a virtual herd of knobs! Bureaucrats and sycophant Senior Officers, with little or no combat experience or loyalty to the CF, then sold the men and women serving in the line units down the river. Those who saw the unification disaster coming 'the Hinges', left the service that many of them loved so well, as did I. A door with no hinges is just a wide plank, no matter how many knobs it has.

A few of the initial steps the Door Knobs implemented were;
  • They scrapped all the distinctive uniforms that were worn with pride by the three branches of the service and, at a huge cost to the budget of the CF, dress everybody the same in three types of uniform: Dress, Work and, very expensive, Combat. The Work uniform proved both useless and ugly, was almost never worn, and was finally scraped (more cost). Then there remained the Dress uniform and the very expensive Combat uniform, which were useless to the Air and Navy blokes. The costly Combat dress became the Army in Garrison work uniform even for the Padres, the Clerks, the Walking Wounded etc. the Army (now known as the Land element). The combat boots and uniform wear out rapidly. Nevertheless, these expensive pieces of kit continue to be worn in garrison today because soldiers want to look like soldiers, not like Milkmen.
  • At some time, not long ago, some bright spark came up with a brilliant suggestion (I kid you not) "Lets give the Air element and the Navy element their own distinctive uniforms." "Eureka!" said all the other Door Knobs, and millions of dollars left the CF budget. The flip side is that the "Land Element" (Army) now has enough Dress uniforms to outfit all the penguins at the South Pole. At the same time, enormously expensive, combined Arctic and Temperate, sleeping bags, designed to fall off your shoulders when you stood up in a combat emergency, were replaced by ZIPPERED mummy bags. The 'Hinges' tried to tell them of the many USA casualties suffered in Korea because by the zippers on their sleeping bags jamming and the Chinese just bayoneting the soldiers in their sleeping bags. So much for combat lessons learned by the 'Hinges in combat.' Uniforms are extremely costly budgetary items, but every pocket and every boot lace has a combat tested purpose.
  • The Door Knobs even decided that bras would not be issued to serving females due to the complexity of sizes etc. Now, put a woman, even with an underwear allowance, into Afghanistan and let her one or two bras give out. These are important items and SEARS does not deliver to Afghanistan. "Home made bras made from sandbags are one possible solution" said one Door Knob.
  • Our troops were deployed to Afghanistan with 'Jolly Green Giant' new Combat uniforms while the old style khaki combat uniforms sat on the shelf. In order to survive, the soldiers had to paint their green uniforms khaki! In the 1800's the Brits in India switched from red to khaki combat uniforms. The very word 'Khaki' is a Hindi word. So much for learning from Military History. Since WW2, all armies have employed light oversmocks and trousers, in the Arctic, white, in the desert, Khaki, in the jungles, Speckle Green and Yellow. Instead of having our troops held up to ridicule worldwide, did not one of these Bureaucratic Door Knobs know or realize that Pakistan is just down the Pike from Afghanistan? There, within a day or two the massive clothing industry could have sewn up OverSmocks and Trousers plus Rucksack covers in brown camouflage for an entire Division, never mind our 600 or so Jolly Green giants. I'm sure that even our Canadian women, if asked, would have gladly volunteered to sew up the light camouflage over suits. So now we've had to destroy the expensive new combat suits for survival because, in reality, no one on the Unification initiative knows their job or could care less for the troops in the trenches.
  • To hammer home the absolute ignorance of Unification, I offer the example of a Suggestion Award of $1000, paid to an Airforce bloke for the suggestion of cutting off the ankle tabs and buttons on Airforce and Army WW2 style Battle Dress. These were used to close the pant legs against mosquito and other uglies and to hold the pant leg above the ankle out of the mud. The Door Knob who made the grant had no idea why they were there (there are seldom creepy things to go up your pant leg, or much mud, on a hangar floor at Rockcliff Air Stn in Ottawa) or that this style of uniform had been replaced by the new unification uniform or even that the battle dress was off the inventory and had all been sold for pennies a pound as surplus.

Unification did not cut costs. Blunder after blunder from clothing to Navy ships, Aircraft, and Military weapons continue in this Hellyer house built on sand, with a lot of Door Knobs, but no doors and very few Hinges

Paul Hellyer's response on Unification during a Talk Show (see here):

Paul Hellyer: "Actually, I don't think this is a fair assessment. When I left national defense the forces were in excellent shape and morale was high. There was new equipment coming down the pipe…" (including, apparently, the helicopters that still haven't been replaced 30 years later.) "Much of the problem in national defense came with the integration of the civil and defense headquarters four years after I left the department and the government. This was the beginning of the politicization of the armed forces. I have been tagged with this, but it is a bum rap, because it happened long after I had gone and I would never have condoned it or recommended it because it doesn't make sense. If you consult the CAP website you'll see that one of our recommendations is to separate the military and civil headquarters in order to reestablish the lines of command that existed when I left office. It was a good organization and the only grave mistake was the uniform, which was a staff decision and I should have over ruled it. I should have insisted that everyone wear navy blue in the winter and khaki in the summer and whites for walking out or showing the flag in foreign ports." (In his own words he has still not got it. Where did this asinine set of colors come from ?)

Who's in charge?

Before unification, each branch of the service Land, Air and Sea was represented by one knowledgeable Senior Officer to act on that element's behalf. Unification brought one appointed Chief of the General Staff to advise the Minister. The appointed CGS was required to put aside his Navy, Air or Land bias and then advise knowledgeably about Ships, Airplanes or Armored Fighting Vehicles, two of which he (or she) knew little or nothing about. No one can be an all singing, all dancing CGS. The appointment to the CGS post of an excellent fighter pilot showed the folly of the unification idea. This, air trained, CGS allowed an Airborne Battalion to behave like thugs in Somalia. He resigned and has gone down in military history as General Mea Culpa. To fill the gaps that a single CGS must, by nature and training, have, the Bureaucrats, with no military training at all, run the CF and are advisors to the Minister, who, incidentally, would be changed by the PMO before he even got to know the names of all his staff. The CF were truly Euchreed.

Franconizing and Gender equalization of the CF

Many scarce millions have been spent on these two programs. Their cost should never have been taken from the CF budget. These are social programs, not military nuts and bolts requirements. Ottawa set percentages (as I recall 23% Fracophone, 21 % Female +/-) that would fill the ever-shrinking vacancies in the CF Front Line troops. To be bilingual meant accelerated promotion over other, sometimes better-qualified, unilingual personnel. Millions were spent on language programs in both French and English, to little or no military avail. There should have been no major problems integrating females into most of the CF trades, but unification was not done with the CF yet. Women entered the Combat roles. This was a total SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fouled Up.) Now we have to post both the service man and his service wife and find a job for the spare person at the same location. Dual service families are deployed with one or the other left looking after children, which precludes going on even field training exercises. In my opinion, women are not suited for the hard, filthy, cruel demands of combat. Why would we want to brutalize Canadian women? Is it not bad enough to send young men to kill or be killed in far places? The argument of USSR inWW2 for using women combatants was different as women generally were second line troops to free up men for the front line duties. Yes, there were fighter pilots and other brave combat women, but USSR lost 20,000,000 of her people during the four years they were at war and the men were needed to go to the charnel house of combat. Israel again uses women as second line troops, who will fight if the men at the front are over run. Keep the women in the support role, but remuster them out of the Combat front line duties. No person who has served in actual combat would disagree.


Unification was the poison pill for the CF. It was not a political or military cure. The unification pill administered by The Honorable Paul Hellyer caused the patient to lapse into a lingering comma. It might be possible to save the patient with modern strategies, but it will take time and money. The CF is important to our country. Business, factories, aid to the civil power and our defense, as well as our national pride from Sea to Sea, all receive a valuable return from the CF.

One can list many more military blunders that unification has brought to the military. The Honorable Paul Hellyer must say "Mea Culpa" because, if he was a man of vision, he should have seen where unification would take the great men and women serving Canada in many different deployments. Canada expects our politicians to be able to see 10 to15 years down the road. Simple men have hindsight, leaders have foresight. The Rt. Hon. John A Macdonald unified Canada with a railway. Unification derailed the Canadian Armed Forces. Now it is up to us voters to tell our MPs to get the CF back on the tracks.

The many men and women who gave their lives are still part of our legacy of service to our Canada. Unification, under funding, and over tasking shames both them and us.

Afghanistan "The Repeat Performance " is coming up on a rerun visit. Demand from your MP proper gear and equipment. Otherwise, body bags may well be containers of Canadian young men and women and not one will hold the son or daughter of a politician.

Where is the huge contingent of Regular Forces Officers that Ottawa claims are needed in case of Mobilization? Sitting in Ottawa, or other redundant HQs, while a Militia (actually, an Air Canada Ticket Agent) (Militia =National Guard in the USA) leads an under equipped and under trained militia mini Battle Group to a place where the complete Russian Army and Air Force could not exercise control. Will these senior regular officers' take up a collection for Khaki camouflage smock over-suits or for body bags for the militia who will be doing their job?

The effects of the political destruction of the Canadian Forces become obvious when a Navy ship, that needs an out of date and barely serviceable Sea king Helicopter for it's eyes and ears, goes to sea for one day and returns the next, after it's eyes and ears fail and then re-deploys without eyes or ears, but takes another ship a long, perhaps to tow the lot home!

Oh Canada, we stand on guard for you...but with only what our politicians' sluff off on our forces.

© Jack C. Downey CD

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