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Evidence of meeting #14 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was soldiers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Peter J. Devlin  Chief of the Land Staff, Department of National Defence
Major Gino Moretti  Canadian Forces

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you; great points.

The military's gift is one of being able to operate in chaos. In that chaotic environment, we try to bring normality to planning and responding. We also try to balance the resources provided with the skill sets we anticipate will be needed tomorrow.

In response to Mr. McKay's questions about structure, as we move forward we focus the skill sets needed, such as mountain warfare skills, parachuting, and desert warfare, in units. We focus on training these soldiers, believing that this provides us with exciting training as well as the flexibility to grow that skill set should Canada decide that an area, a troubled part of the world, is where they would like to commit Canadian soldiers.

I believe, sir, that it is an issue of balance. It is based on achieving a base level of readiness that then responds to and tops up training based on the theatre that has been identified by the Government of Canada. That triangle, that little bit at the top, the theatre mission-specific training, is the training that brings our forces to a level of readiness when Canada has committed troops to a particular theatre. And we become acutely aware of the threat, the cultural needs, the language, and so on so that we are able to respond to that theatre.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

I listened to your response to Mr. McKay, as well, on the procurement issues and the issue of dropping options on some of the procurement for the army. At some point, then, we talk about balance, and we talk about base levels. I'm wondering about excellence.

I read General Natynczyk's departmental directive in which he talked, under strategic objectives, about ensuring sustainable operational excellence. Is it the strategy of the army at this point, from a readiness perspective, to be establishing base levels and balance? Or should we be, and are we, identifying a role, or anticipating a role, for Canada and developing our forces for operational excellence in that role in a sustainable way, as per General Natynczyk's directive?

9:30 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thanks, sir. That's a great point.

I believe that the Canadian Forces approach to readiness and preparedness is one that allows the military to achieve a level of training..... We have different levels of training inside the army, from individual soldier through section, platoon, company, company group, battalion, battalion group, and brigade levels one through seven. Without a mission, sir, we train to level five, which is a combat team, a company group. It's important at that level, because that is the very base level in which we synchronize the skill sets of the different arms of the combined arms team.

Maintaining that level of training allows Canada, allows the CF and the army, a level of flexibility to be able to grow beyond level five to higher levels of training in order to be able to respond where Canada sees fit.

In my view, the strength of Canada deserves a flexible military that achieves a base level of training, and that can respond to the uncertainties of tomorrow. I wonder about whether we put ourselves at risk if we train in only a particular field and only a particular area, because I believe that Canadian soldiers are versatile and can adjust swiftly.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. Chisu, you have the floor.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much.

General, I will just tell you that I am proud to have served in the Canadian Armed Forces. I know your achievements are excellent, and our soldiers are excellent soldiers, General.

A large component of readiness is ensuring interoperability between the members of the Canadian Forces and our allies in disaster relief, peacekeeping, and peace-making operations. For example, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan involved the cooperation of many international partners. What are some lessons learned by the army from working with these international allies? How important is this one for preparation of readiness with the rapidity of situations that are today in the world?

I can tell you one experience that I had, and I was proud of it. We had an operation in Bosnia between the British troops and the Hungarian troops. I was the Canadian responsible for engineering, as I was the engineering adviser to the commander. The deputy commander of the task force in Banja Luka told me: oh, you speak Hungarian, you are not anymore the engineer, you will be the liaison officer for conducting these operations; for various reasons, the interoperability of the communication systems is not working.

So I was proud that I was a Canadian doing this work. I am emphasizing this that is very important, because we are not acting in isolation today in the operation.

9:35 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you very much, sir, that's a wonderful point.

Mr. Moretti and I have a reasonable amount of international experience. We believe that the next time Canada goes somewhere, they will go with international partners, as part of a coalition. I think Canadians are wonderfully gifted at working with other nations. A level of respect and understanding is second to none inside a Canadian heart.

What we have done over the past decade in Afghanistan is a coalition, a multinational effort. What we do as part of our UN operations is extremely multinational. Multinationality has great strengths. It brings different cultures and different approaches to a challenge. It brings different equipment. It brings different language skills. I believe that we collectively, as an international team, are much stronger as a result of soldiering alongside each other in training events, in symposiums, and on the battlefields of today, in anticipation of the challenges of tomorrow.

It's a very real point, sir, and I think it's one that Canada and the army pays significant respect to.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Moretti.

9:35 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

Just on that point also, sir, of one army, one mission, one team, as the commander of fifty-fifty...the regular and the reserve soldiers really represent Canada's diversity of culture. So when we do deploy internationally we're able to communicate, as you just stated, sir, quite well.

Thank you, sir.

9:35 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

That's a great point.

If you were to visit some of our reserve units, particularly in our built-up areas, they are an incredibly diverse group of Canadian soldiers, fiercely proud to be wearing our flag on their shoulders. What they bring to the fights of today and tomorrow will be very special.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, General.

I am looking at the engineering side of the army, and I will ask you a question regarding how the army, and specifically the Canadian Forces IED disposal units, has implemented the lessons learned from Afghanistan in their training regime so they will be able to mitigate the threat that IEDs will pose in future missions. It seems to me that these are the next dangerous threats for operations in the Canadian Forces.

Perhaps you can elaborate on how they learned to conduct convoy operations and so on, and on the lessons learned from the experiences we have today in the armed forces.

9:40 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you, sir.

The counter improvised explosive device threat is a threat that lives today and I'm sure will live tomorrow. We pay huge attention to that because it kills Canadians and it kills our allies. It kills those whom we work with, like the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police.

We, inside the army, have the lead for the Canadian Forces, and indeed for Canada. We have established a counter-IED task force. We liaise with our whole-of-government partners. A tremendous amount of learning has taken place on the counter-IED front, part of that, to go back to your last question, because of the amount of international cooperation that takes place in dealing with that threat.

We have established a counter-IED squadron as part of our engineering unit in Gagetown, and we insert counter-IED as part of every training event.

I would say, sir, as much as it is to have a capability to counter and to fight improvised explosive devices, it needs to be a vibrant part of our training to keep it alive in the heads of commanders that this threat exists, and that they need to plan and counter that threat in every operation they undertake.

I'd also say that this is a CF challenge, because it's not just something that takes place on the ground. If you look at improvised explosive devices, they can threaten airfields, they can threaten harbours, they can threaten maritime, air, and land operations. It's important that Canada invests in the understanding, the awareness, as well as the capability to be able to counter that threat.

9:40 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

In terms of counter-IED, sir, in Afghanistan the Canadian engineers on the task force were able to find more IEDs within Kandahar than any other nation. At the same time, we had the honour this summer to visit a Colombian army. They are also faced with counter-IED situations in a jungle environment. We were able to share some of the lessons learned together to grow our relationship with these two nations.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you very much.

Mr. Brahmi, please.

November 22nd, 2011 / 9:40 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have a question for the General.

In early September, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of a company by the name of Rheinmetall Canada, which you are well acquainted with, I attended a demonstration of a persistent surveillance system using towers and balloons. I was very impressed by the effectiveness of this system. I would like to know whether you think this is a technology that the army could use in future.

9:40 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you for your question.

You are talking about—

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

I'm talking about the persistent surveillance system.

9:40 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Yes, right. We are now using that technology with towers and balloons in Afghanistan. It has incredible capabilities.

--day/night, dawn/dusk--to be able to identify the threat and to be able to synchronize a response. Balloons are a very valuable, precious enabler, one of those enablers that has been institutionalized inside the army because of the benefit that it brings to force protection, to looking after our camps, our airfields, our harbours of tomorrow.

There is no doubt in my mind that on our next deployment, we will have towers and balloons with the capability of responding to a threat.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you.

As regards the current generation of LAVs, you stated that this vehicle is at the heart of what the land forces do.

You said that you think we have the best in the world fighting that vehicle.

Given your extensive experience on the ground, I would like you to tell me what objective information you rely on to assert that the Canadian army is the best in the world when it comes to using that piece of tactical equipment. What other armies are you comparing yourself to?

9:45 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

Thank you.

As I'm sure you know, I am incredibly proud of Canadian soldiers. The LAV III is a fantastic vehicle.

It provides a rare level of protection. It provides good firepower and good mobility. The upgraded LAV III will have more protection, a stronger drivetrain, and a standardized turret that provides soldiers with a level of awareness as well as firepower.

When I talked about the Canadian soldier being the best in the world at fighting the LAV, there are other variants of the LAV. The Americans have what they call a Stryker, which does not have a turret on it. I think the flexibility that comes with a turret is marvellous in terms of the optics that are part of that turret, as well as the firepower that comes from that cannon.

I think it provides protection. I think that how we manoeuvre it, how we exploit the goodness that comes from that LAV, is what sets Canadians and Canadian soldiers apart from others.

It is a combination of the Canadian variant of the LAV III and the skill of the Canadian soldier in being able to exploit the vehicle that, in my view, makes us the best in the world at fighting a very good piece of equipment.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Mr. Moretti.

9:45 a.m.

Sgt Maj Gino Moretti

If I may, sir,

I would like to add one comment. The LAV, or light armoured vehicle, gives our soldiers confidence when they find themselves in a situation where they are unfamiliar with the environment, or when they don't know what is on the other side of the road or behind a building. When they have that confidence, they can carry out their task.

and overcome his fear, because it takes courage to overcome the fear at that moment in time, and when you hear the LAV shooting or the platform being used, that gives you the reassurance and the capability you need to accomplish the mission.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you.

My last question relates to your philosophy. You stated at the outset that there is a difference between Lieutenant-General Leslie's philosophy and your own when it comes to separating the reserve force and the regular force. How do you explain that? Is it a question of generation? Has the doctrine changed recently?

9:45 a.m.

LGen Peter J. Devlin

I am not sure I understood your question.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

You say that you don't share Lieutenant-General Leslie's opinion regarding the need to separate the reserve force and the regular force. On the contrary, you think the reserve force should remain fully integrated with the regular force.

Is that the result of a change in doctrine?