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May 01, 2006


English/Anglais APD02 5000-146March 15, 2002 Shah-i-Kot Valley, Afghanistan <br />
Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patrica's Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI) Battle Group hike through the mountains east of Gardez at 3,000 metres above sea level, resting frequently to adjust to the oxygen-poor atmosphere. These troops are engaged in Operation ANACONDA, the Canadian Army's first combat mission since the Korean War. The 3 PPCLI Battle Group is deployed in Afghanistan on Operation APOLLO, Canada's military contribution to the international campaign against terrorism. Photo by Cpl Lou Penney, 3 PPCLI BG Photo courtesy Canadian Department of National Defence.

Canada is standing up a Special Operations Regiment - but they are sharply sensitive to the scandal in Somalia that got the Airborne Regiment disbanded:

"We don't want Rambos here," he says during a break in the demanding training regimen this week. "In fact, we're looking to weed out the Rambos. We want quiet professionals."

Lt.-Col. Hammond insists that his new unit is much more than just a battalion of paratroopers. The regiment will all be trained to parachute into action, but he says with a shrug: "That's just another way to get to work."

He wants his soldiers to be more of a cross between elite infantry regiments such as the U.S. Army's vaunted Ranger battalions and special forces units such as Britain's SAS, switching between operating almost as conventional infantry and like special forces commandos depending on their mission.

Just a way to get to work that usually comes with some form of disability compensation...

There's a reason we keep the Rangers and the SOF as separate elements, aside from the obvious reality of we can afford to. One would hope, however, if they are going to train them up as thoroughly and expensively as SOF personnel, they don't get used a lot as conventional high quality infantry - not just a less-than-optimum use of resources (if you need the infantry, you probably also need the SOF) but if you get 'em killed doing grunt work, they aren't there to do SOF work.

I'll stop lecturing them now.

Just to qualify for the gruelling course, the troops had to pass a demanding physical fitness test -- requiring 50 pushups, 50 situps and 10 chinups within a set time period -- a battery of psychological screenings and have an impeccable service record.

The author of the piece, Chris Wattie of the National Post, missed at least one key piece of data: the time limit. And I can't believe there wasn't a running or marching component to the test, too. The Armorer, slug that he now is, can do the pushups and situps right now (huff, puff, wheeze, I just did) though I'm sure I can't do much more than three chin-ups at the moment. All I'm saying is - for that to be a *tough* standard, there's something missing - which perhaps CAPT H can provide.

They're going Joint in their structure, too, as all good SOF units do.

While more than three-quarters of the volunteers for the regiment are from the army, Capt. Doug says he is looking for recruits from across the entire Canadian Forces.

"We have people from the army, the navy and the air force and our experience levels are all across the board, from soldiers with two years in to guys who served in the Airborne," he said, pausing as a team of soldiers fires an M-72 anti-tank rocket at a distant target, which explodes a second later in a cloud of dust.

And, always, there is Somalia hanging over them.

Lt.-Col. Hammond says he is more interested in soldiers with brains than bulging biceps and insists on training his soldiers for any eventuality. "We're not trying to create supermen or superwomen.... We want thinking people," he says.

"We're looking for people who are comfortable with ambiguity; who can deal with things getting crazy, or with the unexpected happening, and get on with the job."

And he is ever mindful of the problems that led to the disbanding of the Airborne Regiment, which came after Master Corporal Clayton Matchee and Corporal Kyle Brown tortured Somali teenager Shidane Arone to death in the Airborne Regiment's camp.

Sigh. I wonder if they need a classic tubby Staff Officer? It sounds like they are taking a more laid-back approach to things of the nature I like.

The whole article is here.

H/t to CAPT H.