Halifax, Nova Scotia — The Chief of the Land Staff, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, spoke with members from Land Force Atlantic Area (LFAA) recently during a Town Hall meeting at CFB Halifax.
“It’s a good time to be a soldier. Our nation has once again asked us—asked you—to step up to the plate,” LGen Leslie said, referring to government orders to deploy to Haiti after it was devastated by a category seven earthquake.
At a time when the Army is fully engaged in international and domestic operations, LGen Leslie praised soldiers for their hard work and unwavering dedication. He talked at length about the route and procedures that casualties coming home from Afghanistan go through, saying he would spare no expense to look after their needs.
The CLS explained the importance of prudent fiscal management. Although the DND/CF budget has not been cut, fiscal responsibility for foreign and domestic operations will fall strictly under the defence budget. In this context, hard decisions will have to be made within the Army. Funding adjustments are being spread across the Army to ensure that key priorities are met. In order to achieve this, the Army will:
- reduce planned activities and training for soldiers not immediately preparing for operations;
- delay non-urgent maintenance and repair of infrastructure and equipment;
- delay procurement of non-essential items, including some commercial vehicles;
- reduce administrative travel and conferences;
- reduce information technology expenditures on items such as computers and cell phones; and
- reduce the number of full-time Reservists.
The number of full-time Class B Reservists has increased significantly in the past several years to near historic highs. There were approximately 3,430 Class B Reservists working with the Army in November 2008. In November 2009, this number had increased to about 4,750. The Army will reduce this number by about 300 in the short term. The CLS reassured Reservists that they are all doing a wonderful and meaningful job. Notwithstanding, cuts have been made and more are possible, as the Army prioritizes and reallocates funding.
Opportunities for leaders in Regular Force
There is good news for those who want to serve and advance in the Regular Force.
“What I’m really after are folks just like you,” stated the general.
Due to the rapid growth of the Regular Force from 19,000 to 24,000 members, the Army finds itself facing a shortage of candidates for leadership positions—from sergeants and above in the senior non-commissioned ranks and majors within the officer-commissioned ranks.
“These shortages are felt within battalions and regiments, in the field units and formations. And what do I see before me? I see experienced leaders, so why don’t you join the Regular Force?”
“Seriously,” he continued, “I’m over 600 officers short—captain and above. I’m 800 senior NCOs short. Join the Regular Force. Will I post you? Yeah, right away. Will you go to a battalion? Oh yeah. Or school or brigade, guaranteed—that’s where we’re short.
“We’ve got lots of young soldiers who are keen to serve, but they need wisdom. They need experience and they need that grizzled maturity.”
Where is the Army heading?
“The Army is going to continue to be a medium-weight force—essentially balanced in the centre of the spectrum of conflict—able to ramp up with certain, limited elements of heavy hitters—main battle tanks, and the like—focused on the centre with the LAV [light armoured vehicle] and all those associated capabilities. And, of course, able to respond to more benign humanitarian missions on short notice, because of their excellence in training.”
Cpl Felicia MacDonald of 3 Intelligence Company, Halifax, liked what she heard.
“I thought that he [the CLS] answered a lot of the questions very specifically. He gave a lot of detailed information that I think a lot of members, both Regular Force and Reserve members, needed to hear.”
Article and photos by Sergeant Todd Berry, Army News, Halifax