“Living in the cloud:” one thought on one way of producing and educating naval and military officers

A few years ago the Breakout Educational Network produced a video called “No country for young men,” which, when tied to a comment that a friend, a seasoned combat leader, made on one of my recent posts, has caused me to add to my previous thoughts on the production of officers. “I agree,” my friend ‘Infanteer’ said “with your general premise of a common gateway – this is how the Brits and Aussies do things. I do think” he added “the RMC should get out of the Undergrad degree business; the institution need not worry itself with providing a liberal education when Canada has a suitable civilian system to do so. The RMC should be a “finishing school”, taking young Canadians with a liberal education and infusing them with a military education in a year long program.” This might be called the Sandhurst model as opposed to the West Point model.

When the Royal Military College of Canada was established in 1876 Canada was facing problems that were very much like those that the US faced in 1802 when one of the main goals of the US Military Academy at West Point was to produce engineers who would be “nation builders” and, only incidentally, military leaders. Canada elected to follow that 1024px-BRNC-Dartmouthlead and produce a military university. The British, on the other hand, always relied solely upon the civilian world to provided adequately educated young people who could then be trained to be naval and military leaders at Sandhurst (for the Army) and at the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth (pictured). It is that British model which my friend proposes for Canada ~ except that he agrees with me that there should be one, common, joint “gateway,” training Navy, Army and RCAF officers together, not three as in the UK.

If we were to follow ‘Infanteer’s’ suggestion then, I think, something like the University Naval Training Divisions (UNTD), the Canadian Officer Training Corps (COTC) and the militaryoffcampusesUniversity Reserve Training Plan (URTP), which are the topic of Robert Roy’s video (linked above), would need to be reinstated to manage the ongoing training of both regular and reserve force aspiring officers  … not without, I am 100% certain, fierce opposition from progressive student activists, and that would come notwithstanding the support of a group that includes such luminaries as Ed Broadbent, John Fraser, Peter C Newman and the late Bill Rompkey …

… all of whom spoke in favour of returning the military training programmes to Screenshot 2017-07-30 18.24.15Canadian university campuses. As Canadian theatrical director John Wood says, very near the end of the video, “it would be a nicer would if we didn’t have the wars” but he’s a realist and adds that those who ignores that fact that a military led by well educated officers is necessary “are living in the cloud.” I’m pretty sure that a lot of Canadians, especially younger Canadians and even more especially those on university campuses are “living in the cloud.”

I don’t have a really strong view, one way or the other, about RMC being a degree granting university, à la West Point or, simply, a military straining school, à la Sandhurst, but programmes like UNTD and COTC, once cancelled, will be very, very hard to revive.

I do know that some excellent military officers and civilian leaders came out of the various university programmes and I also am in favour of the military having a broader range of educational background for its officers … that is to say fewer and fewer (if any at all) earning degrees from RMC, and more and more (even all) earning their degrees in Canadian civilian universities. I believe a diversity of backgrounds produces  better officer corps.

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