For those interested, and every thinking Canadian should have some, albeit limited interest in the subject, there is an interesting thread over on Army.ca which deals with the problems (there are a lot of them) in making Canada’s reserve Army (the militia if you’re old enough) into an effective force.
I’m going to go with what I think is the majority opinion and say that our Army reserve, in particular, is ineffective. That does not mean that it does not do yeoman service: Canada’s tiny regular Army could not have conducted sustained combat operations in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2014 unless thousands and thousands of reserve force soldiers had stepped up. They were mostly young men, many looking for some combination of a full-time job, some adventure, a faster route into the regular Army, or even a sort of “gap year” experience, but some, like Canada’s current ⇐ Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, were middle-aged senior officers when they took a year off from their civilian careers to serve. Today, as I write many reserve force soldiers are serving in a new sort of front-line: long term care facilities that have been ravaged by the COVID-19 virus. The one problem that Canada does NOT have in its Army (regular or reserve) is the quality of the people who serve ~ they are, by and large, amongst the best soldiers in the world and, equally, especially the reservists, Canada’s finest citizens.
But too many people seem to be content with the notion that reserve Army is doing enough by providing a pool of individuals to fill up or augment regular Army units in an emergency. If that’s all the country wants, if that’s the level of capability for which we are willing to settle, then I think we, as a nation, do not deserve the service of the men and women in our reserve Army units.
The problems that are discussed over at Army.ca range from organizations and budgets through to how to reconcile military training with a civilian job, and regular force neglect of the reserves.
- Money ~ which must come from a total defence budget that is and will remain constrained for some years;
- Military will ~ because too many senior officers are totally focused on the problems facing the regular Navy, Army and Air Force; and
- Political will ~ because fiddling with the reserves is a thankless task, as more than one defence minister will tell you.
All three are inextricably linked. If the reserves, especially the reserve Army, are to be made effective then the Ministre Of National Defence must make that one of her or his high priority tasks ~ because the regular force will not act on its own and the minister’s (almost all regular force) admirals and generals will not want to spend scarce money on the reserves when they have so many gaping deficiencies in the regular force.
But, our overstretched regular forces cannot conduct sustained combat operations without an adequate reserve force and I believe that today’s reserve Army is less than adequate.
I think it must be clear to everyone that the Trudeau Liberals don’t care ~ not even Defence Minister Sajjan who, I have no doubt, understands the problem. For the Trudeau regime foreign and defence policies exist ONLY to secure a few seats in metropolitan Toronto and Vancouver.
Clearly, for me, at least, the first essential step in getting more bang for the buck from our reserve Army is to replace the current government with a Conservative one that, we must hope, actually knows and cares about defence policy and wants to make the total force (regulars, reserves and civilian employees) more efficient and effective, including cost-effective. This is not a big vote-getter, but I hope it is being discussed, very seriously, in the Conservative Party.