Skip to comments.Canada's military looking for ways to keep badly wounded soldiers in uniform
Posted on 05/27/2007 7:50:47 AM PDT by Clive
OTTAWA (CP) - Faced with an increasing number of wounded troops returning from Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces are looking for ways to keep those permanently disabled in uniform, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said Saturday.
When that's not possible, the Defence Department will offer disabled soldiers retraining and a shot at public service jobs, O'Connor said.
"We're reviewing that policy in light of the number of casualties we've had from Afghanistan to make sure that people who've sacrificed their lives for us or part of their future that we can look after them and reintegrate them into the military," O'Connor said at an event marking the Forces' involvement with the Canadian Paralypmic Committee.
But the authority to changes the so-called "universality of service rule," which essentially requires all members of the military to be fit and able to deploy for missions overseas, rests with Gen. Rick Hillier, the country's top-military commander.
Hillier ruled out making changes or exceptions to the policy, but agreed that many of the soldiers severely wounded in fighting the Taliban are the kind of people he wants to keep within the ranks.
"They appear to be the top quality camper that you'd like to be associated with," said the chief of defence staff.
"Everyone of them is a joy. I'd like to keep those folks in uniform until they're completely rehabilitated and recovered, then we'll have a discussion with them.
"And I don't think we'll have to change the universality of service. I think we have methods to look after them if they want to stay a part of the Canadian Forces."
The current system, introduced under Hillier, gives severely wounded troops up to three years to recover. If they are unable to meet the standards for overseas service, then they face the possibility of being forced to leave.
But Hillier said, as chief of defence staff, he has the sole authority whether to sign a soldier's release papers. He hasn't been put in that position yet since most of the major casualties have taken place within the last year.
"It's going to be quite some time before we get into the position," he said.
Last fall, Hillier and O'Connor faced questions before a Commons committee about whether veterans of the Afghan war, including disabled soldiers, could be used as trainers for new recruits.
Since it first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2002, 55 soldiers have been killed and nearly 300 have been wounded. Most of them have been able to return to their units.
Only a handful of the wounded, perhaps as many as a dozen so far, can be classified as permanently disabled, Hillier said.
Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, a sniper who lost the lower part of his leg in Afghanistan earlier this year, is one of those who wants to remain in the army.
"My mission from day one when I got hurt was to find a way to stay in uniform," he said.
"Just the fact I'm a sniper, it makes me want to stay and do sniper stuff because I really like it and I don't see a civilian market for it."
The Defence Department has partnered with the paralypmic committee to offer support to permanently injured soldiers.
Under a new program announced Saturday, the association plans to visit disabled troops and encourage them to become involved in paralypmic sports activities and games.
"This bring us back to our roots," said Carla Qualtrough, president of the association.
The group was founded at the end of the Second World War as a venue for disabled soldiers to remain fit and active in their communities.
On a somewhat related note, I noticed two Canadian officers prowling around the Green Zone the other week. That was the first time I ever saw them in Iraq. It’s such a political hot button up there that I doubt this foreshadows Canada’s joining the “coalition of the willing (& the billing)”, but it makes one wonder whether certain quiet assistance is being rendered.
Politicians do not like snipers. Maybe we could borrow this one to help well regulate our militia?
A Deputy Commander of the Multi National Corps is a Canadian, Maj. Gen. Peter Devlin on an exchange tour with the US Army, I suspect there are other lower ranking officers on similar exchange tours. I heard an interview with the General on "Troop Talk Radio", which plays on Sunday evenings on KTEM, Temple Texas, catering to the troops at Ft. Hood. Prior to his current assignment, General Devlin was Deputy CG, III Corps, Ft. Hood Texas. Dude gets around.
I mis "spoke", he's still Deputy CG III Corps, just as his Boss Lt. General Odierno is CG Multinational Corps and CG III Corps at Ft. Hood.
Great info, thanks. I’ll probably run into him once the Stanley Cup Finals start. With all the Southerners over here, hockey fans are thin on the ground and the viewing parties are . . . intimate. Sadly, no Molson’s but plenty of Crown Royal!