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"Send Up The Count" [Please read and send out the word]

At this time of year, if you're having a really, really tough time, you're not alone.

You may have heard of people who hurt so much, who thought they had so little to look forward to, that the world would be better off without them.

If you're so down on yourself that there seems to be no other way out, don't do anything until you've finished reading this.

Because you're reading this here, there's a good chance you're in the military, have been in the military or are interested in the military. You may know what we mean by "send up the count". There's a variation of this practice out there that's worth remembering if you or someone you care about is going through a rough time.

"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.

We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group.

This happens in peace, and it happens in war. It also must happen in the sometimes bewildering and frightening transition from war to peace. A vital part of our code is that we don't abandon our fellow soldiers, ever.

We need to remember that our "team" is still together. We will never forget one another; we shared too much. We, each of us, may be weak or broken but the bigger "we," the team, is still strong.

If you know someone who you think feels this bad, or if you haven't heard from colleagues in a while, reading this can give you an easy way to help.

Take it from people who either know people who've harmed themselves or tried, or know family members and friends of those who have.

You cannot know how much of a hole in the lives of others that's left when someone decides they shouldn't be here anymore. It may seem hard, but people want you to be better. To stay around. To be there.

If you need some help, it's easy to feel like you're in the dark, with no hope of help.

If you need some help, you can make sure you're still part of the team.

If you know someone in trouble, you want to see if they're where they're supposed to be, physically as well as emotionally. Help send up the count.

If you know someone who's having trouble, reach out, talk to them and make sure they know there's someone to listen. Help send up the count.

If you're that person needing help, please, please, please don't be afraid to reach out. A call. An email. A text message. Whatever it takes to let people know you're there. Remember your brothers and sisters who covered your back in action are ready to do the same for you today. Help send up the count.

If you haven't spoken to people you've been through terrible times with in a while, reach out. A call. An email. A text message. Whatever it takes to let people know you're all there together. Even if you don't work together in the same place anymore. Help send up the count.

There are a lot of places with people out there to help you if you're going through a rough time, or to help you if you want to help someone going through a rough time. A few of them include:

-- Touch base with any of the Regimental associations you're familiar with from your deployment, just to say hello and be included in their count.
-- There are people out there who've had a tough time, and gotten help from those out there to help - you can click here to send a private message to one willing to help you out.
-- 1-800-883-6094 (Operational Stress Injury Social Support)
-- 1-800-268-7708 (24-Hour Toll-Free Crisis Help Line, Veterans Affairs Canada/Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program)

If nothing else works, call 9-1-1 and explain what you're going through, or what whoever you're worried about is going through. Someone there will help you.

You don't have to suffer alone. You don't have to keep it inside. In fact, it's better to talk about it than keeping it bottled up inside.

Asking for help when you need help isn't weak, it makes sense.

If you need help, or want to help someone who does, send up the count.

Special thanks to Brihard, daftandbarmy and all the others at who came up with and helped put some flesh to this concept.

Sovereignty Requires More Than Lip Service

Sovereignty Requires More Than Lip Service

Canada’s Arctic has been in the news again. It has been suggested that climate change will reduce the range of threats to our sovereignty over Arctic waters because they (Canadian waters, per se) are less likely to be highly desirable transit routes, thus lowering the relative importance of e.g. Arctic/Offshore Patrol Vessels. At the same time, through a new National Security Presidential Directive and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, the USA is reasserting its claims of right of free passage in the Northwest Passage, making the need for a real Canadian presence more important.

Disputes between Canada and the USA are nothing new but they all have one thing in common: they are, inevitably – over the past century or so – resolved by negotiation.

But our sovereignty is not ‘threatened’ by just the USA.

Further, ‘sovereignty’ can no longer be confined to rigid zones. What a neighbour does or fails to do in its ‘sovereign’ territory and contiguous waters can have grave impacts on Canadians going about their lawful business in our sovereign territory – a ruptured oil well in Russia’s Arctic waters, for example, can (almost certainly will) pollute Canadian waters. Human smugglers in international waters may pose a real, immediate threat to Canada. Arbitrary lines on maps cannot be allowed to threaten our sovereign rights to manage our own affairs and resources in our own territory.

In many cases Canada can negotiate with those who ‘threaten’ our sovereignty. In some cases negotiation will fail.

Our sovereignty must be both asserted and protected. Asserting and protecting our sovereignty is a job for the whole of the Government of Canada, including DND. Diplomats, lawyers and various uniformed services (like the Coast Guard and the RCMP, as well as the Canadian Forces) are in the ‘front lines’ when it comes to asserting and defending our sovereignty.

The Department of National Defence is just that: the agency charged with defending the nation. The defence of Canada starts at those arbitrary lines but may well extend beyond that. The lines on maps define our ‘area of responsibility’ – the area in which Canada, without question, may assert its sovereign rights – even as they are being challenged in various international fora. But we also have ‘areas of influence’ where we may make our presence felt and ‘areas of interest’ where we will want and need to ‘see’ what is going on.

When we are in our ‘area of responsibility’ it is, broadly, most appropriate that regulatory and constabulary organizations (e.g. Coast Guard and RCMP) lead in the assertion and protection of our sovereignty – backed up and supported by the Canadian Forces. When we are in our ‘areas of influence’ and ‘areas of interest’ then agencies like Foreign Affairs (DFAIT) and DND will need to be in the lead because they have international recognition of their international roles and responsibilities.

Canada needs to be able to meet its sovereignty protection roles in all our areas of responsibility, influence and interest. That means we need strong, capable diplomatic services and equally strong and capable uniformed services, like the Coast Guard and RCMP, able to operate on the ground, in the air and at sea in and all the way around Canada. The Canadian Forces needs to able to support other agencies in Canada and play a leading role elsewhere to fulfil their role of monitoring, identifying and, ultimately, preventing unauthorized penetration of our territory, contiguous waters and the airspace over both.

To do this, the CF needs:

1.   A capable intelligence gathering apparatus to monitor things happening in our areas of interest, influence and responsibility;

2.   A real time surveillance and warning system that covers all our territory and the ‘approaches’ to it, all the time;

3.   Ships, units and aircraft to patrol our territory and the approaches to it and to intercept, identify and deal with intruders of any and all types.

Parts of these requirements exist but none is complete.

The costs of ships, satellites, aircraft, ground stations and people are high but unavoidable if we want to maintain our sovereignty over and above the land and sea we claim, today, as our own.

Now, in a financial crisis, is not the time for false economies or lip service. Short term financial ‘gains’ achieved by reducing defence spending in 2009 could saddle Canada with some real long term ‘pain’ in the years and decades beyond 2010. 

The Defence Budget

The Defence Budget

It is no secret that Canada is in the throes of a financial crisis.

Governments’ normal reaction is times of crisis is to cut, or at least contain, defence spending to free up money for other more popular projects and programmes.

2009 is not a normal year; The Lady’s Not for Burning or turning and Canadians need to apply the same resolve to their national defence: despite the sorry state of our economy we must not turn back the clock to the 1990s - the defence budget is not for cutting.

2009 is not a normal year because we have Canadian Forces members – our friends and family, the neighbours’ boys, our colleagues’ daughters – at war; they are not just in a combat zone, they are in close contact with the enemy in Afghanistan. We are paying a price – in lives and in shattered minds and bodies – to give effect to the Canadian promoted doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” Less important than the lost lives and broken bodies, but costly all the same, is the price of fuel and ammunition and the equipment which are being consumed in combat. After several “decades of darkness” 2009 is not a year to falter. Canadians finally appeared ready, in 2007/2008, to begin the long, painful and expensive process of rebuilding our military muscle so that Canada could, after a 40 year hiatus, ”make a real difference in halting and preventing conflict and improving human welfare around the world,” because, as former Prime Minister Martin said (same source), Canada must practice the kind of “activism that over decades has forged our nation’s international character—and will serve us even better in today’s changing world. The people of our country have long understood that, as a proud citizen of the world, Canada has global responsibilities. We can’t solve every problem, but we will do what we can to protect others, to raise them up, to make them safe.”

2009 is not the year to abandon our global responsibilities. Grave as our economic problems may be they pale in comparison to the economic, military, social and medical problems that bedevil the ”Bottom Billion.” Canadians hope that we can help the “Bottom Billion” without entering another shooting war but events in those countries, which are in a geo-political arc stretching from Afghanistan through to Zimbabwe, suggest that we, Canadians and other rich, sophisticated, militarily capable and mostly Western nations will have to use force to bring help and hope to the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak.

2009 is a year in which Canada’s defence budget needs to grow, in real terms, even as the nation’s top bank economists are advising Finance Minister Flaherty to, later rather than right now, reign in government programme spending.

DND can and will look for ways to stretch every dollar it has – if DND has learned nothing else since the 1960s, it has learned how to pinch pennies; in fact, it has often been accused of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Some defence spending – on DND’s badly neglected infrastructure on bases and stations in Canada or on replacing Canadian made equipment that has been worn out or damaged in combat – can be used to stimulate the economy in 2009. Mindless cuts to defence spending will not help Canadians in 2009 or beyond, only contributing more to our financial woes.

Finance Minister Flaherty will bring down a budget later in this month. The Ruxted Group urges him to increase defence spending, in real terms. A larger defence budget is good policy and it can be made into good politics as well.