Forces on the march

Source: PETER ZIMONJIC, NATIONAL BUREAU, http://www.winnipegsun.com

Forces on the march

Access to information documents show growing number of troops not re-enlisting

The number of people exiting the Canadian Forces has risen every year for the

past five leaving key skilled positions unfilled across the system.

In 2004-05 the forces lost 6.7% of its people through retirement or medical release,

but for the first 10 months of 2008 that rate was up to 9.2%.

Documents obtained through access to information show of the more than 7,000 soldiers

that left in 2008 almost 200 were sergeants or warrant officers seen as key

to operating the forces and training new recruits.

"The main reasons for personnel leaving the Canadian Forces prior to retirement age range

from family issues to accessing new career opportunities outside the military,

" said national defence department spokeswoman Megan MacLean.


Defence analysts say the army is struggling to find those skilled in key trades because

of two main reasons: The gutting of the forces in the 1990s and the strain of Afghanistan.

"People are naturally leaving the forces because it is time for them to retire,

" said Doug Bland, a defence analyst at Queen's University. "The difficulty is the Chretien

government quit funding the armed forces and cut down recruiting to

almost nothing leaving a great big hole behind these retirements."

Recruiting is not the problem. In the last fiscal year, 6,820 people were recruited --

99.3% of the goal. The problem, analysts explain, is one only time can fix.

When Brian Mulroney was prime minister, the forces were hiring.

Those recruits have undergone years of training for specialized positions

but are now reaching retirement.

There should have been plenty of soldiers waiting to be promoted into the vacant positions

but when Jean Chretien cut back, the forces lost those younger recruits as well as

the training staff and facilities needed to pass on key skills.


"In city life if you lose an experienced middle manager you simply go out into the hiring market,

" said retired colonel Brian MacDonald, a defence analyst with the Conference of

Defence Associations. "But if you are looking at particular military trade the only option you have

is to go in at the recruit level and train them up -- you can't hire someone at

the warrant officer or sergeant level."

Bland says the only way out is to leave Afghanistan and rule out further peacekeeping

missions to focus on rebuilding the forces at home.

The other problem is Afghanistan. Because the Canadian Forces are missing so

many skilled people those with experience are being asked to take extra rotations abroad.

"Since these people are very reliable and skilled civilian industry will grab them as quickly as they can,

" said MacDonald, who says the forces should look at re-enlistment bonuses to entice

skilled soldiers away from retirement.

Source: PETER ZIMONJIC, NATIONAL BUREAU, http://www.winnipegsun.com

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