Published by Senator Grant Mitchell on 10 December 2010
As a member of the Senate Defence Committee, I spent two days at the start of this week with a number of my colleagues on the committee visiting the Edmonton Garrison at Namao. Great experience.
From time to time, the committee visits military camps across the country to see what the issues are. In this case, we added in the component of a study that we are doing into issues facing the reserves now as we face an important change in our role in Afghanistan.
We met with the senior ranks in the Western area, other ranks, and senior non-commissioned officers. Most had spent one or many more tours in Afghanistan and they all care deeply about the military and their duty to Canada. We also met with a large group of soldiers who have been injured in Afghanistan or in training and working in the military in Canada. One of the most prevalent afflictions in this group was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the truly remarkable impressions that I get every time I do this that the army has truly evolved positively in many ways. They have made great progress in accepting women into their ranks and, while it may not be perfect, it is clear that there is a strong presence and place for women in the army. It is also very clear that they understand and accept that PTSD is a real wound received by many valiant soldiers in the Afghan war and elsewhere and soldiers who have suffered it must be helped, respected and treated like any other wounded soldier. And perhaps the most impressive and striking element of the army is the pervasive attitude they have toward leadership. Theirs is an organization built on and sustained only by leadership. The military may be one of the only institutions in our society that is so focused on leadership and that consciously trains its personnel continuously in leadership.
It is very difficult to transform the culture of any large organization, particularly one that is militaristic and steeped in traditions. The army is to be admired and congratulated for having done so over the last decade. It makes me think that the RCMP might benefit from their experience.