The Maple Leaf
Vol. 15, Issue 09
CDS sees a bright future for the CF
Gen Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff
You only have to speak with Chief of the Defence Staff Gen Walt Natynczyk for a few minutes to hear in his voice how committed he is to the CF and how proud he is of the men and women in uniform.
When he retires later this fall after 37 years of service, including four as CDS, he says without hesitation that it will be the people he will miss the most.
“Our men and women should be proud of what they achieved in Kandahar during the combat mission…an Afghanistan that is more secure, more stable and that has more professional and capable security forces. This is the legacy of our men and women who worked and fought so hard and sacrificed so much in that country. Our successes there are a reflection of the professionalism of the Canadian Forces.”
With 900 CF advisors and support staff serving in Afghanistan, Gen Natynczyk has continued his regular trips to that region. As CDS, he oversaw the CF transition in 2011 from a combat mission in southern Afghanistan to a training and advisory role in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and in Kabul.
Gen Natynczyk has also seen first-hand the toll that the mission in Afghanistan has taken on the troops. Timely and effective care of ill and injured personnel, has been one his main priorities during his tenure as CDS and he has pushed to improve the system of care for the CF.
“In a very tangible way,” Gen Natynczyk says, “the Surgeon General and people across the CF in the medical organization have enhanced their capability. I think this is a reflection of our experience in Afghanistan and dealing with serious physical and mental health injuries. In terms of capacity and capability, care has improved. It’s not, in my view, to the standard we want. We will continue to work across the country to improve care for the ill and injured.”
Eliminating stigmas associated with mental health has also been a key focus of Gen Natynczyk.
“I think we have changed the culture of the Canadian Forces,” says Gen Natynczyk. “People with mental health injuries no longer need to feel that stigmas will hold them back.”
Looking to the future, Gen Natynczyk says the CF needs to get back to basics and prepare for the unforeseen conflicts of the future.
“The Canada First Defence Strategy lays out the requirement to maintain our general purpose combat capabilities,” he says. “And that means a top-notch Air Force, a blue-water Navy, an Army that is ready for any contingency in the future, and a highly-capable Special Forces.”
The Government of Canada remains committed to ensuring that a sufficient number of personnel are trained to required levels and that the necessary equipment is available, for both the training and operations needed to take on future challenges.
With the CF contribution to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, Op ATTENTION, scheduled to end in March 2014, the CF need to be prepared for any new mission it might be assigned, while at the same time focussing on our domestic operations throughout Canada, especially in the Arctic.
The CF supports other federal government departments and the territorial governments in maintaining Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.
“The CF has put in place what I think is a very effective presence in the Arctic. When there is major activity in the North, Canada’s military forces are there to support the RCMP, the territories and other agencies,” says Gen Natynczyk.
“We just finished a very successful Operation NANOOK in the North. Our men and women of all ranks have developed relationships with federal departments, and also with the territories and right down to the municipalities,” he says. “As the CF moves the exercise to areas we have never been, we increase the effectiveness of our operations and enhance our relationships with local authorities and citizens.”
This type of relationship-building is also shown in the CF’s partnerships with armed forces of other nations. Canada is a strong member of NATO, and also has solid relationships within the Americas and with polar nations. Gen Natynczyk recently hosted the first Northern Chiefs of Defence conference in Goose Bay, N.L., involving defence leaders from seven other northern nations.
By hosting this meeting, Canada further demonstrated its international leadership on Northern and Arctic issues.
“The conference showed how each polar nation supports civil agencies and civil authorities within our borders, and helped us learn what we need to share and exchange so we’re better at supporting civil agencies across boundaries when needed,” the CDS says.
Building relationships with other military forces across the world will enable Canada’s Navy, Army, Air Force and Special Forces to be more effective.
“We don’t know what the future will bring,” says Gen Natynczyk. “But, if we can have strong relations with our allies, built upon trust and confidence, then we can ensure our most junior sailors, soldiers, and airmen and women will be set up for success in the future.”
Gen Natynczyk sees a bright future for the CF and as he prepares to take his uniform off for the last time, he feels privileged to have worked with so many great people.
The CDS is unsure what the next chapter of his life will hold but looks forward to spending it with family.
“My wife has deferred everything for the last 37 years now ...so many of our life decisions she has delayed for my service and my duty,” says Gen Natynczyk. “So what we do after we retire, I’m going to see what she wants to do, I think this is only right given the sacrifices she and the family have made.”
And, according to the CDS, one key to retirement is “... that when you cross the finish line, you are with your family. And what I’m thrilled about most is that my family has been supportive of all I’ve done.”