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Canadian, US Leaders Discuss Disaster Response

Story by: LTC Richard Goldenberg - 42nd Infantry Division
  Dated: Sun, May 1, 2011

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- The last time significant military forces crossed the border into the United States from Canada, the War of 1812 was in full swing 200 years ago.

Today, general officers from the military forces of Canada and the United States met here April 29-30 to plan for ways to again provide troops across the border, this time to respond to natural disasters. The annual gathering for the Canada-U.S. Army Reserve General Officer’s Conference included leaders from the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, U.S. Army North, U.S. Northern Command and the Canadian Land Reserves. Army Guard members from most of the states that border Canada were also on hand to discuss methods to improve interoperability and joint training opportunities between the two countries.

The Northern Command Deputy Commander, Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass joined Brig. Gen. G.J.P. O’Brien, Director General of the Canadian Land Reserves among nearly 75 participants.

It was the first such gathering hosted by Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General and the New York National Guard.

The theme for this year’s conference is Homeland Defense. The group learned about the structure and organization of U.S. Northern Command and its counterpart, Canada Command. The goal of the bilateral training was to develop better relationships for cross-border engagement.

“It is great to see you working issues that we at Northcom/NORAD work on every single day,” Lt. Gen. Grass said.

Col Alden Saddlemire, the director of the New York National Guard CounterDrug Task Force and senior intelligence officer for the Joint Force Headquarters discussed the ways that the National Guard conducts assistance to law enforcement, community outreach and education programs to support drug eradication and demand reduction across the state. He also provided an overview of the state’s domestic operations plans, exercises and capabilities.

“When I think at the strategic level, I am amazed at the National Guard’s engagement in communities and in schools with an anti-drug and healthy lifestyle message,” O’Brien said.

Canadian forces are all federally aligned, O’Brien explained to the group. Unlike the National Guard, the reserve forces in Canada do not align with individual provinces. An example of recent operations in Canada, O’Brien said, was the response to flooding in Newfoundland in September 2010 following Hurricane Igor.

Led by Canada Command and conducted through Joint Task Force Atlantic (JTFA), the humanitarian relief mission incorporated Canadian land, maritime and air assets to deliver assistance to isolated Newfoundland communities cut off by severe road damage.

The flood response in Newfoundland was a surge-in and surge-out effort, said Brig. Gen. Anthony Stack, the Deputy Commander of the Canadian Land Forces Atlantic and the JTFA Commander for Newfoundland and Labrador. “The most important part of our success was the training and relationships established with local authorities,” Stack said.

The New York Army National Guard has a long history of coordinating support for domestic emergencies with Canadian forces, said Brig. Gen. Renwick Payne, Director of the Joint Staff for the New York National Guard.

New York hosted the multistate, multiagency domestic emergency response exercise Vigilant Guard in Western New York in 2010, coordinating for the potential response of Canadian forces in a notional earthquake scenario.

Both New York and Canadian forces also responded to the widespread power outages in their own regions following the ice storm that struck across southern Canada and Northern New York in 1998.

Canadian aviators trained alongside aircrews from Rochester for two-weeks in January 2009. The New York Army National Guard Soldiers had recently returned from a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan and the Canadian Air Force crews were preparing for their own upcoming deployment there.

Most recently, New York Army National Guard Soldiers conducted winter survival training with counterparts from Canadian Army Reserve. They were part of Operation Wolf Pack Endeavour 2011, a winter warfare training exercise run by the Canadian Army Reserve, March 7 to 21.

Approximately two dozen New York National Guard personnel will support the training session.

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Page Last Modified: Mon, May 2, 2011