Throwing sailors or air force members into ground combat in Afghanistan would be a colossal mistake, military experts said yesterday.
The proposal from the Department of National Defence is an option offered to avoid sending major army units back to Kandahar for a second time. But the plan encountered nothing but hostile fire yesterday.
It could lower troops' morale, would take too long to implement, place too great a strain on navy and air force ranks and generally makes no sense, a variety of critics said.
"I just can't see how you turn a sailor into a soldier without taking as long to do it as it would take for you to take a recruit off the street," said David Bercuson, the University of Calgary professor who is one of Canada's leading military analysts.
"It's an act of desperation, there's no question about that," echoed Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps military magazine. "It's a whole different mentality, a different role, different everything from being a sailor to a combat arms soldier."
Canada has 2,300 army personnel on the ground in Afghanistan and has made a commitment to keep that presence until 2009. But the army is too small to fulfill that mission without calling some units for a second tour of duty, said Capt. Richard Langlois, a spokesman with DND.
The use of members from other services, known as "re-rolling," is being studied as the Forces seeks ways to avoid sending soldiers to Afghanistan more than once.
One might suggest, say, increasing the size of the army, but apparently that would take too long as well as being political suicide for a minority government.
Leave it to the bureaucrats to come up with a solution that looks great on paper, but nowhere else.
Source: Globe and Mail