The Canadian Forces One Card

By Ally Foster, with files from Jason McNaught

CFOne card June 2013 final copy.jpg

When Commodore Mark Watson was made Director General of Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) for the Canadian Armed Forces a little more than two and a half years ago, he said he “was determined to make this one of the strongest morale and welfare systems in the Western world.”

One of his main priorities has been creating a program that recognizes the entire community of serving members, veterans, and families of Canadian Armed Forces personnel — a group totalling more than one million people — and keeping them connected.

Up until October 13, those with ties to the military had several different cards that provided them access to various resources and services, including the CANEX card for the military store, a CF appreciation card, and a card for the Military Family Resource Centre. Commodore Watson led the initiative that saw these various cards merged into one — and the CFOne Card was born. According to the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services organization, “We have envisioned the creation of one card to identify ourselves as being part of One Community — One Million Strong.”

While the CFMWS has now issued more than 115,000 cards, the ultimate goal is to have one million Canadians in the database, with a quarter of that number being current members. The CFOne Card program is partnering up with major businesses and services globally, to give discounts and special offers to those who have served. Among the benefits are: reduced prices for trade shows, hotels, ski hills, resorts, movie showings, concerts, and sporting events (whether it’s registration for Canada Army Run or tickets to an Ottawa Senators hockey game).

In an attempt to build up the community using the card, the CFMWS is looking to encourage currently serving members and their families to use the card when they swipe into sports facilities and gyms, as well as messes and various services at bases and wings all across the country.

The organization is also looking for ways to reach out to veterans, which can be one of the largest challenges, as many have been disconnected from their military roots for quite some time, may not realize the programs they’re eligible to receive, and tend to shy away from some of the technology the CFMWS is using to spread the message, such as social media and various websites.

Commodore Watson’s team at the morale and welfare organization told Esprit de Corps that a recent partnership with Canadian Tire was particularly successful, and led to personnel and veterans receiving scores of free tickets to distribute to military personnel and their families for NHL games in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, as well as “on the road” passes for veterans to travel with the Ottawa Senators to away games in Detroit and St. Louis. For more information, or to register for the CFOne Card, visit:

Trained & ready: Peacekeeping veteran and Commissionaire Jose Martins

By Jason McNaught

Before the Halifax International Airport was built in the early 1960s, there was a considerable “to do” about where to put it. Residents of the tiny maritime province of Nova Scotia spend more than 100 days a year tucked under a thick blanket of fog.

Actually, to be more precise, they aren’t really under it: Bluenosers wade through it, trying to find their way to work; squint their eyes through the windshield of their car to find the centre line of the road; or curse it when scanning the fairway to locate their fog-shrouded golf balls.

You can see how this may be a problem for an airport. Pilots who can’t see the runway when landing are understandably a little uneasy as they plunge blindly towards the earth with dozens of passengers in their care. Thus, it was decided, after an intensive study, to place the Halifax Airport nearly half an hour outside the city itself, in an idyllic wilderness setting a short drive away from the bedroom community of Enfield. This wooded area contains either fog-repellent geography, secret mystical powers or a combination of both that somehow allow it to escape the worst of the North Atlantic fog.

Each week, Jose Martins leaves his house in the city, hops in his car, turns on the news and makes the half-hour drive along Highway 102 to the airport where he works as a Commissionaires patrolman. Martins may tell you, along with many other native Haligonians, that the drive to the airport is as foggy as anywhere else in the province, but on August 10, he could see clear across Millar Lake, making out the modest houses dotting its far shore.

The temperature had crept up to 16 degrees by the time Martins had swapped his car for the Commissionaires’ blue and white Ford Ranger, and prepared to take a run down the main runway’s 3-metre-tall security fence with “the birdman” — an expert trained in the art of clearing wildlife off the tarmac.

The fence itself is a formidable structure. It’s topped with three rows of jagged barbed wire and stretches along the perimeter of the airport. And for the most part, save the winged animals, this fence keeps out the inquisitive rodents, courageous deer, and perhaps the odd beaver that brazenly emerge from the nearby mixed forest.

It must have come as a surprise then when Martins received a call from the airport’s operations centre at approximately 0830 hours reporting a security breach. Not since the Halifax International Airport’s construction — over half a century ago — has anyone attempted to scale the fence.

“She drove up to one of the security gates outside, with the barbed wire on top, scrambled up the fence and landed on the air side of the airport, which is illegal,” Martins explained. “Then she ran onto the runway, screaming and yelling and waving her hands about with aircraft ready to land, trying to prevent [other] aircraft from taking off.”

When Martins got the call from the control tower he, with the birdman riding shotgun, responded within minutes. As an ex-soldier with tours in Cyprus, Egypt, Golan Heights, and Bosnia under his belt, Martins doesn’t get too worked up in tense situations.

“Being able to react to different events and occurrences that happen, and being able to think on your feet quickly,” he explains, “that all goes back to my training from when I was in the infantry, in the field.”

After approaching the woman, truck lights flashing, Martins could see that she was quite distraught. Her clothes were ripped and her face had been cut by the barbed wire. He cautiously exited the vehicle and asked, “Do you require medical assistance?”

After speaking with her, Martins realized that “She was trying to get a hold of her husband who was boarding a flight to Calgary to see his mistress. But what she was doing was wreaking havoc with the incoming aircraft that were trying to land.”

Martins realized that the woman needed to be removed from the runway as soon as possible, and he and his partner took control of the situation. They led her into the truck, and then turned her over to the RCMP so they could begin their investigation.

It turns out the woman’s husband wasn’t on a plane that day; in fact, he wasn’t anywhere near the airport.

Martins’ role as a patrolman with the Commissionaires isn’t always that eventful, but he likes his job. “I am on the go all the time. I am in the vehicle patrolling on the ground side; I am patrolling on the air side of the airport; and I am patrolling inside the terminal on foot. I move around quite a lot.”

And that’s important because standing still is something Martins doesn’t do very well. The 55-year-old is a Canadian Armed Forces national champion in squash and the biathlon, a national-level cyclist, and a mountaineer. He reached the summit of Mount McKinley, the highest summit in North America, in 1994.

Joining Commissionaires was a natural fit for the former 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry soldier. “I knew I was approaching retirement and wasn’t really willing to pack it in all in one shot.”

Martins joined the CAF in 1980, served the majority of his career as an infantryman and then re-mustered as a physical education and recreation instructor out of Chilliwack, BC. After retirement in 2013, Martins was looking for a new challenge.

“I still have a lot in me that I want to achieve and give, so a couple of the guys mentioned that the Commissionaires are dedicated to hiring to ex-military personnel, and that I should consider it. So I went downtown to Hollis St. [in Halifax], talked to some of the Commissionaires in the hiring department, and they kind of convinced me that I should give it a try, which I did,” he says matter-of-factly. “I haven’t looked back since. It’s been pretty darn good.”

Martins feels that his job with Commissionaires, in addition to support from his wife Kathryn, has eased the sometimes difficult switch from life as a soldier to one as a civilian. “It’s a little different,” he says when asked about life outside the military. “When you’re used to carrying a weapon and being in a hostile environment and whatnot, it can take some getting used to.”
What helps, he continues, is that “when you first enter the Corps of Commissionaires, you’ll notice that many of the personnel there are basically ex-military from all the branches. You have a lot in common right off the bat.”

Martins is one of 20,000 Commissionaires, most of whom are veterans. There’s a reason for that. It doesn’t matter if the Halifax International Airport has a major security breach once a year, once a decade, or never. What matters is being prepared and having the skills required to deal with those situations effectively.

On August 10 2014, there could have been any number of sad endings to the story of the woman who scaled the fence and made her way to the main runway. But thanks to the training and professionalism of Canadian Armed Forces veterans like Martins and his colleagues, a bad situation had the best possible outcome.

Rheinmetall: When the smoke clears

Gunpowder, an arms race, and an unrelenting capacity to innovate: Rheinmetall Canada’s storied past points to a bright future for the company, even as government defence spending shrinks.

By Jason McNaught

The lineage of a defence company often resembles a family tree, clipped and pruned according to the economic highs and lows of the times, branching its way through the industry under one name, then another, or an awkward combination of both.

But as large and as diverse as organizations become, they can usually be traced back to a single individual with an idea or opportunity, and a dogged determination to see it through.

Smokeless Powder

Rheinmetall’s success in the defence industry provides a good example. One hundred and twenty five years ago, in 1889, an engineer from the small German state of Thuringia was presented with an immense challenge.

The invention of smokeless powder in 1884 by French chemist Paul Vieille caused quite a stir at the time, not only because it dramatically improved the operation and effectiveness of guns at the time, but also because it essentially rendered all other large bore black powder guns immediately obsolete. An arms race ensued, and Germany was intent on keeping up, developing a new bolt-action rifle, the Gewehr 88.

Along with new rifles came exceedingly large orders for new munitions capable of being fired out of the Gewehr 88’s long, black steel barrel. When the German Ministry of War awarded steel and mining company Hörder Bergwerks und Hüttenverein a contract for supplying just that, it quickly became apparent they lacked the capacity to fulfil such an order.

An Engineer from Thuringia

Enter Heinrich Ehrhardt, the man who found himself tasked with heading up an entirely new company — Rheinische Metallwaaren- und Maschinenfabrik Actiengesellschaft — founded exclusively to provide the Ministry of War with the new munitions they required for the Gewehr 88.

The task was monumental, to say the least. But by 1891, Ehrhardt was not only supplying munitions, he was developing patents, including one that resulted in a process for creating seamless tubes … an innovation easily overlooked today, but certainly not in the 19th century. By 1894, after rapid expansion and the acquisition of a small drop forge and the creation of Metallwerk Ehrhardt & Heye near Dusseldorf, “Rheinmetall” was officially listed on the Berlin stock exchange.

During Ehrhardt’s time, Rheinmetall went on to accomplish many things, including the development of the first field-worthy recoiling cannon, an outstanding engineering achievement during the time period.

More than a century later, Rheinmetall is a multinational company with a defence division that spans the globe. Here in Canada, Rheinmetall continues in the same spirit of innovation that Ehrhardt sparked more than a century ago, with a diverse range of products that meet the continually evolving needs of our soldiers.

Managing Technology

As vice president of Rheinmetall Canada, Alain Tremblay explains that the steady pace of technological development is a good thing for soldiers, but only if managed properly.
Weight is a critical issue. Infantry are already burdened by packs and equipment that add an additional 40–90 pounds to their existing frames; in a combat scenario, overburdening a soldier can turn into a serious handicap, decreasing mobility and increasing risks to their health through exhaustion or injury.

But herein lies the problem: as more and more technology is developed with the intent of increasing the overall effectiveness of the infantry, a soldier either has to learn to deal with the excess weight, or needs to shed an existing piece of equipment to make the load effectively bearable. And then, to complicate matters further, there is the problem of batteries. How many are needed to run a certain piece of equipment? How long will the soldier be out in the field? How many spares need to be carried and what’s their added weight?

When developing soldier systems, these types of questions can easily become overwhelming, but Rheinmetall overcomes this by knowing exactly what they are working towards: “A well-protected soldier [who is] equipped with robust weapons, a clear understanding of the tactical situation and reliable means of communication.”

Distilling the needs of the soldier into what is most important on the battlefield has resulted in an easy-to-operate modular combat system that improves “survivability, C4I [Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence] capabilities, sustainability, mobility and lethality” while delivering enhanced performance and reduced weight, says Tremblay.

Innovative Technology

The Canadian Armed Forces is not a large force compared to some of its allies, but punches above its weight when it comes to fielding new and innovative equipment. Staying ahead of the curve, Tremblay argues, is achieved by identifying new trends, selecting the ones that have the greatest probability of reaching the market, and then investing in them through R&D.
One area of technology Rheinmetall is currently developing is semi-autonomous/autonomous robots, which may complement the company’s existing line of soldier systems and is now in a strategic partnership with Clearpath Robotics, a Kitchener, Ontario-based company with a vision to “automate the world’s dullest, dirtiest, and deadliest jobs.”

Although autonomous robots may one day serve alongside our soldiers on the battlefield of the future, Rheinmetall’s Satellite-on-the-Move (SOTM) communication system is an example of a project that’s much closer to providing the Canadian Armed Forces with unparalleled long-range voice and data connectivity between deployed command vehicles, arms advisors (such as the armour corps, engineers, etc.), high priority sensor vehicles, tactical headquarters or command posts. “The Canadian Armed Forces had the capability in Afghanistan,” Tremblay explains, “but in a static way. Now they will be able to do it on the move.”

Acquired under the Canadian government’s Land Command Support System Life Extension (LCSS LE) program, the requirements for the SOTM system contained specific capabilities that will allow vehicles with SOTM capability to automatically relay battle management information to distant headquarters, command posts, or deployed elements across the entire battlespace. “The Canadian requirements for long-range, uninterrupted communication on the move will provide a first-class capability to the Canadian Armed Forces in line with the reality of the complex environment faced by our men and women in uniform today and tomorrow,” says Tremblay.

The TAPV, produced by Textron Marine Land Systems, is another example of an innovative product designed exclusively for the Canadian Army and set to replace the RG-31 and part of the Coyote reconnaissance vehicle fleet. “The TAPV,” states Tremblay, “is a vehicle that doesn’t exist anywhere else.” He calls the vehicle a Commando Elite “on steroids.” Rheinmetall is performing multiple integration functions and final assembly on the vehicles, the first of which hit the production floor this summer. In total, more than 500 TAPVs will be delivered to the Canadian Army, with an option for 100 more.

A legacy of innovation

Rheinmetall’s past is marked with over a century of milestones, thanks to a legacy of innovation that began with Heinrich Ehrhardt in 1889. Today, Rheinmetall Canada continues that legacy, building on its success in the development, integration, and production of platform-independent systems. 