By Ally Foster, with files from Jason McNaught
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: www.cfappreciation.ca