Crewing of the A/OPV by reservists won’t be easy (II)

AI can sense the previous post will generate interest because Derek Carroll raises some very real concerns. They include the fact that:

  • both the regular navy and the reserve navy are having manning problems
  • the long training times of engineers and techs will continue to complicate this
  • much of our MCDV manning involves "full time" reserves
  • a transfer from the MCDV to the AOPV will not be easy.

In addition some of his recommendations and findings are sound. Indeed many are inescapable such as:

  • the strong likelihood that the AOPV will require a mix of regular and reserve manning at least initially.
  • "a more meaningful operations training programme" will be required to upgrade MCDV crews to AOPV levels
  • that it will be difficult to impossible for the reserves to concurrently man both the MCDV and the AOPV. This can only occur if the naval reserves are significantly increased in numbers and funding.

Other elements of his recommendations mean the navy will have to make choices. In my opinion, some of them are easier than Derek Carroll makes out.

  • The first is the false choice he provides by suggesting it is better to pay off our destroyers to provide AOPV crews than it is to have the reserves man the AOPV.

I cannot accept that. Today 12 MCDV are effectively manned by some 480 crew from the "fulltime" and "part time" reserves. He also acknowledges this comes from a larger 1500 strong reserve cadre that does the bulk of the MCDV manning. This cadre, supported by the regular navy, is a solid base to begin crewing the AOPV. As the naval reserve totals 4000, there is also some slight capacity here. Nevertheless, the MCDV experience suggests it must grow by a further 1500 to provide that second seagoing "cadre " for the AOPV.

I think the real choice is whether we continue to have relevant reserves or not. I strongly believe assigning of the AOPV to the reserves is consistent with the broader trend of assigning more realistic and relevant tasks for our reserves. I am proud the navy started this by sticking to its promise and allowing the reserves alone to crew the MCDV. At the start there was constant pressure to have regular officers drive them while the reserves provided the hands, but this was rejected. Second, it gave a real job to the Naval Reserve Divisions. At that time, alternate NRD activities involved producing such things as Naval Control of Shipping Officers and "representing" the navy in various communities.

This shift to more relevant reserves is also occurring in the Militia with some 900 reserves fleshing out our Kandahar commitment yearly. Quite simply there are inadequate numbers of personnel in the Canadian Forces to allow any unit to exist that does not turn out operational forces.

In this regard I am puzzled by Derek Carroll's statement that "the 'part-time' navy in particular has paid a heavy price to man the MCDVs." As manning those vessels is the naval reserve's job number one I am having difficulty assessing what the "heavy price" could have been. Indeed getting ships to sea is a navy's only job. So if the price he refers to is the smaller but more sea-going naval reserve that is currently doing a superb job of manning the MCDV then the price paid was a fair one.

Other naval reserve activities may have suffered. But exactly what has suffered is not clear in the first post. This is a real worry. I say this because of the immense dedication required by every naval reserve to balance home, civilian job, and naval duties. The Reservist deserves to know precisely what the navy thinks is the top priority otherwise the reserve's time, and this often this comes out of the individual's home life, is wasted.

Has the navy made it clear to every naval reserve unit that getting MCDVs then AOPVs to sea is not only job one, but that all other tasks most be considered beneath even "secondary task" consideration? Further, has the navy matched financial and personnel resources to reserve tasks? In that light, getting ships to sea should consume 90 percent of those resources. In rough terms this means a 5500 person naval reserve would comprise 3000 devoted to the ships' crew cadre, with another 2000 devoted to their command, recruiting and training. Such incidental tasks as regional control of shipping, MCM, intelligence, harbour defence, etc should receive no more than the remaining 10 percent - that is 500 people maximum.

Finally, we must stop the nonsense of pretending that units exist to "represent the Canadian Forces in the many small Canadian communities." This is not a priority and no resources are required to do it.

In returning to the AOPV challenge, I also think it necessary to recognize that the naval reserve probably met a larger challenge in manning the MCDV given that their lead-in was two sporadically manned gate vessels, which had no role. Yet now we have a reserve cadre consistently successful at getting 12 ships to sea. Further, those ships are training all our reserves and regular officers, doing the bulk of our coastal patrols, and performing the MCM route survey task. The MCDV to AOPV step is only an incremental one by comparison. This step will not be without problems, but I would predict the chance to participate in increasingly relevant arctic sovereignty patrols will do much to attract the additional dedicated reservists we need.