The Maple Leaf
Vol. 15, Issue 06
Commander looks forward to challenges ahead
Operations and plans advisor Maj Brent Whelan (second from left), Capt Brian Nadon, curriculum advisor, and Maj Martin Anderson, part two course advisor, observe an ANA student as he briefs course commander Col Amin (right) and operations and plans officer Col Ramatshah during an exercise in preparation for Ex Panjshir Lion in a command post setting at the ANA Command and Staff College in Kabul.
Photo: MCpl Cless Howse
“We are familiar with Afghanistan, we understand the challenges and we know how to train people.” —Major-General Jim Ferron
MGen Jim Ferron is settling into his new year-long posting as commander of the Canadian Training Mission in Afghanistan and Deputy Commanding General for the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A). Wearing a number of hats during his tenure has its advantages.
“In many ways, with my NTM-A hat, I will be setting the conditions for all contributing nations, of which Canada is one; it will be a great challenge,” he says. “And if something goes wrong, I’ll only have myself to blame,” he adds jokingly.
MGen Ferron is not new to Afghanistan, having spent a year there in 2007 as a NATO intelligence officer.
“You never fully understand Afghanistan, but I’ve been there before so I’m familiar with the challenges.”
MGen Ferron’s previous position as Commander of 1st Canadian Division, Kingston, has also prepared him for this appointment in several ways.
“The reality is, anytime you’re given an appointment where you have the privilege to command great men and women —in this case, 1st Canadian Division—it always prepares you for the operational missions. So, the responsibility that’s been given to me will help me transition into the command appointment, and I’m confident I’ve been prepared for this mission.”
Also with his divisional command, he was able to maintain contact with our allies, as well as working with other government departments. “This aspect has been good in helping me prepare for the next adventure.”
Together with their allies, the CF bring security, stability and support, at home and elsewhere, to complex situations, laying the groundwork for development and reconstruction.
Now that the mission has matured, NTM-A is working to sustain momentum in preparing for the transfer of the lead security responsibility to Afghan control.
“It will be an interesting year as the NATO community contemplates what the future will be post-2014.”
MGen Ferron says there will be many changes in the coming year to help prepare the Afghan National Security Forces to shoulder the responsibility as the NATO countries reduce numbers. The Afghan Forces need to reach the point where they are able to provide security to sustain the country.
“My role is to work myself and Canada out of a job,” he says. “We need to get the security forces to the level where they can ensure that those terrorist organizations are unable to threaten the elected government and, consequently, the sovereignty of that country.”
DND/CF and international partners have paved the way for continued progress in Afghanistan after years of dedicated work and perseverance – and with support from the local people, Afghan authorities and coalition forces.
As Canada’s role changed from combat to training, CF personnel brought many skills and much professionalism to the table in the training role.
“We’re training by example; we have a highly developed training system and this is one thing we do very well. We have accomplished trainers, in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Special Forces; we have a highly developed training program; and we understand what it means to be professional and competent,” he says.
”We understand the challenges and we know how to train people.”
MGen Ferron also believes Canada’s past combat role and training role are linked.
“You can’t have training without security,” he says. “The result of having security is going to be the training.”
The end state for NATO is to have the Afghan National Forces develop the expertise to be able to provide security to govern themselves.
“It is important to NATO that the alliances remain unified in their approach, for the future of Afghanistan.”
There are changes and improvements in the Afghan Forces’ ability to provide security.
“NATO is achieving the target levels, in terms of how many army and police are being trained, and being trained through Afghan institutions. There has been improvement as economies are evolving, children going to school, you see policemen on the streets providing security,” says MGen Ferron. “We need to get them [Afghans] to the level they can sustain this on their own.”
The CF have the ability to demonstrate leadership outside Canada by making meaningful contributions to the full spectrum of international operations – from humanitarian assistance to stabilization, to combat.
“Canadians should be proud of our Canadian military, with our NATO allies and what has been accomplished in the combat role which has set the conditions for this training role,” MGen Ferron says.