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The Star: An "Investigation" into Afghanistan and Violence in Canada

Baloo

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An Afghan veteran's rage

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Since returning, Pte. Matthew Keddy, shown in Afghanistan a month before killing an enemy combatant at close range, has been convicted of assault.  Print
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An exclusive Star series investigates how the war in Afghanistan is creating a dangerous new class of offender in Canada – and finds growing evidence in jails, courtrooms and homes across the country

Jun 13, 2009 04:30 AM
Comments on this story  (42)
David Bruser
STAFF REPORTER

Pte. Matthew Charles Keddy sits in the prisoner's box, his second court appearance in as many weeks.

Already charged with beating up his girlfriend, he's in court this time following his arrest on the Reversing Falls Bridge in Saint John, N.B., for violating a restraining order.

In recent days, Keddy has seen the inside of a jail and a psychiatric ward. And in the weeks to come he will be brought before two other judges, plead guilty to assault, listen to his girlfriend's tear-soaked impact statement, and spend five more days in the psychiatric ward.

This is a lonely moment for the 26-year-old infantryman and veteran of the Afghanistan War. On this day, no one from the military shows up on Keddy's behalf, which riles Judge William McCarroll as he tries to set the terms of Keddy's pre-trial house arrest.

Judge McCarroll: "There should be somebody here from the military, right? To take responsibility. And I don't understand why there isn't. I mean, he went to Afghanistan. He did his part. He's back here now. So what is he, cut loose?"

Prosecutor: "They are aware he's got psychological issues. There were programs set up for him that he has not been attending. And their position is ... they're not in the business of 24-hour-a-day babysitting, because they perceive that he is a soldier and has responsibilities himself."

Judge McCarroll: "The word `babysit' certainly doesn't apply to this young man. He's certainly not a baby when they send him overseas, that's for sure."

Prosecutor: "They were aware of the alleged assault of the girlfriend. They were aware of the no-contact order with the girlfriend ..."

Judge McCarroll (agitated, his voice rising): "Were they aware that he was on the Reversing Falls Bridge, going to jump off it?"



LIKE AN ANGRY BRUISE coming to the surface, the cost of the war to Canadian soldiers is starting to show in jails, courtrooms and homes broken by booze and rage.

After serving their country in the heat, grit and unpredictability of the Afghanistan war zone, where hundreds of Canadians have been killed or seriously hurt by unseen roadside bombs, the troops are bringing the violence home.

Spousal abuse. Suicide attempts. Barroom assaults. Drunk driving.

A Toronto Star investigation shows the problem is escalating, presenting police, lawyers, judges and psychologists with a new and dangerous class of offender.

"Your training that the taxpayers of this country paid for should not be used against them under any circumstances," a judge told a soldier convicted of assault. "You need help. You need counselling to get over whatever trauma you experienced when you were in Afghanistan. You're not the same man you were when you left Canada, and that is a sad reality of war."

The Star reviewed court documents and interviewed scores of soldiers – from privates to warrant officers, light-armoured-vehicle drivers to snipers, those with physical injuries and those without – as well as lawyers, law enforcement officials, psychologists and others connected to military communities from Vancouver Island to CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick.

Some examples of post-Afghanistan crime:

In a Winnipeg police station, a soldier-turned-child abuser repeatedly smashes his head against the wall after a detective places him under arrest. He later pleads guilty to assaults that caused a total of 19 broken bones in his triplet sons, and is serving a three-year jail sentence.

On the side of a road in Gatineau, Que., at 6:30 a.m., a young veteran of the Afghanistan war named Yuri Miljevic-LaRoche, his eyes red and breath stinking of alcohol, tries to give first aid to the bicyclist he struck with his car.

In a New Brunswick courthouse, Richard Donald Malley is found guilty of assault after he hit a man in a Miramichi bar hard and often. It happened just days after he returned from Afghanistan. The court hears Malley, 21, may be suffering from a psychological injury.

All the soldiers interviewed by the Star describe an incredible journey that takes them to the Afghanistan moonscape 10,000 kilometres away, where they live in what they call a state of "hypervigilance." Many return looking for a powerful distraction from the memory of what happened there. Others come home feeling empty. There's a void that needs filling. They fill it with booze or drugs or both. These men want to reclaim that feeling of living at the centre of the action. They want back out on that edge. Instead, many of the soldiers in this story end up in the back of a police cruiser or in jail for the first time in their lives. Without criminal records before the war, they now report to a probation officer or child services worker, or both.

"It was after the Breathalyzer they put me in cuffs," recalls Travis Schouten, now living in Sarnia and fighting a see-saw battle with his psychological injury, known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "When they did that, I was empty. I had been to Afghanistan, lost friends, done something good, and here I am in the back of a police car, like a common criminal."

Schouten awaits trial after an incident in Whitewater Township, Ont., in which he says he rolled his car into a ditch, injuring one of the passengers.

Retired colonel Pat Stogran, who led the first group of Canadians in Afghanistan in 2002, seemed visibly agitated when presented with the Star's findings, including details of how some of his former soldiers are abusing drugs and alcohol and getting into trouble with the law.

"These guys who are walking wounded, these are the guys who might as well be bleeding out on the Kandahar desert right now," says Stogran, now the Veterans Ombudsman in Ottawa. "I am devastated to hear that.

"What (the Star has) done here validates a lot of the stuff that's been nagging at the back of my brain. You send anybody away to a shit hole for six months and they'll come back changed."

He argues the military must better prepare soldiers for the stress of war, including subjecting them to virtual-reality representations of warlike conditions before they go on tour.

"I don't think the military is doing enough. It's not all about learning how to pull the trigger and strip and assemble your weapon. It's also about seeing the blood and gore and really being able to relate to somebody who's badly mutilated and you have to put tourniquets on. We tried to set up a program of stress inoculation. I brought it to the powers that be."

But Stogran says his ideas were ignored. "I've been ranting and raving. It's fallen upon deaf ears."

Stogran also wants the military to make soldiers prepare "life plans" to get them thinking about how to live a life of purpose after leaving a war zone and the military.

In the meantime, he pledges to ask the military to consult with corrections officials to get a handle on exactly how many veterans are landing in jail. He fears that what the Star found may only be the "tip of the iceberg."

"A lot of the troops are still serving, doing multiple tours, and perhaps still haven't had time for their pot to boil over."



SINCE STROGAN took the first group of troops into Afghanistan seven years ago, 26,800 Canadians have been deployed and 119 have died, the most of any Canadian combat mission since the Korean War. More than 400 have been injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mines, rocket attacks and direct combat. At least 1,000 have suffered severe psychological trauma.

In the past few years, as the military has stepped up recruiting to try to keep pace with its costly commitment (roughly $7.5 billion to date), the damage has escalated.

The number of soldiers killed in action jumped from single digits in 2002 through 2005 to about 30 in each of the following three years. And more than one in five Canadian soldiers and police officers deployed to Afghanistan leave the force with psychiatric problems, a number that has rapidly risen in the past 12 months. The closer a soldier is to combat, the more likely he or she will develop PTSD, which can affect someone who has suffered a critical injury or witnessed death, or who has been threatened with death or critical injury.

Symptoms include reliving the traumatic experience through nightmares, flashbacks or even smells; hyper-arousal that can lead to sleeplessness, irritability and anger; and avoiding conversations, places and people reminiscent of the traumatic event.

Keddy, a foot soldier during his tour in 2007, told the Star he shot an enemy combatant at close range and was never the same. "I went and served my country with honour and dignity and I came back and my life went straight to hell," says Keddy, now 27. His mother, Brenda Love, added: "It was war he went into and somebody else came back. His eyes are dead. You start talking to him about the war, you can see that blackness come over him. It's going to take a long time to get that little boy back."

Meanwhile, the military justice system is seeing a steady increase in disciplinary and criminal matters coming before military courts.


In the court-martial system, where more serious cases are typically dealt with, the number of cases has increased each year since the beginning of the war, with a 16 per cent jump in 2007-08 from the year before.

Records of court-martial proceedings offer a window into a military struggling to cope with stressed troops. In February 2007, in Kandahar province, a sergeant "severely injured" a corporal, dislocating his jaw during an "unauthorized" training session on the use of flexi-cuffs and the handling of detainees.

Also in Kandahar, in the wee hours of Christmas Day 2005, a drunk master corporal ratcheted up an ongoing dispute with a corporal by pointing a loaded rifle at him from less than two metres away. The master corporal cocked the rifle. The corporal, fearing for his life, took the rifle, grabbed his superior by the throat and kneed him in the ribs, released the magazine from the weapon, cleared the chamber and returned the ejected round to the magazine. The court reported that the corporal has nightmares about the incident.

The military says it does not keep data on military members who are arrested off base, charged with a crime or convicted of a crime by civilian authorities.

Repeatedly asked to comment on the Star's findings, the military did not respond.

The mounting cost of the Afghanistan war on the soldiers, their families and communities is troubling a number of judges from Winnipeg to Saint John.

In the summer of 2008, when faced with Sgt. Ronald Anderson, a veteran of two Afghanistan tours and sufferer of PTSD, sitting in the prisoner's box charged with uttering a death threat, New Brunswick Judge Patricia Cumming signalled a new problem facing the criminal justice system.

"More and more the courts are being asked to venture into areas with which they are not particularly well-equipped to deal," she said. "What we're dealing with is a situation everybody talks about – post-traumatic stress disorder. Yet no one here has an understanding of what that actually entails, what risks that puts to the defendant or to others in his proximity or with whom he has a close relationship.

"It is daily life that he's been dropped back into after going through all of these horrific experiences – the loss of friends and comrades in such violent and horrific ways, seeing children die ... I will say that in dealing with these matters in the future, and I expect there will be many more, that counsel may have to consider perhaps more detailed hearings ... upon which the court can actually rely when making these types of decisions."



ON NOV. 24, 2008, in a monotone recitation of the facts, the prosecutor detailed for the court what police had found on Tweedsmuir Court in Oromocto, N.B., four months earlier.

Shonda Lynn Burgess said she and Matthew Keddy had a fight. That Keddy threw a remote control at her before pushing her. The constable reported Keddy had pushed Burgess with both hands, lifting her clear off the ground and onto her butt. The constable saw bloodstains on her jeans and a swollen left arm, and that she had trouble walking.

Prosecutor: "What she has is a cracked vertebrae."

Keddy has pleaded guilty to assault and will be sentenced to three months' house arrest and 12 months' probation.

The prosecutor's summary done, Burgess steps to a microphone in the courtroom.

Burgess: "As I sit here thinking about what to write for my victim impact statement ... I can't do it. I'm going to cry all the way through it."

Burgess pauses, then reads on.

"Being attacked by the man one loves pulls at every part of that person. Matthew attacked me and ended up cracking my tailbone and ending our relationship and in turn making it very untrusting.

"I am not certain as to why this happened on that day. I am not sure that I ever will. I didn't deserve to be attacked."

She cries all the way through the rest of her statement.



IN PETAWAWA and nearby Pembroke, communities heavily populated by military families, where storefronts seem to compete for the highest number of "Support Our Troops" posters, the suffering is not on display.

But it is not far from view.

At the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families, where clients can discreetly enter from a back alley, the military family caseload has rocketed from 12 in 2005 to 85 today, with 20 on the waiting list.

Director Greg Lubimiv says the families are "grappling with issues ranging from anxiety-driven child behaviours like bedwetting and aggression, to domestic violence, depression and marital breakdown."

"More deployments actually compound the stress on many of our soldiers," Lubimiv adds.


Since 2006, the proportion of military family clients at Phoenix who have experienced the stress of multiple deployments has risen from 33 per cent to higher than 60 per cent.

"There is a dramatic increase in marital conflict," says Lubimiv. "And when you have people who are feeling depressed, moving into substance abuse is common. And there is a fair tie-in between substance abuse and violence ..."

A defence attorney who represents many military clients based at CFB Petawawa says that shortly after a tour returns from Afghanistan, he sees a spike in the number of domestic assault charges, some involving a weapon, along with impaired driving and "confinement," which he describes this way:

"It usually takes the form of a complete loss of control, where all hell's breaking loose and a spouse is trying to call the police ... and you're blocking the door, you're ripping the phone out of the wall. That's a classic. The phone rip out of the wall. Happens a lot. Can't tell you how many times guys have had restitution orders to replace the phone. And the phone is often the weapon."

A young corporal, interviewed by the Star on CFB Petawawa, pushed his wife down the stairs.

"We were arguing. I remember I was at the top of the stairs. I blacked out. From what she tells me, I put my hand on her face and pushed. When I snapped out of it, she was at the bottom, screaming and bleeding. I took her to the hospital in (nearby) Pembroke."

On a recent afternoon in the backyard of his small house on base, the corporal sat on the edge of a lawn chair, pumping his knees. Being seen talking to a reporter likely would not promote career advancement. But he figures nosy neighbours will assume a man with a notepad to be his probation officer or child services worker, both of whom make regular appearances.

Chain-smoking, a bucket full of stubbed-out butts within reach, the corporal recalled his tour in 2006 – the snap of bullets, the smell of an exploded IED, a medic screaming, dust everywhere.

"I can remember everything. It's like we were VHS players before the war. Now we're Blu-ray players.

"When I came home, that first day, got home early in the morning, I couldn't be here. I had to get back.

"When you're overseas, your life's on the line. Hypervigilance. You get home, there's nothing."

Not even the thrill of meeting his newborn son for the first time.

"You need to find that adrenaline rush."

The corporal pleaded guilty to assault. He says the judge gave him 18 months' probation and allowed supervised visits with his son. The corporal was only recently allowed back in the home. He visits a psychologist on base every two weeks, is on Cymbalta, an antidepressant, and wears a mouthguard at night. He grinds his teeth in his sleep. The corporal says he needs a new mouthguard because the one he has is badly chewed.



IN HIS FAST FALL from soldier to suspect, Pte. Matthew Charles Keddy, without a criminal record before the war, has shared the same courtroom as drunk drivers and an armed robber sentenced to six years in a federal penitentiary.

Prosecutor: "According to the information the (military is) getting, he's not cooperating with the program."

Judge McCarroll: "Well, if he's mentally ill, maybe that's the problem. Maybe he can't comply. Maybe it's not his fault. Maybe it's as a result of the fact that he went overseas, saw some terrible things and is back here, suffering from some kind of a stress type of situation that he needs help for."

Keddy violated a court order to stay out of Saint John when he went to the bridge. (The order stemmed from the assault charge involving his girlfriend.) On this day, Oct. 20, 2008, Judge McCarroll tells Keddy he must stay on the base, CFB Gagetown, unless accompanied by his parents, and undergo a psychological assessment.

Judge McCarroll: "How about it, Matthew? Are you willing to go through the program that they have up there (on the base)?"

Keddy: "I just want to go home."

Judge McCarroll: "Home with your parents, you mean?"

Keddy: "Yeah. You send me up there, I'm going to go nuts."

The microphone picks up Keddy's sniffles. His voice shakes.

Keddy: "They say they're going to help me, but they don't help me. They don't care ... (sniffling) ... They don't care."

Judge McCarroll (addressing Keddy's stepfather in the courtroom gallery): "How was everything before he went overseas?"

Stepfather: "Oh it was good. He was happy. He was excited about life. He loved Canada."

Keddy: "I was normal."



David Bruser can be reached at 416-869-4282 and dbruser@thestar.ca.


http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/650299
 

Journeyman

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Standing by to painted with a broad brush -- all Afghan veterans are now potentially a "dangerous new class of offender," using taxpayer-funded village-burning ninja training against any and all citizens.

I know there's not a hope Pravda the Toronto Star will publish the ratio of how many have served in Afghanistan and not attacked anyone, compared with the number of people in this story.

::)
 

George Wallace

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Something wrong here.  Unless Keddy is now out of the CF, there should be a "Delegated Officer" at all of his court hearings.  That officer's sole purpose there is to keep the Comd informed; not to provide any assistance or advice to Keddy.  This whole theatrical dialogue provided in this article would be better served up in a theatre, than in the Media.
 

vonGarvin

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George
I'm so glad you made that post.  I've been a delegated officer before, and it's exactly as you said: you sit, take notes and then info the CO (or whomever) what heppened.

Methinks this is much ado about nothing.

(Not that some people have problems, and this is not to make light of anyone's situation.) 

I do note this part of the article:
There were programs set up for him that he has not been attending..."
  As I understand it, if a member is ordered to attend a medical appointment, and that member fails to attend, then that member can be charged with AWOL. Having said that, I don't know if he was ordered to attend. 
 

kilekaldar

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I agree with Journeyman, while I sympathize with the soldiers who came back with PTSD and believe everything should be done to help them, this article really paints us with combat tours as the "crazy vets", baby-killing Nazi sociopath psychos public enemies. I've already had people call me that and worse while I walked on the street in Ottawa in uniform, articles like this won't help the public understand us. If anything it will just generate fear and hatred.

And I would also like to see statistics about violent crime rates from Afghan War vets compared to the general public in the same age group.
 

observor 69

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Link

Soldier 'not living anymore, just trying to survive'

TheStar.com

One man anesthetizes his return from Afghanistan with anything he can find

June 14, 2009
David Bruser
STAFF REPORTER

VANCOUVER ISLAND – The blinds are drawn to keep out the midday sun.

Tinny electronic music pulses from a laptop's small speakers.

The former corporal in the Canadian Army sits shirtless and sweating in the cool, dark room.

He works his jaw in small circles. He has just snorted cocaine off his stovetop. The appliance is smeared with it.

The Afghanistan war veteran – two tours since 2002 – moved only recently to this new subdivision home, at the end of a street in a small town on the edge of Vancouver Island, as far away from the war, the army and loved ones as he could manage.

The 29-year-old talks fast, each word spilling into the next.

"In a three-week period, I broke a cop's nose, put another guy in hospital, wrote off my Denali, broke up with my girlfriend.

"I'm in and out of depression. I'm unreliable.

"I have to do two things a day: walk the dog and go to the gym.

"Two weeks ago, I got busted for drinking and driving. I blew three times over.

"I have a bad temper."

He has not slept in 36 hours. He says the night before he swallowed several tabs of MDMA, or ecstasy, and sped through two "eight balls" of coke. He lights a cigarette.

"You wouldn't be able to handle my nightmares.

"Paranoia's a big thing. I keep the doors locked.

"I don't answer the phone. I get groceries at night when there's no people around.

"I want to be invisible."

He is on daily doses of lithium and an antipsychotic called Zyprexa. Plus a supply of Viagra to counter the prescription drugs' effect on his sex drive.

"If I'm off my meds, guaranteed someone's getting hurt, or I lose my shit.

"I can't concentrate.

"I've written off two vehicles. I drove one into a lamppost. I ran away from the vehicle and committed fraud. I said my car was stolen. The second car I flipped. I had passed out driving.

"I know I got two warrants out for my arrest in Alberta.

"It's been getting worse. I want to see a psychologist to get help.

"I know where my bottom is. I'm pretty sure I've hit it."

The Quebec native wants his name kept secret to avoid getting into more trouble with civilian police, though he does not seem to care the military knows how he lives. Given the detail he agrees to have published, they will likely be able to identify him.

He lights another cigarette. The laptop chimes a Coldplay song.

"I started gambling when I got back from Afghanistan the second time. I lost $17,000 in one day playing blackjack in Vancouver.

"Anything for a rush."

With the menacing calm of a sand shark, a muscular brown pit bull quietly weaves through and around the man's legs under the dining room table. The dog's name is Deca, after the former corporal's favourite steroid – Deca-Durabolin. Vials of steroids litter the man's bedroom windowsill and dresser top. When he doses, he injects in the behind or shoulder.

The words rush out into the smoky room. He weighs 285 pounds, is generously tattooed and wears camouflage shorts. With the pit bull nearby, he is imposing, though heavier and less defined than he used to be, judging by his Facebook photo album.

"I have a self-confidence issue.

"Having (post-traumatic stress disorder) is shameful. I'm ashamed of myself.

"I found out I wasn't the tough guy I thought I was, and that destroyed me mentally.

"In the army, it's frowned upon.

"You're thought of as being a pussy.

"So I moved here."

When he was 22, on his first Afghanistan tour with the 3rd Battalion, he was nearby when his friend Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer was blown up by a bomb mistakenly dropped by U.S. pilot Maj. Harry Schmidt. Three other Canadian soldiers died that night. Eight more were injured.

"What I have is survivor's guilt.

"By the end of the tour, I was wishing I had died.

"I was tired of the anticipation.

"I got diagnosed with severe PTSD.

"Psychologist said I should never have held a weapon after that first tour."

The former corporal says he lasted only a few weeks on his second tour in 2007. He was sent home after testing positive for cocaine.

"The only reason I was doing coke was because of my tour in 2002.

"They reprimanded me for trying to cope with that.

"A major said I was an embarrassment. F---, he never went to Afghanistan.

"I wanted to rip his head off.

"People piss me off. When I'm sober, I'm angry.

"I smoke an ounce of weed a week. It mellows me out.

"You got PTSD, you're not living anymore. You're trying to survive.

"It's f---ing draining.

"I don't care for society anymore.

"And all I want to do is go back to Afghanistan"
 

Jammer

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There's more to this guys story than meets the eye I suspect.
 

X-mo-1979

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Yes virtual battle training.Awesome.Let's add that to the enormous amount of time away from family.
Why not have a shrink walk around with us out there as well.When stuff goes south he can ask us how we feel,and work on it right there and then.

I think we have enough systems set up now to help people with PTSD.

As for blaming stuff like doing lines off a stove,hitting a lady in a car etc.Idiots do it, and somehow I think PTSD get's blamed to get leniency.

An idiot driving drunk and runs a young lady down is a idiot.

People with real PTSD I sympathize for.However I am getting sick and tired of hearing these people who do things like break 17 bones in an infant's body,and any other non socially acceptable thing blame it on PTSD.

I am so sick of these people.

I'm also guessing VA is paying the guy to snort 8 balls and smoke a pile of dope?
Your tax paying dollars at work.
 

The Bread Guy

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George Wallace said:
Something wrong here.  Unless Keddy is now out of the CF, there should be a "Delegated Officer" at all of his court hearings.  That officer's sole purpose there is to keep the Comd informed; not to provide any assistance or advice to Keddy.

Midnight Rambler said:
I've been a delegated officer before, and it's exactly as you said: you sit, take notes and then info the CO (or whomever) what heppened.
Is there a chance such an officer was there in civvies?  Then again, I'm guessing anyone with a even a military bearing could be spotted in a crowd in court, especially by a reporter.

kilekaldar said:
this article really paints us with combat tours as the "crazy vets", baby-killing Nazi sociopath psychos public enemies.
I thought everyone knew about the "Crazed Ex-(Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Reservist) (insert verb) (insert object)...." headline all set to cut and paste in print newsrooms across the land.....  >:D

Seriously, I have to agree with the "there's GOT to be more than this" school of thought here.
 

PuckChaser

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You'd think with this second guy, maybe his steroid use could be the cause of the violent outbursts and bad temper? Oh wait, that wouldn't make a good Anti-CF story.
 

40below

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milnews.ca said:
Is there a chance such an officer was there in civvies?  Then again, I'm guessing anyone with a even a military bearing could be spotted in a crowd in court, especially by a reporter.
I thought everyone knew about the "Crazed Ex-(Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Reservist) (insert verb) (insert object)...." headline all set to cut and paste in print newsrooms across the land.....  >:D

Seriously, I have to agree with the "there's GOT to be more than this" school of thought here.

I've covered maybe one or two cases involving Canadian (and American) soldiers in court in Kingston (surprising, but it DOES happen) and the delegated officer is always in uniform. They don't usually attend routine matters such as remands or scheduling dates, as they can pick that up with a phone call five minutes after it happens (and these days the accused is only there by video link from lockup) but they're always there in uniform taking notes at pretrial, trial and disposition.
 

brihard

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I remember receiving an email from David Bruser a few months ago asking me questions about pre and post deployment... This article has been in the works for quite some time.

As easy as the conclusions are to dislike, I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand because of its tone. I suspect most of us know someone who's still grappling with issues from tour, and the basic premise - that more of our buddies are ending up in the criminal justice system after a deployment - seems to be valid. I don't like reading this, but if there's truth to the assertions made - and I think there is - maybe this kind of public attention is what is needed. I was interested to note the part from Col. Stogran about basically being unheeded by the powers that be. It's not the first time I've heard that. The numbers of people in the CF basically on administrative 'hold' while they have physical or mental medical issues sorted out shows that this isn't some sort of phantom problem...
 

40below

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Oh, and having read all three parts of the series, I gotta ask from a professional POV: where the HELL is the CF? 'No comment' doesn't cut it. PAOs are paid quite well to field calls like this, and the minister certainly is, where's the CF talking about the PTSD clinics, the evaluation before, during and after deployment,m the fact they'll fly social workers out of KAF and into the field after an incident if necessary, whatever? "Can't talk about specific cases but we can talk about aggregates and programs. Hey Star, want to talk to one of our docs who work with PTSD? You've got two hours with him on Tuesday. Want some stats on the number of people who have gone through our PTSD program? Want to know what training they get at the unit level before deploying? Here's the number of the guy who's in charge of it. What else do you need and when do you need it by? Yeah, sometimes sh*t happens but we're doing out damndest. Here's the proof."

FTA: Repeatedly asked to comment on the Star's findings, the military did not respond.

This series wasn't put together on a Friday afternoon and published on Monday, the CF has known about this for weeks. Rail against the Red Star all you want but the CF once again proves incapable of getting their own side of the story across by virtue of not even trying.

And let me say this: in any other large organization, public affairs heads would be rolling on Monday if a three-part series came out in the country's largest paper without even a squeak from the people paid to defend its public image (actually that's wrong. There would have been a short, sharp meeting when this came out on Friday and more competent staff would be hired on Monday.) In DND, it's business as usual.
 

dangerboy

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milnews.ca said:
Is there a chance such an officer was there in civvies?  Then again, I'm guessing anyone with a even a military bearing could be spotted in a crowd in court, especially by a reporter.

When I was an attending officer I wore a civilian suit and tie. Of course being Brandon the only people in suits were lawyers. Everyone thought that me and the accused (who was also wearing a civilian suit) were lawyers

edited to fix my mistake in terminology.
 

The Bread Guy

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40below said:
where's the CF talking about the PTSD clinics, the evaluation before, during and after deployment,m the fact they'll fly social workers out of KAF and into the field after an incident if necessary, whatever? "Can't talk about specific cases but we can talk about aggregates and programs. Hey Star, want to talk to one of our docs who work with PTSD? You've got two hours with him on Tuesday. Want some stats on the number of people who have gone through our PTSD program? Want to know what training they get at the unit level before deploying? Here's the number of the guy who's in charge of it. What else do you need and when do you need it by? Yeah, sometimes sh*t happens but we're doing out damndest. Here's the proof."

Just to play the devil's advocate (been there, done that, and actually respect reporters who do their homework, maintain context and are fair), there's people who post and read here regularly who've dealt with the media who might ask, "and what proportion of column inches would this info fill up, if shared in any detail at all?"  Especially after their own experiences in sharing information they never saw/read/heard in subsequent coverage.  That's how you end up with cynics saying things like, "you can control what you say, but you can't control what they write".

I realize it'll never be even a crude 50-50 split on two-sided stories (and what stories are only two-sided?), but any ideas/suggestions from your professional POV re:  how to improve the ratio of what's written to what's said?
 

Jammer

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This "reporter" had an agenda.
I think that he had already written his story and needed extreme cases to "expose" the military and it's alleged abandonment of former soldiers.
Don't get me wrong, some of our friends are wrestling with demons they will have to reconcile with, but sensationalist reporting like this only serves to hinder their recovery and send them deeper into isolation.
 

40below

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milnews.ca said:
Just to play the devil's advocate (been there, done that, and actually respect reporters who do their homework, maintain context and are fair), there's people who post and read here regularly who've dealt with the media who might ask, "and what proportion of column inches would this info fill up, if shared in any detail at all?"  Especially after their own experiences in sharing information they never saw/read/heard in subsequent coverage.  That's how you end up with cynics saying things like, "you can control what you say, but you can't control what they write".

I realize it'll never be even a crude 50-50 split on two-sided stories (and what stories are only two-sided?), but any ideas/suggestions from your professional POV re:  how to improve the ratio of what's written to what's said?

Well, I suspect you know who I am and you know what I do, so you know I'm not one of the bad guys, if not necessarily sharing the rarified air of St. Christie, but on an operational level, the CF is very good at explaining itself, given OPSEC and other constraints. And that's both on the level of corporals up to generals.

Where the CF falls down from an image and message management perspective, and I've seen this personally, is given something they DON'T want to talk about, they retreat to familiar procedural silence - "A BOI is coming so we can't prejudice it, all in good time, wait until it goes away." That doesn't cut it for something like this and I would LOVE to see a proper communications strategy from the CF to deal with an issue like this, or a number of others that I've seen them boot away over the years. The public PR industry is very good at this, the CF should, but hasn't, learned from them. PAOs have gotten a lot better in the past 10 years, but communicating with the public, something front and centre with a public corporation (or another government department, say health, which has actual clients and people who rely on it who are not governed by a code of conduct, is a fifth- or sixth priority within the CF. I have my own thoughts about how that formed over the years, but that's a topic for another day.

Be as mad as you like at the paper, I don't work there and I don't care, but if I was on the other side of the fence, I'd be furious that my entire profession was, to paraphrase, painted as mentally unstable, hair-trigger thugs unleashed on society by the government after it trained them to kill, without even a wait-a-minute response from the people who not only employ me, but lots of other people at a higher pay scale whose nominal job it is to publicly dispute such charges.

As for your other point, if you want to be quoted accurately, stay in your lane and stay on message. Sure some people here have had bad experiences with reporters. I've had bad experiences with members who have been, with no good reason, varyingly surly, lying, unco-operative, rude, stupid and incompetent, also from the level of private from general. Does that prove that everyone in the Forces is an a-hole, and the entire Canadian profession of arms is something distasteful if not actually disgraceful by extension? You've got anecdotes, I've got anecdotes. Guess what? The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.'

The thing is, the reporter does not CARE about the story. Something bad happened to somone else, but it's just a story and I get paid the same. Bad news doesn't sell papers in a meaningful way, no matter how people with no more understanding of the news business than I have of C-130 landing gear maintenance insist that it does. And by and large you're dealing with reporters who are indifferent and who don't have an axe to grind. They may be uniformed, lazy or ignorant of the Canadian Forces, but they're just not out to "get" you. Be clear, talk about what you know and what you want to get across, and having said what you need to say, STOP TALKING. An interview is not a friendly chat between friends.
 

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Brihard said:
I remember receiving an email from David Bruser a few months ago asking me questions about pre and post deployment... This article has been in the works for quite some time.

As easy as the conclusions are to dislike, I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand because of its tone. I suspect most of us know someone who's still grappling with issues from tour, and the basic premise - that more of our buddies are ending up in the criminal justice system after a deployment - seems to be valid. I don't like reading this, but if there's truth to the assertions made - and I think there is - maybe this kind of public attention is what is needed. I was interested to note the part from Col. Stogran about basically being unheeded by the powers that be. It's not the first time I've heard that. The numbers of people in the CF basically on administrative 'hold' while they have physical or mental medical issues sorted out shows that this isn't some sort of phantom problem...

I totally disagree.
We had retards in the army for a long time.It seems the new generation of them are using PTSD as a fing excuse.
I have also heard talk of guys getting busted for dope and using PTSD as a claim.Yet from the rumor mill they were using it for many years.Just so happened they got caught red handed....and had excuse to go along with it due to having deployed.

Sure I know a couple guys who had issues from the last roto.Those guys are also not running around beating wife's,stabbing babies and doing drugs.They got help from tour(UMS mental health flew out)to Cyprus(breifs, mental health around 24/7 to talk) to home.These guys also had the same care allotted to them,and they ****ed up in the game called life.And decided to claim PTSD.

That's my opinion.This isn't Medak pocket.It's 2009 and we have been killing and being killed for a couple years now.The help is there (and I found rather pushed if you were involved in any major incident).

While I truly believe some members come home with issues,I believe most of these guys were idiots before they left,done drugs they left and now that they got caught it's PTSD.
 

The Bread Guy

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40below said:
Well, I suspect you know who I am and you know what I do, so you know I'm not one of the bad guys, if not necessarily sharing the rarified air of St. Christie, but on an operational level, the CF is very good at explaining itself, given OPSEC and other constraints. And that's both on the level of corporals up to generals.
If you're who I think you are, then I know you do your homework - fair enough.

40below said:
Where the CF falls down from an image and message management perspective, and I've seen this personally, is given something they DON'T want to talk about, they retreat to familiar procedural silence - "A BOI is coming so we can't prejudice it, all in good time, wait until it goes away." That doesn't cut it for something like this and I would LOVE to see a proper communications strategy from the CF to deal with an issue like this, or a number of others that I've seen them boot away over the years. The public PR industry is very good at this, the CF should, but hasn't, learned from them. PAOs have gotten a lot better in the past 10 years, but communicating with the public, something front and centre with a public corporation (or another government department, say health, which has actual clients and people who rely on it who are not governed by a code of conduct, is a fifth- or sixth priority within the CF. I have my own thoughts about how that formed over the years, but that's a topic for another day.
Speaking strictly as a taxpayer, I'm not happy with more of the message not getting out there, either.

40below said:
Be as mad as you like at the paper, I don't work there and I don't care, but if I was on the other side of the fence, I'd be furious that my entire profession was, to paraphrase, painted as mentally unstable, hair-trigger thugs unleashed on society by the government after it trained them to kill, without even a wait-a-minute response from the people who not only employ me, but lots of other people at a higher pay scale whose nominal job it is to publicly dispute such charges.
I'll agree with you here, and I'd like to see more of Canada's side out there, too.

40below said:
Sure some people here have had bad experiences with reporters. I've had bad experiences with members who have been, with no good reason, varyingly surly, lying, unco-operative, rude, stupid and incompetent, also from the level of private from general. Does that prove that everyone in the Forces is an a-hole, and the entire Canadian profession of arms is something distasteful if not actually disgraceful by extension? You've got anecdotes, I've got anecdotes. Guess what? The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.'
I have no beef with the reporters who do the job, I have a beef with those who, in your words, write while "uniformed, lazy or ignorant" re:  what they're covering.  Without as full a picture as one can collect, how can one explain it properly? 

40below said:
The thing is, the reporter does not CARE about the story. Something bad happened to somone else, but it's just a story and I get paid the same. Bad news doesn't sell papers in a meaningful way, no matter how people with no more understanding of the news business than I have of C-130 landing gear maintenance insist that it does. And by and large you're dealing with reporters who are indifferent and who don't have an axe to grind.
I'll agree in general, knowing there are still a few weiners among the keeners.  That said, I've worked for media bosses who, although I had no personal axe to grind as a reporter, were happy to wear corporate glasses to selectively choose assignments to be covered - NOT sayin' it's happening everywhere, but it's not happening nowhere, either.

BTW, thanks for the detailed insights from the inside - good to hear from someone in the craft defending said craft.
 
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