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Canadian Army transformation.


1. a. The act or an instance of transforming. b. The state of being transformed.

2. A marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better.


1. To change markedly the appearance or form of [something]

2. To change the nature, function, or condition of; convert


When approached to write this article, I gladly accepted. The concurrent invitation to dinner by the fine officer who asked me to write this was surely coincidental and was in no way intended to influence my decision. I can say, however, that both experiences (dinner and the article) were enjoyed.

I had intended to write an article using the Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership and Education, Personnel and Facilities criteria to compare and contrast the transformation activities of both the United States and Canadian armies and the subsequent impact this had on the signal components of both armies. I thought it quite a brilliant topic and eagerly dove into the required research to gather all necessary information. I got more than I bargained for, but in the process, learned a great deal (I will return to this later).

I read through countless back issues of Army Communicator starting at the most recent edition and working backwards to try to find a somewhat precise point in time when the U.S. Army Signals transformation (or redesign) began. As well, I perused a number of the newer U.S. Army signals doctrine publications (Field Manuals and/or Field Manual Interims) to support my pending argument that doctrine need not only be current but, at the same time must also be able to embrace further transformation without necessarily needing a complete revision. Lastly, I reviewed countless PowerPoint slides and surfed Army Knowledge Online like a demon, searching for relevant material to use in support of my article.

On the Canadian side, I again reviewed doctrine manuals, surfed our Army On Line (equivalent to U.S. AKO), reviewed another ton of PowerPoint slides, searched through a number of other Canadian army journals and training bulletin/ manuals, and back editions of the Canadian Forces Communications and Electronics Branch newsletters. Again, my intent here was to select a start point where I could say with some degree of certainty, "There!!! ... this is the point in time where our Canadian army transformation, and subsequently, Canadian army signals transformation began."

I learned that it is indeed possible to do too much research. Second, and more important, was my epiphany: signals never stops transforming; ever! Follow me now on a small trek back in time as I use my own career experiences to support this statement.

I joined the Canadian army in 1982 as a private. My Military Occupation Code was 211 Radio Operator. "Signalman McKenna" as a Rad Op, had to learn more than simply how to operate all tactical radios in the Canadian army inventory (high frequency, very high frequency and ultra high frequency).


I also had to learn such important items as teletype operations and Morse Code. I had to become an expert on the knowledge of crypto; how to operate it and, of course, the crypto handling procedures. I learned the basics of electronic warfare, and of course the ever fascinating world of antenna theory and radio wave propagation.

This, on top of all the other necessary Soldier skills, prepared me to be that all important third man in a three-man CNR detachment.

I thought at the time that I was at the cutting edge of technology ... how could it get better than this? I had to be working with the best technology in the world. Didn't I? Our government wouldn't have us preparing (at that time) to defend Europe, alongside our allies, with equipment that wasn't the best in the world? Would they?

These are the kinds of thoughts that went through my young head as I would be banging the tuning fork against the palm of my hand in an attempt to sort out my TTY 76/98 which probably had just gone berserk for the fourth time in my eight-hour shift in the back of the message center vehicle (an AN/GRC 142); a vehicle we would affectionately refer to as a CRTTZ (HF Radio Teletype Secure).

This, after having had to change frequency on my AN/GRC 106 HF radio (tune/load/tune/ load ... get the needles in the green) and also after having had to reset the KWK-7 with the crypto setting for the next day. I am proud to say now that all of the above mentioned equipment can be viewed in our Canadian Forces Museum of Communications and Electronics ... where perhaps it should have been in the early 1980s.


I noted above that, as a Pte Rad Op, I was referred to as "Signalman McKenna". This of course, was during the days when the Canadian army Rad Op trade was closed to females. That policy changed in the mid to late 1980s when the trade opened up to females, as did a number of other Canadian army MOCs. Of course, this incursion by females into the male bastion of Combat Arms and the Combat Support Arms MOCs was not without a great deal of teeth-gnashing and misery on the part of many, many non-commissioned officers and officers in the Canadian army. Given this significant change in the personnel structure of our MOC, the term signalman was simply shortened to "Sig" as signalwoman and/ or signalperson was simply too many syllables to yell out on parade and, in hindsight, probably didn't translate well into French for those who hailed from Quebec.

There was another MOC that was quite similar to the Rad Op 211 MOC. It was the teletype operator 212 MOC. The Tel Op trade had nothing to do with radios or Morse Code, electronic warfare nor antenna theory/radio wave propagation. They rarely were posted to field units and if they were it was, in all likelihood, as a Crypto Custodian or Crypto Custodian Clerk. This MOC had been open for many years to females. So, from a Rad Op's perspective, a Rad Op had to know everything a Tel Op knew ... but it was not so vice versa. Tel Ops were for the most part concerned with providing the institutional Canadian Forces message delivery services. They manned strategic level and base level communications nodes and message centers across Canada and in many cases they were housed in hardened underground bunkers. These bunkers were constructed at the height of the Cold War. Authority to construct them came from Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (the bunkers became known as "Diefenbunkers"). The Tel Op MOC was stood down in the late 1990s. The personnel from this trade were merged with Rad Ops and a new trade of Signals Operators MOC 215 was created.

(Hang in there.... I am getting to the point of this article.)

My first assignment was to the 1st Canadian Signal Regiment in 1983 (after completion of my Radio Operator Trade Qualification Course Level 3 at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics. I should note, CFSCE, although providing all Canadian army signals officers, warrant officers and NCOs the necessary formal Signals training to succeed in their careers, was not an army "owned" school. CFSCE also provided the Air Force and Navy environments communications training for their personnel. CFSCE was truly a joint school. More on this later. Upon arrival at 1 CSR I was employed as a Detachment Member, and subsequently as a Det 2ic, and eventually as a Detachment Commander of a CNR detachment. This command post detachment was designated "Div Arty CP" meaning that my vehicle served as the net control station for the Div Arty VHF/HF Command Nets. The role of the 1 CSR at that time was to support the deployment of the 1st Canadian Division Headquarters.

Let's have a brief look at some of the history of this unit. Created on July 1, 1958, 5 Signal Squadron (Kingston) was re-designated 1 Signal Unit on June 1, 1961. Then, on Aug. 15, 1963, this unit became the 1st Canadian Signal Regiment until 1990 when the 1st Canadian Signal Regiment and 1st Canadian Division Headquarters were amalgamated to form 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment. This lasted until June 1, 2000, when the 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment and 79 Communication Regiment were officially stood down on June 1, 2000, to merge and create the Joint Signal Regiment. Today this unit is known as the Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment and it provided the supporting strategic and theatre level communications for all Canadian Forces Joint Operations Group missions until 2005 when the CFJOG was stood down and replaced by the Canadian Forces Joint Headquarters the deployable headquarters of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command which was a new operational level headquarters stood up in 2005 as part of Canadian Forces transformation (Principal Source: 90 Years and Counting, a history of the Canadian Signal Corps). So, in the span of approximately 50 years, this unit went from being a completely army oriented unit supporting the traditional war fighting role of a divisional headquarters to being a unit completely focussed on provision of the extension of strategic C2 links to overseas operations for the Canadian Forces and not just the Canadian army.

I mentioned earlier that CFSCE was a "joint" school. This was true for many years. While the main customer of the school was the Canadian army, it was not an "Army School".... until recently. Effective April 1, 2007, in simple terms, CFSCE became an army school that continues to provide education and training to the Navy and Air Force. This is a significant change for CFSCE as it is now felt that it can be more responsive to the needs of the Army which provides the bulk of the Soldiers and officers for overseas deployments and virtually all of the communicators required for these operations. As well as assuming ownership of CFSCE, the Army will also assume ownership of the Canadian Forces Communication Reserve on April 1, 2008. I believe it safe to say that the Commander of the Canadian Army would also like to repatriate the CFJSR back to the Army as well. What is being demonstrated here is a significant desire by the Army to own those all important signals resources (personnel and equipment) so as to be able to continue to force generate these resources in support of ongoing deployed operations. It would also enable better command and control of those resources and a significantly improved ability to influence future growth, training and development of signals as an invaluable war-fighting capability.


(Now to my point.)

Why have I discussed the early years of my career, my trade structure, the old equipment, the opening of my trade to females, the merging of the Rad Op and Tel Op trades, the history of one of the major signals units in the Canadian Forces and a brief mention of our signals school and Communication Reserve component? The answer is simple; to demonstrate to you that which I stated earlier; Signals never stops transforming, ever.

The Canadian Army Signal Corps has been transforming for all of my (thus far) 26 years of service to Queen and country. There is no end in sight. In fact, as can be attested to on both sides of the border, it is only the pace and magnitude of transformation which has changed. In other words, more is changing faster. Why? I offer some reasons in no particular order.

The first reason is a derivation of one of Sun Tzu's thoughts as outlined in The Art of War: know your enemy. As the commander of the Canadian army stated in 2003 "As an Army, we are no longer preparing to fight the bear as we did during the Cold War - we are now preparing to fight many snakes in an un-defined, foreign battle space where the enemy mingles freely with innocent civilians and humanitarian aid workers" (Source: CA army Chief of Land Staff's A Soldier's Guide to Army Transformation). With these words the Canadian army kicked into a higher gear and launched significant transformation activities to orient ourselves towards fighting snakes. It was recognized a number of years ago that our army needs to be able to conduct direct actions, take out terrorists, conduct cordon and search operations for weapons or explosives, face down or destroy a militia, or remove a suicide bomber. At the same time we must search out the good folks, support them and enable them to achieve stability and to do what they need to do to rebuild their lives, their families, their communities, and their countries. In order to do this the Canadian army changed its approach to fight the enemy with speed, agility, and information dominance. This meant changing the way we train, changing the way we force generate, and changing the way we fight.

The second reason can be seen as either a negative or positive consequence of living in a highly modern, well educated, G8 nation that most of the world only dreams about. The simple fact is that our people are very intelligent and well educated. Given this, there is huge competition between the civilian commercial sector and the military for personnel. If the army wishes to hire the "best and the brightest" we need to be able to offer them competitive salaries, ongoing advancement, and continual education and training opportunities. We need to provide them with the best equipment in the world and we need to assure them that should they be injured or killed in the service of their nation, that they and/or their Families will be looked after. This is all proper, of course, but the bottom line is that this is a hugely expensive undertaking. Politicians in both the U.S. and Canada are gravely aware that there are many competing demands for the taxpayer's dollar. Therefore, the military had better make the absolute best use of all monies allocated to them. From a signals perspective this means structuring and equipping ourselves to do the most with the least. Can we afford to have two separate and distinct trade structures (211 Rad Op/212 Tel Op), one of which can do all of the other's tasks? No. Not these days.

Yet another reason is technology.

Remember the Diefenbunkers mentioned earlier. They are all sold now to the private sector and the antiquated Strategic Message Switching System is no longer the backbone of the national information technology infrastructure. Secure and non-secure email, the Canadian Forces Defence Information Network, the internet, secure and nonsecure video-teleconferencing and all those other marvellous technological advances made since my entering the Canadian army have changed the way we communicate and support day to day, domestic and overseas operations. To put things in perspective my former three-man CNR detachment simply provided secure and non-secure voice and it could only provide that for a range of approximately 25 miles (VHF) (RT-524 high power) without needing a complete other detachment serving as a rebroadcast station. Think about this in the context of a single person can do with a cell phone today.


I personally feel that the primary reason for transformation is the fact that we are a combat support arm and we realize that those who we support need us to change. The network is a weapon system now. If history in the United States Army is similar to that of the Canadian army the ops plan used to be crafted in a signals vacuum. The signals annex was too often "to be issued" and we would be left to draft a plan to support the warfighter after the fact. These days, after years of wishing we could be elevated to the grownup table so that we could provide input into the ops plan as it is being drafted, we are now recognized as the "silver bullet" in the era of network enabled operations, network centric warfare. Now that we are at the table we, as signaleers, must add value. Part of the Canadian army commander's vision is the army will be a knowledge-based and command-centric institution capable of continuous flexibility and task tailoring, useful for a wide range of modern conflict. Warfighters today are not fighting on the same battlefield as their fathers and grandfathers. Signals intelligence, electronic warfare, and other electromagnetic spectrum operations have increased in importance on a magnitude that couldn't be predicted a decade ago. EMSO is a warfighting capability. The warfighters look to us to give them the edge in this realm. This is why in the U.S. Army an entirely new MOS has been stood up to oversee electromagnetic spectrum operations. This is why much recent effort has gone towards improving Army EW capabilities. In the Canadian army our lone Active Component EW Squadron has essentially doubled in size. It is why a new Reserve Component EW Squadron was stood up several years ago. It is why so much effort has gone towards Canadian army IED defeat efforts.

There is always a lot of "noise" commanders at all levels must address. Budget concerns, retention issues, technology advances, time constraints, Soldier/Family issues, and many other external and internal pressures. As a former commanding officer of mine said, you must "find your signals in the noise." I was never sure exactly what he meant by that. I think it is a phrase that can apply to many situations. For the purposes of this article, I choose to believe it means that in this era of rapid and ongoing transformation we must remain focused on the purpose of signals which clearly is, despite all the "noise": to enable the commander to exercise command and control. We do it differently today, and we will do it differently tomorrow, but we will only do it by continuous transformation; we always have, we always will. For signals, transformation is both a curse ... and a blessing.


AKO--Army Knowledge Online

1CDHSR--1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment

1CSR--1st Canadian Signal Regiment

CEFCOM--Canadian Expeditionary Force Command

CFJOG--Canadian Forces Joint Operations Group

CFJHQ--Canadian Forces Joint Headquarters

CFJSR--Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment

CFSCE--Canadian Forces School of Electronics

Det Comd--Detachment Command

DOTMLPF--Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel and Facilities

EMSO--electromagnetic spectrum operations

EW--Electronic Warfare

IED--improvised explosive device

ITI--information technology infrastructure

FM--Field Manuals

FMI--Field Manual Interim

MOC--Military Occupation Code

Rad Op--Radio Operator

Sig Ops--Signals Operators

Tel Op--teletype operator

TQ3--Trade Qualification Course Level 3


UNPROFOR--United Nations Protection Force

By MAJ Neil McKenna

MAJ McKenna is the Canadian army liaison officer to the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon. After enlisting and spending nine years as a noncommissioned officer, McKenna completed Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and accepted his commission as an officer. Since then he served as the operations and training officer for 73 Communication Group in Winnipeg, Manitoba; as the plans officer for 72 Communication Group Halifax, Nova Scotia; as the officer commanding 721 Communication Troop, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia; as the deputy commanding officer for two Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron, Petawawa, Ontario, and most recently he served on the Canadian army G6 Ops staff as the desk officer for signals and EW support to deployed operations. In 1992/93 McKenna served as the Canadian contingent J6/officer Commanding the National Command and Control Information System for Canada's contribution to United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia/ Croatia. In 2001 he was appointed as the Canadian delegation chief for Canadian participation in EX COMBINED

ENDEAVOR and in 2002/03 he served as the Canadian J6 for Canada's Joint Task Force Southwest Asia as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
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Author:McKenna, Neil
Publication:Army Communicator
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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