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American Forces Press Service

NORTHCOM, Canada Command Cooperate to Secure North America

By Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., July 3, 2006 U.S. Northern Command has a new partner in defending North America from future terrorist and natural disasters.

During his first official visit to NORTHCOM headquarters here as the commander of Canada Command, Canadian Forces Lt. Gen. Marc Dumais promised the two nations would take their already strong military cooperation to new heights.

Canada Command is the Canadian Forces formation responsible for all of Canada's routine and contingency domestic operations. The creation of Canada Command was based on the new international security environment and a commitment to place greater emphasis on the defense of Canada and North America, officials said.

Dumais, who took charge of Canada Command on May 19, visited his counterparts here June 29-30 "to establish relationships" with NORTHCOM Commander Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating and his senior staff, and to get a first-hand look at the command's operations.

"Clearly, you can have all the protocols in the world, but it really comes down to personalities and relationships. ... That's how things really get done," Dumais said. "Furthering the relationship between Canada Command and Northern Command was an important first step for me."

The general said Canada and the United States can capitalize on the unique binational relationship that dates to the 1958 creation of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is collocated with NORTHCOM and shares the same commander. "Both nations have very strong historical ties, cultural ties and even family ties," Dumais said. The two nations had a "common concern and threat with respect to the Cold War and the Soviet bloc. Since 9/11, the threat has changed dramatically, ... so we need to establish new ways of ensuring military-to-military cooperation to counter this threat." Noting that Northern Command has been operational for nearly four years and Canada Command just officially stood up Feb. 1, Dumais said Canada Command can learn much from NORTHCOM.

"We have similar challenges in the way we might be called upon to respond inside our respective nations," Dumais said. "In the event of a natural disaster or other calamity, we can't be there too early, but certainly it's unacceptable to be there even a few minutes too late. It's a matter of always being prepared and having all the necessary coordination done in advance" so that when the military is called upon, the response time "is a matter of hours, and not days."

While both commands have responsibilities toward their own respective governments, he added, a strong need exists to work collaboratively and to be in a position to assist one another, should that be necessary.

Dumais stressed the importance of being prepared to deal with an "event of magnitude" that crosses the U.S.-Canada border in an effective binational and bilateral way. The relationship between the two commands will enhance support between the nations during events like Hurricane Katrina last year in the United States and the 1998 Canadian ice storm, he added.

Another takeaway from the visit for Canada Command is how NORTHCOM has implemented its enlisted force into the operation, said Command Chief Warrant Officer Eric Christensen, command chief warrant officer of Canada Command, who accompanied Dumais on the trip.

"It's important to see how noncommissioned members down here at USNORTHCOM are implemented," he said, because Canada Command is currently an officer-centric command. Christensen said he's trying to increase the number of noncommissioned members at Canada Command headquarters, and seeing how enlisted members are employed at NORTHCOM will help "show me which road to go down."

Dumais said he hopes to reciprocate NORTHCOM's "warm hospitality" soon when Keating travels to Calgary, Alberta, to meet with the chief of Canada's defense staff, Dumais and other Canada Command senior leadership.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher is assigned to U.S. Northern Command public affairs.)


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