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Canada's New Chief of Defense Staff Visits NORAD, NORTHCOM

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

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., April 25, 2005 – The United States and Canada enjoy a strong relationship that dates back to World War II, but it "must become even stronger" as the two countries continue the global war on terror, Canada's top military official said here this month.

"We share the continent, an enormous border, a history, tradition, culture, and we share values. Unfortunately, we also share threats," said Chief of the Defense Staff Canadian Army Gen. Rick Hillier, during his April 12-13 visit to the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command here.

The general noted that Canada and the United States share a unique relationship.

"Two countries coming together as equals in a bi-national institution simply does not exist anywhere else in the world," Hillier said. "Homeland security and international operations -- that very real need to take stability to places in the world that are unstable before they bring instability to us -- now binds us more than ever before, and that will continue to improve over the next years."

Hillier, who assumed command of the Canadian Forces Feb. 4, said it was important for him to visit with NORAD and NORTHCOM Commander Navy Adm. Timothy Keating and his staff.

"(It's important) to establish those relationships -- get to know the people and get them to know me -- and learn first-hand the challenges (we're facing) and how we can meet those challenges and do the job Canadians and Americans expect us to do," Hillier said.

Thousands of U.S. and Canadian military members assigned to NORAD have worked side by side in both countries monitoring and defending North American airspace for nearly 50 years.

Now, the general foresees Canada also working closely with the United States, particularly U.S. Northern Command, as it stands up Canada Command later this year. Canada Command will parallel NORTHCOM by focusing on homeland defense. NORTHCOM was established in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to conduct operations to deter, prevent and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories and interests and provide defense support to civil authorities.

According to Hillier, a major player is already in place.

The Bi-National Planning Group was established in December 2002 to develop bi-national maritime, land and civil support contingency plans and decision-making arrangements to respond to threats, attacks, incidents or emergencies requiring bi-national military or civil response.

Following the group's success during its initial two-year term, the Canadian and American governments have extended the BPG's mandate through May 2006. But, Hillier said, he sees the BPG evolving into a joint planning group focused on continental issues for both NORTHCOM and Canada Command.

"The BPG has established without any question the value of having one group, representing both of our countries, looking at all the issues for continental security, particularly the ones that transcend our borders and the approaches to our countries," he said. "(The BPG) will allow us to focus more efficiently on domestic security, ... and I see (the BPG) becoming an excellent common continental planning staff for U.S. NORTHCOM and Canada Command."

During the two-day visit, Hillier received mission briefings and a tour of NORAD's state-of-the-art command center at nearby Cheyenne Mountain.

But what impressed the general the most was the people. "Their commitment, dedication and focus are absolutely inspiring," Hillier said.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher is assigned to the joint Public Affairs Office of NORAD and NORTHCOM.)

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North American Aerospace Defense Command
U.S. Northern Command

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