Lt. General Rick Hillier is resigning. During Canada’s deployment in Afghanistan, General Hillier has been the public face of the Canadian armed forces. At the close of 2007, I named General Hillier as one of my Heroes of the Year. (The co-Hero of the Year was General Petraeus.) Then I wrote (in part):
I met a Canadian veteran a few weeks back. Recently returned from Afghanistan, he told me of when he met General Hillier during one of the General’s visits there. This veteran spoke from the heart, so highly of the General. As I listened I knew without doubt that there was such respect that this veteran would follow General Hillier anywhere. [link: Tanker Brothers]
General Hillier has been an extremely vocal supporter of the Canadian troops, and Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
From the Canadian Army site comes this biography:
Lieutenant-General R.J. Hillier, CMM, CD
Chief of the Land Staff
Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier – Born in Newfoundland and Labrador, Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier joined the Army as soon as he could. He graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science Degree. After completing his armour officer classification training, he joined his first regiment, the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s) in Petawawa, Ontario. Subsequently, he served with the Royal Canadian Dragoons and remains affiliated with the regiment.
Throughout his career, LGen Hillier has had the privilege and pleasure of commanding troops from the platoon to division level. He has also worked as a staff officer at Army headquarters, first in Montreal and now at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.
He has served throughout Canada, twice in Europe and the United States, and has enough time with the United Nations and NATO forces in the former Yugoslavia to be eligible to vote there.
In 1998 LGen Hillier was appointed as the Canadian Deputy Commanding General of III Armoured Corps, US Army in Fort Hood, Texas. In 2000 he took command of the Multinational Division (Southwest) in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After returning to Canada, he assumed the duties of Assistant Chief of the Land Staff, and on May 30, 2003, assumed the duties of Chief of the Land Staff.
In October 2003 LGen Hillier was selected as the next commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan. He commanded ISAF from February 9 to August 12, 2004.
LGen Hillier and his wife have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a new grandson. LGen Hillier enjoys most recreational pursuits but, in particular, runs slowly, plays hockey poorly and golfs not well at all. [link here: Army]
While this is all obviously impressive, the General has proved his mettle on the homefront battle field many times. He has been an ardent advocate/defender of the mission in Afghanistan, and the airwaves of Canada have often vibrated with his presence as he has taken on any and all politicians who dared to be less than respectful, supportive of his troops and their mission. He has also been a guest on call in shows on CBC radio (for example) and has adroitly deflected any and all criticism from ill-informed callers. In his latest interview on CBC radio, General Hillier says that he never regretted anything he said or did. This was in response to a question about a comment that got tongues wagging. He called terrorists “scumbags”, and today says he meant it, as he talked about people trying to “kill our men and women in harm’s way”. (Courtesy “As It Happens”).
And in context, here IS what General Hillier said about those ‘scumbags’:
“These are detestable murderers and scumbags. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties.” – Hillier on July 14, 2005, on Osama bin Laden and Islamist terrorists in general. He added: “We’re not the public service of Canada. We’re not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people.”
General Hillier, a 36 year veteran of the Canadian Forces, was at the helm as CDS during a time of war. He says he saw his role as ‘a rebuilding of the pride, the confidence within the forces from a low point – a deficit.’
(Les Perreaux/Canadian Press)
Some might say that General Hillier has been controversial, but as he just said, when asked about his moral courage, in the “As It Happens” interview:
“I had the moral courage to say ‘This is what our troops need.’ If I don’t say it, who will?”
Back in December 2007, I wrote of both General Hillier and General Petraeus:
Both men are highly educated. Both men are so knowledgeable, both in military matters and history, and world history, the BIG picture. Very articulate. Both men have had their feet held to the fire by the dimtwit politicians. I know that both Generals are constantly having to “deal” (okay I’m being polite here) with ignorant and belligerent politicans who openly sneer and display their disregard, disrespect for all these men are, all these men have accomplished. Both men are overflowing with dignity as they are called to account for themselves before the legislators.
[link: Tanker Brothers]
As mentioned above, Canada’s troops have enormous respect for General Hillier. On a messge board of military matters, I just found a few comments which reflect the consensus of opinion among our military men and women:
“I hope this isn’t true, but if it is – it was a honour to work for you, Sir.”
“Say it ain’t so Rick. He is going to be a tough one to replace. Thanks for your service sir.”
“Two week delay on April fools I hope. I hope who ever the Admiral is coming in will have a good head on his shoulders, he has big shoes to fill..”
“A pleasure to have served with you Sir.
I keep my CDS Coin in my wallet all the time.” And you can find more reaction from within the ranks here: Military Photos
In a news conference today, General Hillier said this:
support for the Canadian Forces “has never been higher,” as the popular – and controversial – chief of defence staff prepares to resign on July 1.
“I really did focus a lot on ensuring the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform, and their families, had the support of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, in all the missions they choose to do.” [here: CTV]
And this – too – in a MacLeans interview:
Hillier issued a statement Tuesday on his departure, saying the military has “reached the critical milestones I originally set out for us to reach.”
“We have transformed how we recruit, train, equip, command, deploy, employ, bring home, recognize and care for our operational forces and our families, focused on achieving a strategic effect for Canada.
“We have been strengthened, immensely, by the vocal and visible support of millions of Canadians who have demonstrated that they recognize, understand and honour your service, and the sacrifice of your families.”
[link : Maclean’s]
And reported on CTV.ca,[link here: CATV ] part of the text of a letter the general wrote to the Canadian Forces:
“Hillier wrote that he had set himself the task of creating the right conditions for soldiers to succeed,” in defence of Canada, Canadians, and Canadian interests and values.
“We have achieved those key objectives, and reached the critical milestones I originally set out for us to reach by the end of my time as CDS. We have moulded our culture to one which recognizes that operations are our raison d’etre; that our efforts, all of them, must concentrate on achieving the missions and tasks given to us by the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians.”
He has been asked throughout the day what he might do in his retirement. He firmly insists he will not be sitting home in his underwear, scratching his belly. He also made a comment that if the Toronto Maple Leafs need a general manager, he might be interested! Actually, the Vancouver Canucks are looking for a general manager!
Be that as it may, General Hillier has changed the way Canadians view their military. Yes, the General has been outspoken, direct, but his lifetime career can leave nobody in any doubt of this soldier’s commitment to his country and his soldiers.
He WILL be a hard act to follow.