Military News

Monday, December 14, 2015

Canadian officer in deputy position at USARAK

by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs


12/14/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- D-Day. The English Channel. M4 Sherman tanks of Canada's 1st Hussars Tank Regiment - enshrouded in inflatable flotation screens and motivated by duplex-drive propellers - sputtered toward the Juno Beach shoreline, fighting the pitching channel waters as much as they would soon grapple with the Nazis.

Close enough to the shore to deflate their screens, 1st Hussars crews hastily transformed their tanks in an effort to get their 75-mm guns in action. Still track-deep in the water, the tanks blasted away at Nazi bunkers, machine gun nests and anti-tank guns. Once they were satisfied they had achieved fire superiority, the Canadian Shermans marauded up and down the shoreline destroying any crew-served enemy emplacements they could find.

Operating American-made tanks and fighting in the massive Allied invasion of France, the Hussars' effort was one in a long line of cooperation between the Canadian Armed Forces and the United States military.
Indicative of this longstanding partnership is the recent assignment of Canadian Army Col. Martin Frank to U.S. Army Alaska as deputy commander-operations, the second-highest ranking position in the two-star headquarters.

Assignment Alaska
Previously, the second-in-command of USARAK was the deputy commander stationed at Fort Wainwright. With Frank's assignment, the Fort Wainwright position - currently held by Col. Shawn Reed - transitioned to deputy commander-sustainment.

Responsible for operations, Frank said he felt his previous command of the Canadian Manoeuver Training Center prepared him well for his new billet.

"Because I was involved in the training of brigade-size units coming through our training center, I think it made me a really good fit for being the deputy commander-operations who is responsible for the readiness and training of the USARAK force," Frank said. "It was a really good fit."

Weeks after his arrival, Frank found himself knee deep in USARAK operations. He issued division-level orders to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry
Division for exercise Spartan Fusion, and was exercise director for the brigade's command post computer-aided force-on-force exercise.

"The one thing I really did highlight with everybody was I was the only new addition to the headquarters," Frank explained.

"I didn't arrive here at USARAK with an army of staff officers that could work on projects I thought were really important.

"So I was very conscious of the fact that all the great work that needs to be done to enable training was being done before I got here," he continued. "I was coming into a position no one had occupied before, so I was able to define my own space and role within the headquarters."

Though responsible for operations, Frank said there is a distinct delineation between what he does and what the G-3 operations officer does. Likewise, there is a delineation between what Reed does and what the G-4 logistics officer does.

"It is very clear to me that there is one commanding general, and [Maj.] Gen. [Bryan] Owens is the commander," Frank elaborated. "But, with me on the operations side and Colonel Reed on the sustainment side, we're another tool in his toolbox to be able to address operations, training, readiness and sustainment as well as logistics and infrastructure issues."

Among the Yanks
Wearing the Canadian Disruptive Pattern Uniform - somewhat similar to the green U.S. Marine Corps digital Marine Pattern uniform - Frank stands out on Alaska's military installations. Despite wearing a colonel rank comprising two ornate stars and a Saint Edward's crown, Frank said U.S. Soldiers still know to salute him. Perhaps word has trickled to the Soldiers to keep an eye out for the Canadian tank officer, or perhaps they are simply following the age-old rule: when in doubt, salute.

Belonging to an Army that traces many of its traditions back to the British Army, Frank nonetheless said there is little to discern between the Canadian and U.S. armies.

"I don't think there's a lot of difference quite honestly," the colonel said. "I think we're both focused on the readiness of our troops and making sure they're trained to the best of their capabilities. We take the resources that are available, the constraints that are placed on us, and we come up with the best possible solutions to make sure our soldiers are ready to go where they're needed."

With the Canadian Army scheduled to send a Light-Armored Vehicle III platoon to the upcoming USARAK exercise, Arctic Anvil, Frank said it is critical U.S. and Canadian soldiers learn to work together through training exercises.

"We worked shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan," he said. "Canada no longer has a role in Afghanistan, but we know for sure that we will be going somewhere else again, and we will be working with our partners in dangerous areas in combat.

"We need to maintain those relationships and build those relationships during peacetime here, now, so we can hit the ground running when we go down range."

Growing up Army
Frank's father was a soldier in the Royal Canadian Engineers. He and his family trundled around from base to base in Canada, exposing the younger Frank to a life of adventure, deployments and explosions.

"I saw a lot of what it was like to be in the Army," Frank said. "So I always felt a life in uniform was for me."

After attending college for a few years, Frank enlisted in the Canadian Army and pursued the Army Officer Cadet Training Plan, ultimately attending armor officer phase training and earning an Army commission.

His early career would see a variety of command assignments with Leopard 1 tank units and include two tours to Bosnia with the NATO-led Stabilization Force.

Eventually, he would rise to the prestigious command of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, a reconnaissance regiment equipped with Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicles - similar to the LAV and the U.S. Army's Stryker Reconnaissance Vehicle.

Upon taking command of the regiment, regimental Colonel-in-Chief Prince Charles sent a congratulatory letter to Frank, requesting occasional correspondence in return detailing the status of the unit.

Frank twice deployed to Afghanistan, most recently as deputy commander for the Canadian Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team in Kandahar in 2010, when he mentored the commander of 1st Brigade, 205th Corps, Afghan National Army.

"Having an opportunity to look at the Afghanistan situation from a different perspective was really unique," Frank said.

Arctic warrior
By the time Frank was able to unpack his Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic touring bike, it was too late. An early September snowfall at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson had closed the base to motorcycling.

Perhaps it was an ignominious introduction to Alaska, but the colonel took it in stride.

Frank said he looks forward to the opportunity to fish for salmon, hunt big game, and rent an RV with his wife, Margo, heading north to explore the vast state.

The Canadian officer recently attended the Cold Weather Orientation Course at the Black Rapid Training Site with USARAK leadership.
He said he was impressed with U.S. Army equipment, specifically American snowshoes and the seven-layered Generation III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System.

"I want to learn as much as I can about soldiering in Alaska, so I can professionally improve as an officer, broadening my understanding of - not just the way the U.S. Army conducts operations - but also [with the U.S. Air Force] on the Elmendorf side."

Frank said his goals for his time as the deputy commander-operations are simple.

"I'm hoping I have a positive impact on the way USARAK Soldiers are trained and the way USARAK Soldiers maintain readiness," he said. "I'm hoping I will be able to assist General Owens in the execution of his wide range of duties and responsibilities."

Though he answers to the general, Frank said he also serves small-unit leaders.

"I'm here to work for companies," the colonel said. "I'm here to work for company commanders and company first sergeants to ensure they have what they need to train their Soldiers."

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