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