In today's Canadian Forces (CF), members are assigned to one of three distinctive elements: the Air Force, Army or Navy. But because the Canadian Forces is a unified, "tri-service" force, not everyone wearing an Air Force uniform works exclusively in support of Air operations. Some work for the Army, Navy, or other commands or headquarters units; similarly, some people wearing Army or Navy uniforms work in support of the Air Force.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, or CDS, is responsible for the conduct of military operations and for the readiness of the Canadian Forces to carry out the tasks that Parliament assigns through the Minister. The CDS authority extends to the Navy, the Army and the Air force as well as to the four commands.
The Canadian Forces Unification Act amalgamated the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force. Unification of the three services had been under consideration by House of Commons since 1964, and the Act came into effect on February 1, 1968. Work had begun in 1964, with the appointment of a single Chief of Defence Staff and the reorganization of National Defence Headquarters into a single control and administration entity for the three services. In 1966, all separate commands in the three services were restructured into six: Mobile Command, Maritime Command, Air Transport Command, Air Defence Command, Training Command and Materiel Command. In November of that year, the Canadian Forces Unification Act was tabled in the House of Commons and given Royal Ascent on May 8, 1967 for implemention effective in February 1968. Among the many features were new titles, a unified rank structure and badges. A single "CF Green" uniform for all components was also worn until 1985 when tri-service dress was again allowed. To date, the unified concept of the Canadian Forces remains unique among national armed forces.
Canada's Navy is a highly adaptable and flexible force. While being Canada's outer line of defense against an armed aggressor, it conducts sovereignty patrols, search and rescue operations, and assists other government departments in everything from disaster relief to law enforcement, such as conducting fishery or drug patrols. The Navy also supports Canadian foreign policy by remaining engaged internationally in everything from humanitarian assistance, to peace support operations, to maritime security operations.
The Canadian Army's mission is to provide trained, combat-ready, agile and quickly responsive troops to meet Canada's defense objectives. The Canadian Army is ready to respond to conflicts across the globe. With an international reputation for excellence, the well-equipped Canadian soldier is instrumental in the fight for freedom, stability and human rights around the world. Through the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), the Army is also prepared to send soldiers and equipment to assist international and national authorities with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, storms, and forest fires.
Canada's Air Force protects Canadians, Canadian sovereignty and Canadian interests at home and abroad. The Air Force defends Canadian airspace and, working with the Navy, Army and other government departments, conducts maritime and northern patrols, search and rescue missions, and intercepts of vessels carrying illegal drugs. The Air Force also airlifts military personnel and supplies at home and abroad, and moves disaster relief supplies to stricken regions. Abroad, combat-ready forces take an active role in multinational missions, representing Canada's interests and helping maintain global stability.
Chief of Military Personnel (CMP), on behalf of the Chief of the Defense Staff (CDS), provides functional direction/guidance to the Canadian Forces (CF) on all military personnel management matters, monitors compliance with CF personnel management policies, and is accountable for the effective management of the CF Personnel System. CMP is responsible for the development of strategies, policies and programs that foster and maintain the profession of arms as an honourable and desirable career.
Four operational structures, called “commands”, are in place for a responsive and efficient Canadian Forces creating a synergy among the Navy, Army and Air Force. The four commands are:
- Canada Command (Canada COM) is responsible for Canadian Forces routine and contingency operations in Canada and North America, except for those under direct command of Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff or North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Canada Command coordinates Canadian Forces operational support to civil and law enforcement authorities. It offers one point of contact for all of the CF’s defence and security partners. Headquartered in Ottawa, Canada Command is supported by six Regional Joint Task Forces (RJTFs) across the country. Each RJTF is assigned regional responsibility for the defense of Canada and can task all available CF capabilities in their geographic areas of responsibility.
- Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) is responsible for the planning and conduct of all Canadian Forces operations outside North America, except those carried out by Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM). CEFCOM brings together the maritime, land, air and special operations forces to conduct humanitarian, peace support or combat operations wherever they are required around the world.
- Canadian Special Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) provides the Government of Canada with agile, high-readiness Special Operations Forces capable of conducting special operations across the spectrum of conflict at home and abroad.
- Canadian Operational Support Command (CANOSCOM) provides operational support for CF activities and missions at home and abroad including functions such as logistics, military engineering, health services and military police.
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