~ November 2010 Edition
~ Contributing Editor: Glen Pettinger ~
Member at Large
Apropos.......... by Glen Pettinger |
Nancy Wildgoose from the Perth Food Bank made a brief appeal at the November meeting for support from Probus members. The Food Bank, with its sixty plus volunteers, has distributed more than 5,000 hampers of food this year without any Federal or Provincial funding. Money or volunteer help is much needed as the Food Bank prepares to move into newly acquired quarters which have many advantages - 65% less in premise costs and a locally planted and tended truck garden that will lead to cheaper vegetables and better diets for needy families. Check out their website http://perthfoodbank.com/
A More Optimistic View of Afghanistan by Glen Pettinger
Our November speaker, Brigadier-General Michael Dabros, was introduced by a proud father-in-law, Don McNaughton. Mike was educated at Royal Military College and then joined the RCAF where he still pursues a gratifying career at senior strategic levels. He has had two tours of duty in the Mid-east and also in Bosnia, but more recently, in the last year, he has been busy in Afghanistan. There, as part of the NATO Air Training Command near Kabul, he has helped to organize a program to accomplish something he considers terribly important - winning Afghani "hearts and minds". His job was to help build an effective Afghan Air Force. Mike gave us a fascinating picture of his nine months as an "embedded partner" in Afghanistan and showed us helpful pictures of the people and aircraft that he worked with. In the "Combined Air Power Transition Force" (CAPTF), he contributed to building an independent Afghan Air Force that by 2016 will number 8000 recruits. Right now they have about 3500 Afghans in their air programme.
Afghanistan is difficult geographically, politically, and any other way that you want to look at it. About 31,000,000 people live in a country about the size of Texas with mountainous regions as high as 18000 feet and limited highway access. Their Air Force was practically non-existent in 2005 with poor Russian equipment and no prospects. Their pilots were few and their average age was 43. Progress has been made, however, and by August 2010, they had 57 aircraft, some of which were of Russian origin and amazingly maintained by Afghan technicians. Several of their new aircraft are Italian transports (C27s) and as a result of having to deal with this and other Western technology, Afghan mechanics are learning English. Then last December Afghan crews performed their first ever air assault, accompanied by NATO forces. In addition, a "forward observer" training course has been developed and last April a "mujahadeen" victory day was celebrated with an Afghan Air Force flypast. Also encouraging was an independent Afghani Air Force rescue recently of stranded Afghanis near Kandahar at the 16000 foot level.
Mike's experiences in training Afghanis have led him to view Canada's mission there very optimistically. He saw a huge change in his nine months. When he arrived he had to wear full body armour, but nine months later, at the end of his tour in August, armour was not necessary.
Mike was thanked by Eric Devlin for a presentation that left all of us feeling encouraged about Afghanistan and proud that Canada has such outstanding leaders as Brigadier-General Michael Dabros representing us and working for our protection around the globe.
Management Team Notes
Self-introduction ~ Norma McFarlane |
by Glen Pettinger
Norma McFarlane proved to be an interesting and worthy self-introducer as indeed have all our Probian autobiographers. Born in Montreal, she moved to Toronto in 1951 where she received her early education. Much later, after three children and a divorce, she enrolled at York University and graduated nine years later with a degree in Geography. This obviously led to a job in Labour Relations at Air Canada, a work-place she remembers fondly, not only because of the opportunities it gave her to help people. In particular she remembers helping a Spanish boy of eleven at The Hospital For Sick Children who had an inoperable cancer. She arranged to have him flown back to his family in Madrid. Air Canada also gave her the "experience of a lifetime" and a "deafening thrill" when she stood at the end of a runway as a huge aircraft, an L1011, landed at Toronto. Norma retired to Perth and keeps busy with many activities including being on the board at "Inge Va".
President Mike Else thanks Past-President Bruce Gourley
Bruce seizes the mike from Mike for one last story.