Canada's Leading Defence Magazine


FEATURE INTERVIEW – LGen Jocelyn Paul Army Commander

FEATURE INTERVIEW – LGen Jocelyn Paul Army Commander


Members of the Canadian contingent deployed to Operation REASSURANCE - LATVIA, participate in live-fire training in the Camp Adazi Training Area, Latvia Credit: CAF

Commander of the Canadian Army

CDR recently sent Senior Staff Writer, Joetey Attariwala, to interview the Commander of the Canadian Army, Lieutenant-General Jocelyn Paul.

The General enrolled as a reservist and infantry officer in 1988 and served with Régiment du Saguenay and Régiment de Maisonneuve. He then joined the Regular Force in 1991 and was assigned to 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment.

Today LGen Paul is the 51st Army Commander and is the first Indigenous CAF member to hold this position. Here is that in-depth discussion.

CDR: General Paul, it’s great to be in touch with you, thank you for taking the time. When I was looking at your biography, I noticed that you started out as a reservist, and today you are at the highest position that you can get in the Army.

LGen Paul: It’s my pleasure, Joetey. You’re right, and there’s a big place in my heart for the Reserves, including the Rangers. During my whole career, reservists have always saved the day when it comes to force generation. We have always been able to rely on our reserve community to deliver the soldiers that we need to project Canada’s interests abroad, and it’s going to be the same thing for Latvia, just as it was in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We have always had a significant percentage of reservists joining us on our expeditionary operations, and when we lead the Canadian-led Latvia Multinational Brigade [MNB-L] it’s going to be the same thing. Last year, I gave a bit of a target to the Divisions where I said for the well-being of the Canadian Army as a whole, but also for the CAF, that when it comes down to the Brigade in Latvia, we should be generating 20 percent of reservists on every rotation from Roto 0 if feasible. I gave that as a target and that’s a testament to the important work that reservists have always been doing for us.

CDR: What is the state of the Canadian Army in 2023?

LGen Paul: The Canadian Army is facing some challenges. In order to properly answer your question, I want to slice it on the four pillars of force generation. First of all, when it comes down to reconstitution, we are short of about 7,000 people right now, both Regular Force and Reserves, and you will understand that the number fluctuates by the day. This is why we are focused so much on recruiting with the Chief of Military Personnel, and with the reserve units, but we also need to pay much more attention to retention. So, within my own authorities, I directed to the Army as a whole that we need to focus on some very specific areas. For example, if you are conducting an activity which is not enabling an operation, if it’s not readiness, if it’s not contributing to retention, well that activity should maybe not be conducted. We always have lots of work to do and sometimes we need to decide what it is that we need to stop doing for the well-being of the institution. So that’s basically what I gave as a direction last summer, and the team is working on it.

One thing we’ve noticed is the increased difficulty in attracting younger Canadians into the Army and the CAF. There’s lots of employment right now, and we have an aging population, so we are basically competing with the public service, but also with the private sector in trying to attract people. That phenomenon is also at play right now in the US, in the UK, and in Australia. When I joined the reserves in 1988, the average age in Canada was 32 years old-ish, and right now it’s around 41-42. So, the country has changed quite a bit during my 35-year career. We need to acknowledge that as an Army and as a country.

So, this is why we have so many initiatives at different levels trying to attract people, and this is why positive and inclusive leadership is so important. We need to ensure that we are capable of living by our own values, but we also need to have the right character, and this is why we have been talking about “Trusted to Serve” since it got released, which is the latest version of the Canadian Armed Forces ethos. Basically, there is professional competency and there is character, so we are trying to ensure that the leadership at every level will be trained properly and will be leading properly. People should display the qualities that we are expecting from them, and the one thing I like to say all the time is you need to take care of these young Canadians the same way you would take care of your own children. So positive, inclusive leadership, managing the tempo, managing the tasks, and making this difficult decision in the chain of command to stop doing some activities is certainly something that we need to tackle.

We are facing a Western democracy phenomenon, and I gave you a few examples of the countries which are facing the same challenges — there’s many more opportunities available for my children right now compared to the opportunities I had 35-40 years ago, so this is our collective reality.

CDR: How are you able to meet operational requirements with a smaller force? 

LGen Paul: It’s a great question. One of the things that we’re trying to do is to minimize tasks not directly related to force generation and operations. When we received the reconstitution order from the CDS and SJS [Strategic Joint Staff], it was clearly articulated that there’s a few activities that aren’t going to be conducted anymore because we simply cannot afford it. The best example I can give you at this point is the Ceremonial Guard in Ottawa.

The other thing that we’re focused on is in the training world. As we are a small force, we must train high quality soldiers, non-commissioned members and officers to maintain our credibility. However, the individual and collective training system really come at a high cost in terms of human resources. So I asked Commander Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre [CADTC] to have a look into the whole collective training system, but also the individual training system. The Army has been running Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE at Wainwright for many years. Many of us, including myself, served in Wainwright and were posted there. We need to realize that when you go to Latvia as a Battle Group or as part of the MNB-L, you would be spending lots of time training in a NATO context out there with our allies. So we have decided to become more effective and efficient regarding collective training and have modified the concept of Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE by eliminating the duplication of training. From now on, you will have a shorter version of MAPLE RESOLVE focused on combined arms sub-units validation training which will be conducted in Canada before deployment to Latvia, and then we are going to have a second collective training event that will be named Exercise OAK RESOLVE which will be conducted in Latvia and focused on Battle Group validation training.

People from Petawawa and Valcartier will not go to Wainwright anymore to complete their MAPLE RESOLVE. People from Petawawa and Valcartier will be doing their collective training events locally and in Gagetown, while the Brigade in Western Canada will be conducting it at Wainwright. This will allow us to save quite a bit of time, and very likely some money as well, and it’s going to reduce the time away from home while maintaining a high quality of training. We made that conscious decision to assume a higher level of risk and reduce duplication of Battle Group level validation, because we know full well that when they arrive in Latvia, these Battle Groups are going to continue training for months and months.


CDR: Please elaborate on Exercise OAK RESOLVE.

LGen Paul: Instead of completing 100% of pre-deployment training in Wainwright, like we have been doing since our mission in Afghanistan, the final Battle Group training validation for our soldiers deploying to Op REASSURANCE will now occur when they arrive in Latvia. For our soldiers this will reduce the amount of time they spend away from home before a deployment, but it will also provide better training because they’ll do their final training alongside NATO allies and with realistic operational capabilities that are currently deployed in Europe. So for the first years Army soldiers will complete up to Squadron or Company live fire validation here in Canada for example, and then finish their validation training in Latvia as part of a multinational battle group under Exercise OAK RESOLVE. I believe there will come a point where probably every Canadian soldier will have been in Latvia for a few tours, so we need to enrich the training proposition for Europe and OAK RESOLVE is part of that.

I would offer to you that within NATO we need to change our approach to training. We Canadians should not be overly Latvia-centric. If there is a collective training opportunity in Poland, or in Finland, we should participate. I would like to give the opportunity to our soldiers to have a bit of a different experience by going to other types of training areas in different countries. When I’m engaging with my NATO counterparts, we are having these same discussions.

You don’t want to be too predictable as a soldier. If you are predictable, then our challenger can quickly determine what is it that you will be doing or won’t be doing. So, as an Alliance, we need to be in a situation where we can move people north, south, west, east. In military doctrine, you can characterize that as working on an interior line of operation. You need to show mobility – the more mobility you have with your unit and with your formation, the more tactical dilemma you can present to your opponent. To do so allows you to also better deliver when it comes down to campaigning in a theatre of operation. Mobility, unpredictability, being nimble, being able to project yourself in a heartbeat to reinforce a flank somewhere, and so on and so forth, is extremely important in our profession. So I see opportunities arising over the next few years within the Alliance, and there is a desire from our NATO allies to see more Canadians. Since I’m the force generator I’m always having good discussions with Canadian Joint Operations Centre who is the force employer. We are looking for these types of opportunities, and I would offer to you that there might be some of these emerging in 2025-2026 because right now, our focus is certainly on projecting the MNB-L, but when at Full Operational Capability [FOC], then we should be seeking these new and enriched type of training opportunities.

LGen Paul speaks with members of Op UNIFIER’s UK Training Element on June 24, 2023 Credit: Master Sailor Valerie LeClair, CAF


CDR: What is the biggest decision that the Canadian Army has made this year?

LGen Paul: We made quite a few decisions, but I would offer to you that the first big one I had to make was tank centralization in Western Canada. The tanks will be managed and employed by the Lord Strathcona’s Horse [Royal Canadians], and we made that decision before the decision was made [by the government] to project a squadron of tanks to Latvia. To do such a decision has a direct impact on the two other armoured regiments, The Royal Canadian Dragoons and the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada. These two regiments have a key role to play in the establishment and their functions are certainly remaining. So as I’m centralizing the tanks with the Lord Strathcona’s, I now need to properly equip these two other regiments so that they can execute armoured cavalry operations, which is essentially a vehicle-centric organization that can shape the battlefield through manoeuvre, collecting information, as well as direct fire. So we need to receive the LAV Recce variant the sooner the better, that we are currently testing in Valcartier as we speak.

It’s a platform that we’ve been waiting many years for and we need to ensure that the sensors on the platform are good to go. I would offer to you that as a vehicle that platform was thought of close to 20 years ago and designed over 10 years ago, so this will have to be quickly improved, probably adding additional sensors. We’re going to have to find a way to ensure that we can maintain great connectivity between the crews, but also different suites of drones, including armed drones. We need to ensure that these two regiments are going to be able to identify and engage targets at a much longer range. But also, in the context of Latvia, we’re looking at procuring a loitering munition [capability] so the weapon effect range of these two regiments, and other corps as well, can be multiplied without getting too much into the details. So they need to have a better sensor suite, they need to be able to engage a target at a much longer distance, so we have a few initiatives right now aiming at doing this. It’s kind of changing the nature and the way we employ units into the Canadian Army, and this is where observing what’s going on in Ukraine right now is so critical to us.

CDR: Just so I understand correctly, General, that means the remaining two armored regiments will receive the LAV Recce vehicle, and they will be augmented with capabilities like loitering munitions?

LGen Paul: Exactly. Now, just to be clear, the LAV Recce vehicle is currently being tested and we have yet to accept it. When it comes down to loitering munitions, the focus right now is specifically on Latvia because we need to bring these pieces of ordinance into the theatre. I would offer to you that you’ve got different systems available which have different range. Right now, my gut feeling is that these two regiments should be kitted in the future with that type of ammunition. You can have all sorts of similar arguments vis-à-vis the artillery. So there’s different systems out there at play, there’s different range, but the one thing that is consistent is that we need to be able to deliver lethality at a longer range, but also with precision, and this is exactly what loitering munitions can give you – precision – surgical type of engagement. We are having that discussion right now in the context of the MNB-L. We need to provide these systems to that brigade, but after that, we’re going to have to have a larger discussion back here in Canada vis-à-vis which system we need, where should it be employed, and so on and so forth.


CDR: When you speak about loitering munitions at range, roughly what kinds of ranges are you thinking about, General?

LGen Paul: There are different systems at play. It’s delicate because there are different companies which are providing different types of capability so I don’t want to give you a specific range, but there’s a bunch of systems that can bring you from 5 km to 50 km and much farther. The battlespace geometry is changing as we speak.

CDR: What is the number one priority for the Army?

LGen Paul: The number one priority for the Army right now is C4ISR. What we are observing right now in Ukraine is fascinating from a professional perspective. What you see right now in Ukraine is basically an area where you have sensors everywhere. We need to find a way to ensure that the sensing function is improved, and we need to be in a space where that data can be communicated back to the headquarters fast and furiously.

We need to optimize the way we will integrate and understand and do the analysis of the data so that we can do better decision making down at the tactical level, and when the decision is made, then we need to ensure that we can connect fast with effectors, or shooters if you prefer to use that world. So what I’m describing to you is basically the sense and act function, and we need to ensure that that decision making loop, or OODA loop is accelerated. On today’s battlefield you need to think, process and act faster, you need to have more sensors, you need to have more long-range precision ordinance and effectors. So this is very much where I am focused right now — C4ISR and the missing capabilities from an offensive and defensive posture.

We need to pay a lot of attention to logistics and sustainment. We need to ensure that we have the ammo, the fuel, the food – we need to ensure that our lines of sustainment are well protected so we can sustain ourselves, and this necessitates lots of energy and also some investment. We need to optimize our five combat functions, and to do so I need to reallocate resources and people. Everything we do right now is driven by deterrence. If I am investing money and time into something, is this improving our deterrence effort in Europe? This is the question that I have to ask myself constantly. This is why we have some major capital projects that right now are a little more on the backburner because I have more pressing needs that have to be addressed.


CDR: I totally understand. Please offer some more about what you’re seeing in Ukraine, and how the Army is learning and implementing lessons from that war.

LGen Paul: I would offer to you that what’s going on in Ukraine are not lessons learned, because the Ukranians are the ones learning and fighting, so I prefer to characterize what we do out there as lessons being observed. The future is happening right now. There is a way of conducting military operations that we’ve been talking about for a long time in the Canadian Army, which is called adaptive dispersal operations, or ADO.

So right now, in Ukraine, if you do not disperse, if you are setting up your headquarters at a specific location and remain static, if you start emitting signals, and you don’t move quickly, chances are that you will be targeted extremely rapidly. The point I’m making here is that from a doctrinal perspective, we’ve been managing and leading the Army with mission command ADO for a long time. The events in Ukraine are just confirming that from a doctrinal perspective, we were right all along. Our doctrinal foundation is sound – it is the right one. So, what we need to do now is invest in some of the missing capabilities that we don’t have in our inventory. But we are certainly on the right path.


CDR: How is planning for the Brigade coming, and please share a bit about the Urgent Operational Requirement [UOR] projects — will they be implemented as the Brigade comes online?

LGen Paul: It’s going to be a phased approach. We have had quite a few force generation meetings between the Army, CJOC, and our allies. We are extremely grateful for the support given to us by countries such as Spain, Italy, and Poland. They are there to stay with us in the near future. I’m also extremely delighted to say that Denmark has decided to join the Canadian-led MNB-L. So Denmark will be providing a Battle Group, which is fantastic news, but we also have some NATO partners that have decided to go elsewhere. The example that I can give you is Slovakia who were providing us with some indirect fire capability, but since there’s also a NATO Forward Land Forces brigade being stood up in Slovakia, one can understand that their guns are going to be needed there. So within the Alliance right now, plenty of force generation discussions and people aligning themselves.

Now regarding the UORs, the timelines for delivery are out of the hands of the Army. I define the requirements and then Assistant Deputy Minister, Material leads the file at that point through the procurement process to contract award with our colleagues at PSPC. There have been some requests for proposals that have been put on the market for these systems that we would like to procure. The first UOR had to do with portable anti-tank missiles. Bid evaluations are complete and contract award is expected as early as mid-December 2023. The second one is the counter-UAS UOR. There’s going to be several different systems — one will be a mounted system, a dismounted directional and omni directional systems and a fixed site system [RCAF] — they’re moving forward at different speeds, but bids have been received for several systems and will be proceeding to contract award shortly. The last one is the Air Defence UOR, so for the purpose of this discussion, let me sum up the whole thing by talking about man-portable air defence systems. Bids have been received and other organizations are conducting the bid evaluations so right now I don’t have any firm data regarding the arrival of the first system. The one thing that I keep reminding my colleagues all the time is very simple — Initial Operational Capability for the brigade in Latvia will be summer 2024, and FOC in early 2026, so this is the timeline on which I am asking the team to deliver these critical capabilities.

CDR: Thank you.


Joetey Attariwala is CDR’s Senior Staff Writer

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Please fill out the following information to be added to our newsletter distribution list.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.