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NNSL Photo

The three military leaders during the singing of O Canada at the change of command ceremony Tuesday. From left to right: Col. Norris Pettis, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Ray Henault and Col. Kevin McLeod. - Jennifer McPhee/NNSL photo

New CO welcomes Northern challenge

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 16/02) - The North's new commanding officer Col. Norris Pettis just finished a five-year tour of duty in Saudi Arabia.

Despite drastically different climates, he draws parallels between the two places.

"Both places present unique challenges with the people and the environment," he said.

"Diverse cultures, extreme conditions and climate, a harsh environment in some respects."

Pettis was the Canadian Defence Attache, working from the embassy in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. He was responsible for covering seven countries in the Gulf Region.

"Given the international tensions that exist in that region, it was a fairly busy and interesting five years."

Building trust and maintaining relationships with other military leaders was a large part of his job.

So when the crisis hit in September, he was able to exploit those relationships to facilitate the entry of military presence.

Pettis officially took over from Col. Kevin McLeod as commander of the Canadian Forces Northern Area during a change of command ceremony on Tuesday.

"I had asked for some time to be considered for this appointment," said Pettis. "It was on my wish list of places to go."

What interests him about the North?

"I still like an adventure in my career," he explained. "It was a chance to command in a very interesting and different part of Canada."

His priorities in the North have "been pretty much established by my predecessor's good work," said Pettis.

He plans to continue McLeod's campaign plan to maximize the resources available to the North.

"There's lots of work to fulfil that plan and while we're doing that we will look to the future to see what we can do next."

As for McLeod, he will bring an intimate knowledge of the North to his position as national operations officer for the Canadian Armed Forces.

"I'll bring some education to those in the South at National Defence Headquarters who are planning operations," he said.

He added he'll also bring knowledge about the diverse cultures in the territories and about conducting operations in the North.

"Everyone wants more assets at all times. And I think I can give advice to the commander of the army and Chief of Defence Staff about finding that fine balance between what is not enough, what is enough and what is potentially too much. I think that is what I bring to the table."

General Ray Henault Secretary of Defence Staff presided over the ceremony.

He said he's seen McLeod in Ottawa several times arguing for what people need in the North.

When asked if he believes resources in the North are adequate, Henault said a role of the miliary is to strike a balance between domestic security in the south and security requirements in the North.

The miliary is conducting both a national and international defence review, which could lead to adjustments, he said.

"At the time being based on requirements of the North, we think we have the requirements just about right."

But the focus on the Northwest Passage is increasing, he said, and the military is looking at ways to improve surveillance capability in that area.

"We are responsible to ensure we control the Northwest Passage and we'll do what we have to see things evolve in that respect."