Westman’s largest military base will be spared the worst when federal budget cuts are implemented, said CFB Shilo base commander Lt.-Col. Richard Goodyear, during Thursday’s Brandon Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Royal Oak Inn.
While there have been budget cuts in the Department of National Defence, and some bases will be closing as a result, CFB Shilo fared pretty well. Goodyear said there was some restructuring that caused minimal job losses. While Shilo’s scope and the number of soldiers didn’t shrink, it won’t increase either when other bases close, Goodyear said.
"Right now, we have to shoulder the burden of trying to reduce the budget and balance the books," Goodyear said. "There are no expansions on the short- or medium-term horizon. We are going to keep status quo. We aren’t going to lose anything right now."
He added that once the restructuring is done, only two full independent army bases will remain in Western Canada, Edmonton and Shilo. The size of CFB Shilo likely gave it an advantage as it is the fourth largest in the Canadian army, and the second largest in Western Canada. That allows it to serve as a base that can train as many as five battle groups at the same time.
Shilo’s status is also good news for Brandon and Westman, as Goodyear estimated the base’s soldiers, families and employees contribute $105 million to the local economy.
Meanwhile, approximately 400-450 soldiers from CFB Shilo will be deployed to Afghanistan next year, to train that country’s army in the capital, Kabul.
"Largely that contribution will come from the infantry unit, (2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) and the guns, 1RCHA," Goodyear said. "We’ll have a smattering of support folks from across the base."
Goodyear said the training is intended to professionalize the Afghan army units through training in logistics, medical units and basic soldier skills.
"It’s just to make sure than when we leave in 2014, they can look after themselves," Goodyear said. "They are getting there, and this is a way to continue what’s been going on for a number of years now."
Goodyear said for this deployment, called Operation Attention, there will be additional soldiers coming into CFB Shilo on a short-term basis, but the increase in ranks will only be temporary.
Training for this mission will start at Shilo in January for a deployment in June and July.