By: 7897 Gilles Langlois

Indeed there was a multitude of Canadian civilians from many sources who worked with the CF in Kandahar. Among them, from September 2005 until the mission in Kandahar closed in early December 2011, a large group of Canadian civilians provided support services to the CF operating under the banner of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Because of my personal involvement with this group, I thought that I should write this article to share some of my experience with you. Ed Note The medal Gilles was preseented is called the General Service Medal for South-West Asia (GSM-SWA). The bar on his medal reads: ASAF (NATO symbol) FIAS.

These civilians were employees of SNC-Lavalin PAE Inc. (SNCLPAE), a Joint Venture between a Canadian company, SNC-Lavalin Inc. and an American company, Pacific Architect Engineers Government Services (PAE). SNCLPAE was contracted by the Canadian Government to provide a range of support services to the deployed CF under the auspices of the Canadian Forces Contractor Augmentation Program (CANCAP). As the name of the contract indicates, these civilians were in theatre to augment the service support capabilities of the deployed CF. The idea originated in the mid 90s, while the CF served in Bosnia. As the years of the mission went by, it became obvious to the CF planners that the Support Services personnel being deployed in support of the mission were being sent abroad too often and were beginning to reach burn out conditions. They recommended to the Canadian Government that a contract be implemented with a commercial contractor to bring relief to the CF Support Services. Such an approach was not new as the British Forces, the American Forces and others were already doing it. And they did not invent the concept either; Napoleon was doing this two centuries ago, using civilians to support the war effort of his troops on the battlefields.

CANCAP is a standing contract for a contractor service support capability that can be called upon when and where needed by the CF to support its operations abroad. On any given deployment, when CANCAP is called-up, fewer military Service Support personnel need to be deployed. Those military personnel are freed-up to support operations in other locations and the reduction in secondary duties for the deployed troops allows them to focus on their core support roles in theatre. Deploying less troops at a time, allows the CF to support a mission for a longer period of time without placing undue stress on its Service Support personnel.

SNCLPAE initially took offices in Kingston to work closely with the Canadian Forces Joint Support Group housed at CFB Kingston. The CANCAP contract required SNCLPAE to provide a planning and management capability and functional capabilities (service delivery). Having retired from a career in the CF Support Services a few years earlier, I became a contracted planner for SNCLPAE in March 2004. A short explanation of how the CANCAP worked will allow you to understand why this planning capability was required.

The CANCAP contract main document establishes the standing clauses and agreements under which the contractor provides services. As I indicated above, the CF can call from this contract any of the various support services that they require for a given operation and or amend their request at any time during the mission to better suit their needs. The contract covers the following support services (functions):

  •  1. Management of deployed company personnel

  • 2. Food Services

  • 3. Material Management and Distribution (Supply)

  • 4. Communication and Information Services

  • 5. Land Equipment Maintenance Services

  • 6. Health Services

  • 7. Transportation

  • 8. Accommodations

  • 9. Construction Engineering Services

  • 10. Power Generation

  • 11. Water Services

  • 12. Waste Management

  • 13. Facilities Management

  • 14. Roads and Grounds

  • 15. Fire Services

  • 16. Environmental Management

  • 17. Ammunitions (Handling only)

As required, the CF request any support services in the form of task definitions contained in a document called the Statement of Work (SOW) stating the “what is to be provided”. The SOW is forwarded to SNCLPAE through Public Works and Government Services Canada, the contracting agency of the Government of Canada. Upon receipt by the contractor, a planner or team of planners comes into play and based on their understanding of the tasks and their experience, they prepare a Support Plan which is the “how the task will be accomplished” proposal from SNCLPAE. It contains a solution for each task in the SOW in term of manpower, material requirement and costs. In order to ensure that the CF gets its money’s worth, the Support Plan is negotiated between all the interested parties and only becomes a contracting document for SNCLPAE services, when the participants are satisfied that value for money is optimized. Once the final Support Plan is part of the contract documentation, it becomes the guiding document for SNCLPAE to meet its obligations and along with the SOW is used by the CF to evaluate the quality of the services rendered. Yes, there is an Incentive Performance Factor (PIF) in the CANCAP contract that encourages the contractor to perform at the highest level. A large part of the remuneration to the company for its services is based on this PIF. So there you have it, CANCAP 101.

I continued to work with SNCLPAE as a planner and as instructor and eventually course director for the Pre-deployment Training of SNCLPAE’s employees. The CANCAP contract specified that all the employees needed to be trained prior to their deployment to theatre. SNCLPAE employees underwent a seven day course covering topics required by DND along with information relevant to the CANCAP contract and the company. Some topics were: introduction to DND and to the theatre, explosive threat awareness, First Aid level C training, fire safety training, health and safety training including WHMIS, and introduction to SNCLPAE policies and procedures. Along with completing this course, employees had to undergo a medical examination to ensure that they were fit for deployment.

In February 2008, I was sent to Kandahar to replace the deployed Project Manager (PM) for a two month period. There I was, trying to manage the Support Plan that I had contributed to write and to manage many of the personnel that I had trained. Some said it was just what I deserved. Personally, I though it was a great opportunity for me to participate in the CF operation in Kandahar and see how CANCAP worked on the ground. There is always a little “military” left in military retirees. In theatre, the PM respond to the CO of the National Support Element (NSE) and is responsible to the SNCLPAE General Manger in Ottawa for the performance and administration of the company personnel as well as their personal conduct independently from the CF so as not to be a burden on the NSE. This arrangement ensures that an employer-employee relationship does not exist between the NSE and SNCLPAE. Those two months went by quickly and were most rewarding.

Not cured by this first trip to Kandahar, I volunteered for a second two month assignment in June 2008. Another 14 hour flight from Toronto to Dubai followed by a three hour flight to Kandahar and there I was again. This time there was a new CO NSE and a whole new Canadian Contingent, but the work was the same except that the temperature had gone up significantly; I was constantly remembered that “it is summer, you know”.

Then I had one final go; a full term six-month rotation. With the blessing of my wife, hoping that I would finally get cured, I arrived in Kandahar in May 2009. This time the NSE was from the Québec area and I suspect that the fact that I spoke French had something to do with my selection for this assignment. Being the real PM and not a temporary replacement placed different pressures on me; I knew that I would have to live with my decisions. Furthermore, our group had now grown to just over 300 employees significantly more than the previous year. From a work point of view, we had a mature workforce in Kandahar and many employees were on their second or more six month tour and were used to work with the military and to the theatre conditions.

We worked six days a week, a minimum of eight hour a day. I say this because many people worked longer hours, just to have something to do. It is not like we were going home in the evenings and weekends! We lived and worked on the Kandahar Airfield and essentially were with each other 24/7. We were housed in large tents, eight to a unit, the same way as the NSE military personnel were. We used the same facilities as the military did; this helped maintain a “one team” spirit with the military. For safety reasons, we were never allowed off the airfield except to fly out on holidays or to return home. We were subjected to missile attacks and responded to them in the same fashion as the military did, day or night. The military protected us in theatre as we were not allowed to be armed. We attended the ramp ceremonies in large numbers as SNCLPAE encouraged all personnel to participate. Actually, the military allowed us to form up and parade with them to the ramp as a separate formation. Dressed in our maroon golf shirt and beige pants, we stood with the multitude of military personnel in attendance and grieved and paid our respects to fellow Canadians fallen on the battlefield.

But we also shared happier moments with the military. When the manager for the CF Personnel Support Agency proposed to have a Kandahar Open to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Course, SNCLPAE volunteers led in the construction of the course. We, along with volunteers from CFPSA and the military worked many evening until late into the night to build the course inside the famous Kandahar Boardwalk. Everyone who played the mini-put course, a scaled down replica of Glen Abbey, truly enjoyed the distraction from the stress of being in a war zone. Later this summer, we contributed to the success of the first Canadian Army Run in Kandahar by raising a band of CANCAP volunteers to provide the logistic support required by such an activity: make and install the signs for the course, install and operate the public address system, staff water stations, provide refreshments at the end of the run, clean up and dispose of garbage, etc. I should not forget to mention going to the Tim Horton’s walk- through window for our daily treat; we practically walked everywhere, so at Timmy’s in Kandahar, a window took the place of a drive-through.

In writing this article, I wanted to bring to your attention to the CANCAP concept and to the contribution of SNCLPAE personnel in Kandahar in support of the CF mission. I did not write much about the actual work we did; during my three deployments, there was excellent cooperation between the NSE and SNCLPAE personnel, every one contributing their best to meet the daily demands of the mission. I thought that highlighting the close interaction of the civilians and the military in theatre was more important as without it the concept of CANCAP would not work. The civilians and the soldiers all have to be on the same team.

Ed Note:

General Service Medal – SOUTH-WEST ASIA (GSM-SWA)


This general service award has been created as a means to recognize in a more timely manner those who provide direct support to operations in the presence of an armed enemy. Rather than creating a new honour for each new Canadian Forces operation as it arises, the General Campaign Star and General Service Medal – with the addition of individual operational bars – can be awarded in future to honour participation in any operation that meets the criteria.


The General Service Medal (GSM) is awarded to members of the CF and members of allied forces serving with the CF who deploy outside of Canada – but not necessarily into a theatre of operations – to provide direct support, on a full-time basis, to operations in the presence of an armed enemy.

The GSM may also be awarded, depending on the operation, to Canadian citizens other than members of the Canadian Forces, who are deployed outside Canada, either inside or outside a theatre of operations and working with the CF to provide direct support, on a full-time basis, to operations in the presence of an armed enemy.

The GSM is always issued with a ribbon specific to the theatre or type of service being recognized, and each ribbon has its own criteria.

The GSM with SOUTH-WEST ASIA ribbon is awarded to:

Canadian citizens other than members of the Canadian Forces who served either:

in direct support of the Canadian participation to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan while deployed inside the theatre of operations consisting of the political boundaries of Afghanistan and its airspace for at least 30 cumulative days between April 24, 2003 and July 31, 2009


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