Military eyes air force alcohol ban after troubled VIP trip

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Military eyes air force alcohol ban after troubled VIP trip

Post by Trooper on Sat 17 Feb 2018, 9:30 am

Peeing in the seats? Military eyes air force
alcohol ban after troubled VIP trip


A pre-Christmas trip of sports stars and senior military personnel was supposed to boost the morale of
overseas troops. Instead, the trip to Athens has led to an allegation of assault and complaints of drunken,
boorish behaviour.


By BRUCE CAMPION-SMITHOttawa Bureau

Fri., Feb. 16, 2018


OTTAWA—It was meant as a pre-Christmas morale booster, a trip by sports stars and senior military personnel to visit Canadian soldiers deployed overseas.

But the troubles started even before the military Airbus aircraft got off the ground in Ottawa when several of the passengers showed up for the 1 p.m. departure and appeared to have already been drinking.

It went downhill from there.

By the time the jet arrived in Athens more than eight hours later, there was an allegation of assault against a former Maple Leafs star and complaints of drunken, boorish behaviour by others, including two people so drunk they wet themselves in their seats.

As the fallout of the ill-fated December tour continues to ripple, the military has cancelled plans for a March morale visit and is reviewing its policies for alcohol consumption onboard military aircraft.

Past goodwill tours have included entertainers, athletes and media figures who donate their time to visit soldiers overseas. But this most recent tour has left military brass shaking their heads. Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, is said to be “extremely unhappy.”

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” one astonished defence official told the Star.

The Star has spoken to several defence department officials about what unfolded on the trip. They asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information and an ongoing internal investigation by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

One of the stars on this tour was Dave “Tiger” Williams, a former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer and a regular participant on these goodwill visits. The military has refused to identify who else travelled with the contingent.

The trips are organized by the Strategic Outreach Team, which reports to Vance’s office. Vance has gone on these Team Canada trips in the past but skipped this one because of a scheduling conflict.

Two senior personnel went in his place — Lt.-Gen. Alain Parent, the vice chief of defence staff, and Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West, the most senior non-commissioned member of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Military flights usually have strict policies regarding the consumption of alcohol. But those rules are relaxed when civilians are carried onboard. On Team Canada flights, a small amount of alcohol is provided by the military, and participants are also allowed to bring their own for consumption during the trip, which often involves lengthy overseas flights.

That was the case for this most recent tour, which departed Ottawa on Dec. 2, headed first to Athens, Greece to meet up with the crew of the frigate HMCS Charlottetown, then on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea.

But several members of the tour who showed up for the mid-day departure had already been drinking, one source familiar with events told the Star.

“They showed up with their own alcohol, and they were already inebriated,” the source said.

Once airborne, there was a “bit of a party going on,” the source said, with yet more drinking by a small group gathered at the back of the cabin.

One passenger invited a female steward to “sit on his lap,” the source said.

Another passenger tried to wrap his arm around a female steward. “They were grabbed like they were in a bar,” the source said, making the woman feel “uncomfortable.”

Two passengers were so intoxicated that they urinated in their seats. And yet another is alleged to have sworn at a steward.

It was during this flight to Athens — not the later leg to Latvia, contrary to earlier information provided by the military — that Williams is alleged to have assaulted a female steward. His lawyer, Michael Lacy, said in an earlier statement, that military police allege that Williams touched the victim on the buttocks.

Following their troop visit in Greece, the goodwill tour continued to Riga, Latvia — that flight too had a “lot of partying,” the source said.

While the alleged assault by Williams had been immediately reported to the first officer while the flight was still in the air to Greece, it wasn’t until after the tour’s arrival in Latvia that the chain of command was formally notified. “It was not only unpleasant, it’s not okay. These women want a safe working environment,” the source said.

That delay partly explains why Williams was allowed to continue on the tour and participate in events in Latvia.

Once notified, commanders took steps to “distance the victim from the accused,” the military explained in an earlier statement. The victim and other female flight stewards all accepted an offer to return home on commercial flights.

“The bottom line is that we took care of the victim with respect and dignity, while dealing with the accused through a thorough and expedient police investigation,” the statement said.

Just over a week ago, the military police announced that Williams had been charged with one count of assault and one count of sexual assault.

“Tiger denies any wrongdoing and is confident he will be vindicated,” Lacy, the lawyer, said in his statement.

Over the past week, the military has been pressed to explain why Williams was allowed to continue on the tour even though the alleged misbehaviour occurred on the initial flight. And there have been questions about what, if anything, Parent and West knew about the activity on the plane. A senior source says they only became aware of the alleged assault later, after the tour was over.

In the wake of the charges and bad publicity, the military announced this week that it was reviewing its policy on serving alcohol onboard air force flights, whether to limit passengers to two drinks or eliminate it altogether.

“On this particular flight, like on commercial flights, alcohol was permitted and served to Team Canada guests — not aircrew,” defence department spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier said in an email.

“The intent behind this practice is to enable participants to enjoy a few beverages throughout the course of a long trip, not unlike a commercial flight,” he said.

“Much like passengers on civilian aircraft, participants on these trips are responsible for knowing their own limits, while air crew members are professionally trained to recognize signs of intoxication,” Le Bouthillier said.

The Royal Canadian Navy went through its own soul-searching about drinking onboard warships after several incidents of bad behaviour by sailors. The navy decided in 2014 to ban sailors from consuming alcohol while at sea.

Plans for future goodwill tours are also in limbo. A trip planned for March was already up in the air because of troubles rounding up entertainers and artists. It’s now been postponed and the military is weighing whether such trips are worth the effort and expense.

“Due to limited VIP availability, we have decided to postpone a previously scheduled visit for March to ensure the focus remains on providing deployed troops with a quality, relevant experience,” Le Bouthillier said.

He said that the Team Canada concept launched a dozen years ago to serve military personnel deployed in large numbers in Afghanistan is now under review.

“The morale of our deployed members is extremely important to the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces, and Team Canada visits have been a unique way to show our appreciation for their personal sacrifices,” he said.

“We are also examining ways to enhance the program with the intent to always meet the needs of our people,” Le Bouthillier said.

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/02/16/peeing-in-the-seats-military-eyes-air-force-alcohol-ban-after-troubled-vip-trip.html
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Re: Military eyes air force alcohol ban after troubled VIP trip

Post by kirsch on Mon 25 Jun 2018, 7:28 pm

Controversial Canadian military VIP 'party flight' cost taxpayers more than $337K

David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
June 25, 2018


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