In the last four articles of this series, I’ve talked about a number of factors that make up Canadian SOF. But what have Canada’s Special Operations units been up to over the last two decades? We tend not to talk about it very much, but there is open-source information out there that I’m proud to point out in the final article in this series.

One of the best articles on the Canadian Special Forces’ contribution to the Global War On Terror (GWOT), is Chaos in Kandahar, The Battle For Building 4. It tells of the Green Team and their Afghan National Special Police Unit’s role in the fight against Taliban insurgents who conducted a massive coordinated attack in the city on the afternoon of 7 May 2011. The bravery shown this day by the men of Special Operations Task Force-58 (SOTF-59) garnered a series of awards, including two stars of Military Valour and a Medal of Military Valour.

Our most well-known roll in the GWOT is our time spent in Afghanistan. Initiated by JTF2’s roll with the NATO task force during the invasion of Afghanistan shortly after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in September 2001. We maintained a presence in Afghanistan alongside our NATO allies up until the withdrawal of all Canadian troops in March 2014, ending Canada’s 12-year military presence in the country. We could not have foreseen how quickly we would return to the Middle East.

Over the last several years, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), which includes Joint Task Force 2, CSOR, CJIRU, and 427 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, has operated in several countries in addition to Afghanistan, including Mali, Jamaica, Niger, Libya, Kenya, Jordan, and most recently, Iraq.

Canada has had Special Forces operators working with Jamaica’s security forces, as shown in this video from the Ottawa Citizen. Roles like this have been critical in building relationships with other military organizations and coalition countries.

In Mali and Niger, CSOR teams have trained soldiers who are fighting al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists. Of note, in this particular mission during the March 22 coup in Mali, the paratroopers trained by CSOR were one of the only groups who remained loyal to the elected government and President Toure, highlighting the impact that our small teams of Special Forces soldiers can have on encouraging democracy in third-world countries.

It hasn’t been all work and no play, however. During the last few years, CSOR has taken part in several international SOF competitions that pit teams of Special Forces units from all over the world against each other in tactical competitions. Both Fuerzas Comando and King Abdulla’s Special Operations Training Center (KSOTC) bring together some of the best warriors each country has to offer. These competitions include members of the Green Berets, Chinese Special Operations Forces, Jordan’s Gendarmerie, Palestine’s National Security Forces, and the Netherlands’ Maritime Special Operations Force, among others.

We now find ourselves back in the Middle East, where nearly 70 Canadian Special Forces soldiers are advising the Kurds in their fight against Islamic State militants. While mentoring Kurdish leaders with their plans of attack, Canadian SF operators were forced to return fire on the terrorist state in self-defense. This goes to demonstrate that even in a low-threat environment, Canadian soldiers are always willing to put their lives on the line in defense of democracy and Canadian values — a reflection of our organizational ethos.