The Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU) is probably one of the most unique in Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM). Yes, one of these kids is not like the others. Like a lot of the operators who serve in it, CJIRU seems to have always been the odd man out, a small but vitally necessary and distinct capability.

CJIRU’s mission is “to provide specialized, timely, and agile chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defence (CBRN) response to the government of Canada.” As a unit, they predate CANSOFCOM, and while part of the regular forces, they were still very much the odd unit out. Prior to the stand-up of CANSOFCOM in 2006, CJIRU was know as the Joint Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defence Company (JNBCD), which was formed as an immediate response unit after the events of September 11th, 2001. Like all CANSOF units, CJIRU is joint and open to members from any service from either regular (active duty) or reserve forces (Government of Canada, 2016).

The three key tasks for CJIRU are to:

  • Respond to CBRN events in conjunction with other elements of the National Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) response team – This is a multi-department team including elements from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and many other federal and provincial departments (Government of Canada, 2016);
  • Provide an agile, integral part of the CANSOFCOM Immediate Reaction Task Force (IRTF) – The IRTF is led by JTF2 and primarily tasked with counterterrorism response both internationally and domestically (Government of Canada, 2016)
  • Specialized support to CAF expeditionary operations – Although part of CANSOF, CJIRU is the CBRN authority for the CAF as a whole, and is expected to support as required.


As you can well imagine, CJIRU members are a little bit different. Originally largely filled out with military firefighters recruited for their HAZMAT and decontamination expertise, it has since grown to include members from many different Army, Navy, and Air Force trades. As one former CO put it, “CJIRU goes to the chess club or Star Trek club” to recruit its members (Day, 2009).

Considering all the rubber they wear, a bit of a fetish probably isn’t a bad thing either. This is where I always found them to be really different. The worst hits that you always dreaded were the dirty ones, where you would spend hours in full bunny suit and mask, sweating your bag off–and for CJIRU, this is every hit; it’s what they hope for instead of dread. To each their own, but it was definitely not my bag.

An interest in science and technology are advertised as assets for prospective members. Like most CANSOF units, members must go through selection before being accepted for service, and if successful on the course, non-commissioned members will be transferred into the CBRN operator trade. This was an important step, as previously, members were still owned by their parent trades, and were often clawed back, taking their experience with them.

CBRN operators are employed in four main specialties (Pugliese, 2010):