With the Canadian Special Operations Regiment article done, I am now moving towards Canada’s most elite group of soldiers: Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2).
JTF2 was created on April 1, 1993 right after the acceptation of federal counter-terrorism by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Before that, the RCMP had a team called Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) that was responsible for all counter-terrorism operations nationally.
The reasons were simple, Canadian Forces had a much bigger recruit pool and the general population were not really happy with having Law Enforcement Officers using lethal means as a first resource.
The first 100 members were drawn from the now disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment and also from the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. They were given the old SERT training facility on Dwyer Hill, right outside Ottawa.
Their mission is simple: Protect the Canadian National Interest and combat terrorism at home and abroad.
As stated on the DND webpage, they are the highest readiness and most precise combat unit in the country. They are a specialized unit within CANSOFCOM that functions best when working jointly with every brand of the CAF to support the government of Canada. They are closely allied with the very best special operations forces worldwide, allowing them to operate seamlessly when called upon.
So who are the JTF2 operators? They are the quiet professionals, they always aspire to excellence, they work with their colleagues, they are a precise and accurate tool and most importantly, they are Canadians.
While people might think that they are only door kickers, they maintain a high readiness to be able to protect Canadian interests in any form all around the world.
As they remain the most secretive unit in Canada, CANSOFCOM has released an informative video in May 2013, including JTF2’s operator in it. 20 years has passed before JTF2 was officially in a video.
They are the Tier 1 operators of Canada and they have worked on numerous occasions with other SOF units like the SAS, SBS, DEVGRU, 1st SFOD-D and the Polish GROM. Sean M. Maloney reported in his book, Enduring the Freedom, that JTF2 was the only foreign unit accepted to join Tier 1 special operations units, such as the D-boys and DEVGRU in Task Force 11, whose job was to hunt HVTs and conduct Sensitive Site Exploitation.
During Canada’s deployment to Bosnia, they were inserted in two-to-four man teams to hunt Serbian snipers in the famous sniper alley.
In 1996, members of JTF2 were deployed to Haiti to advise Haitian President René Préval security team on methods to repel the revolutionary army, train local SWAT teams and do some DA on weapons smugglers in Port-au-Prince. According to CBC, they were also present in 2004 when Jean-Bertrand Aristide was removed from power. They were securing the airport and protecting the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince.
Right after 9/11, they were deployed in complete secrecy in Afghanistan alongside US SOF units. DND did not even seek the Prime Minister’s permission and the population was completely unaware of their actions. It was only several months later that the Globe and Mail reported JTF2’s action in Afghanistan by publishing a picture of a JTF2 operator delivering a prisoner to American forces.
In 2004, the Defense Ministry deployed 40 men to join up with Task Force K-Bar. Rear Admiral Robert Harward, then a US Navy SEALs and Task Force K-Bar commander, was full of praise and stated that JTF2 was his first choice for any DA missions. They were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by the U.S. government for their actions in Afghanistan. They were also involved in Operation Anaconda.
General Rick Hillier, who was the Chief of Defense Staff in 2007, said in a 45 minute speech that JTF2 had a significant impact in Afghanistan helping Afghans rebuild their country. They were also the tools of choice as they were in incredible demand. He proudly supported that JTF2 are world class.
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On March 2006, JTF2 played a huge role in rescuing the British and Canadian Peacemaker Team who was being held hostage in Iraq. Both the Pentagon and the British Foreign Office commented on their instrumental role. Unfortunately, Canadian officials never confirmed JTF2’s involvement as the Canadian population was firmly against any type of Canadian intervention in Iraq.
Since then, JTF2 has been conducting multiple successful operations in Afghanistan but little is known about them. As stated on the DND webpage, JTF 2 is subject to very stringent security procedures in order to protect the unit and its mission. Indeed, the type of operations assigned to JTF 2 naturally captures the interest of the public but there are many risks involved with information disclosure. The CAF recognizes the need to inform Canadians about the measures put in place by their Government to protect them against the threat of terrorism. History has shown only too clearly that terrorist organizations will use information about a unit’s personnel, weapons, tactics and procedures to great effect by modifying their methodologies to counter the very forces designed to defeat them.
It is believed that JTF2 was operating alongside both the SAS and the SBS in Operation Mobile, Canada’s operation in the 2011 Libyan civil war.
In October 2013, an incident occurred between a freelance photographer called Robert Westbrook and one believed to be a JTF2 operator in a civilians sector in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. I wrote an article about it last month and it is linked here in the paragraph.
In March 2012, EA’s Medal of Honor: Warfighter, who focused on Tier 1 special forces groups, included JTF2 as a playable unit in multiplayer mode. While it is not really a big thing since it’s a game, it clearly demonstrates that JTF2 are becoming internationally renowned by the general population.
What lies in the unit’s future still remains to be seen. As the world is facing more and more conflicts, I am pretty sure the JTF2 operators are going to be really busy for quite a while. Nowadays in the GWOT era, wars are fought by SOF units and the growing need for more specialized units makes them very invaluable.
JTF2 makes us Canadians really proud and will continue in the future to shine as a world-class special operations unit.
As I wrote in the CSOR article, I will closely monitor the news about them and write more as the information becomes available to the general public as most of their actions are still classified due to the constant GWOT threats.
In part 3, I will write about the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU), who provides specialized CBRN response for the Government of Canada.
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