Skip to comments.Canada's crack troops on standby - Shadowy JTF2 on offer to Americans as counter-terror force
Posted on 09/21/2001 8:20:44 PM PDT by Clive
OTTAWA - A top-secret unit of super soldiers could be one of Canada's main contributions in a new global war on terrorism - but don't expect to hear about it.
The elite counter-terrorism, Joint Task Force 2, or JTF2, is shrouded in secrecy. Its operations at home and overseas, its budget, and even the number of soldiers who belong to it, are classified data.
So it came as a surprise when Defence Minister Art Eggleton specifically mentioned JTF2 as one resource Canada has to offer in a U.S.-led response to recent terrorist attacks.
The minister is tight-lipped on what role the commandos might play.
``Oh, I couldn't tell you,'' Eggleton said yesterday. ``They're a counter-terrorism group and we're talking about a counter-terrorism campaign.'' JTF2 was set up in 1993, when the Canadian Forces took over counter-terrorism responsibilities from the RCMP. Even its name is a mystery, given there never was a JTF1.
The unit has increased its membership to about 350 soldiers, a military source told The Star yesterday. JTF2 could be used to free hostages in an embassy or airline hijacking. It routinely provides security for visiting heads of state, rooftop sharpshooters for high-profile events, and bodyguards when Canadian generals travel in danger zones.
Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit deCorps magazine, expects the unit will be called on when the United States and its allies act against terrorism.
``This is exactly the role for them. These guys would go in. This would be a special covert operation. They would just simply be putting their lives on the line,'' said Taylor. `'Every one of these guys, they joined for that purpose . . . If this is what's necessary and they've got the proper intelligence and our guys have to go in there, then who better than the elite commandos.'' He believes the unit is on par with the American Delta Force and Britain's Special Air Service (SAS).
John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute said using JTF2 ``might be the easiest way to put in ground troops'' in an anti-terror campaign. But he suggests only a small number of soldiers would be available, given the unit's size and responsibilities at home.
JTF2 rarely makes the news. A few years ago, a Tory MP briefly changed that, when he said ``impeccable'' sources had told him the commandos were on the ground in war-torn Kosovo. The government issued angry denials and claimed the comments had put soldiers' lives at risk in Serbia's southern province.
The publicity prompted the military to offer an unprecedented peek at the unit, showing reporters a recruitment video normally played only for applicants. It showed the extent of the criteria for becoming a unit member.
Soldiers must be in absolute top physical shape and excel at rock climbing and long-distance running. People with a history of family or financial problems or abuse of drugs or alcohol are screened out. Anyone with a phobia about heights, water or small enclosures is warned not to apply.
``There are no Rambos here,'' the video announcer warns, to stress that maturity is also an important qualification.
The average member is 28 years old and has nine years of military experience. It's believed not a single woman has ever joined the unit.
Training is highly specialized and broad. Soldiers practise leaping out of helicopters. They storm jumbo jets in mock airline hijacking rescue operations. And they study everything from scuba diving and martial arts to specialized medical aid and the law.
The unit is based at a secure tactical centre at Dwyer Hill, near Ottawa. It has a gym, swimming pool and shooting range. There's also a four-storey building, bus and DC-8 jet for hostage-rescue training.
As well, members train overseas with British and American special forces troops.
A Montreal suburb exercise in 1995 sparked outrage when the racket of large helicopters and stun grenades woke scores of people in the middle of the night. Local police, who took calls from alarmed residents, had not been forewarned.
Esprit de Corps' Taylor believes the commando unit's annual budget tops $25 million.
Reports suggest JTF2 members were in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some say the commandos tried to board a Spanish fishing trawler during the so-called turbot war with Spain in the mid-1990s.
At home, security experts say the unit was on the ground for last spring's protest-plagued hemispheric trade talks in Quebec City and the 1997 APEC meeting, where Mounties pepper-sprayed demonstrators.
Very bad form.
Not giving away too many secrets here! LOL
Just because the Star is a left-wing Liberal tout-sheet doesn't mean they can't be useful.;^)
Man I would have liked to have seen that action. "Ah! Watch out fer the flyin' mullet! Coming at you buddy! There goes another one of those stupid flare guns! Let the Uzis rip!"
It comes from the Toronto Star, which is itself a joke.
At least, not in the press.
Someone let the cat out of the bag a while ago and someone else started to ask questions about them in Question Period about an allegation that they were mucking about in the Balkans.
This forced the Defence Staff to let loose just enough information to put the press back to sleep.
Oh yes there was! And there are damned good reasons to not talk about it.
It's unbelievable that they'd release even this, Travis! I'm amazed....FRegards
That one made me sick.
Any skill training they get is at the hands of the major CT groups, certainly not home grown in the great white north.
And I never voted for 'ti Jean or his mentor Trudeau.
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