The Canadian Special Forces Command is considering whether to recruit elite special-forces operators straight off the street rather than forcing them to follow the traditional route of first spending several years in regular military units.
The newest idea, which is still being debated, comes as Canada’s special forces — and the Canadian military as a whole — look at radical new ways to attract and retain people with the skills and experience needed to wage tomorrow’s wars.
That process includes not just computer experts, for example, but also those with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and language skills, as Canada’s special forces aim to operate more effectively in different parts of the world.
“This is not about achieving set quotas or anything else,” Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview.
“From a hard-operational perspective, do we have the right mix of people with the right sort of background, education, language, ethnicity, gender … that will allow us to do what our government expects us to do and will expect us to do in the future?”
Today, Canada has about 2,000 special-forces operators whose units include Joint Task Force 2, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, a special helicopter detachment and a unit that specializes in responding to biological, chemical and nuclear incidents.
Canada’s government defense policy calls for an additional 600 special-forces operators amid a realization of the growing importance of special forces to modern militaries.
Canada currently has about 120 special forces soldiers deployed in Iraq and smaller teams working with counterparts in several other countries, including Belize, Jamaica, Niger and Malaysia. Their missions currently are related to the assist and advise.
Still, the only path of joining Canadian special forces is to spend at least two years in uniform, though the soldiers are often required to attain other qualifications that require more time.