JTF2: A centerpiece of Canadian special operations

Eric Sof

JTF2 is a Tier 1 unit and centerpiece of Canadian special operations. It is a squad of elite warriors trained to conduct counter-terrorism operations and armed assistance to other government departments in a military manner. It is a unit with a well-earned reputation among the global special forces community. They have earned their spurs in tough, complex operations from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. They are considered as Canadian counterparts for SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

Introduction

Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) is a successor of the Special Emergency Response Team of the RCMP, which was in service regarding these security questions from 1986 to 1993 when the federal government restructured Canadian military forces. Today, JTF2 serves with the other Canadian Special Operations Regiment, the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron, and the Joint Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defence Company. They are acting as a part of the Canadian Special Operation Forces Command.

They’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with other iconic special forces like the SAS and US Delta Force. They received a US Presidential Unit Citation for their work. They were described by an American special forces Commander (a former SEAL) as his “go-to” option for direct action missions. Their headquarters is at Dwyer Hill Training Centre in Ottawa’s rural west end.

Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2)

The name comes from the military’s standard designation for units made up of service members from more than one branch of the military. For example, the multi-branch force responsible for military operations in Northern Canada is called Joint Task Force (North).

Mission

Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) is in charge when it is needed to provide a force to the Canadian government capable of rendering armed assistance in the resolution of a problem or a potential problem that might affect national security. While JTF2’s essential role is counter-terrorism, its staff can be utilized in any military operations, which incorporate, yet are not restricted to, surveillance, security counsel, and close personal protection (VIP).

More details about their mission are not available due to the classified information and the fact that the Canadian JTF2 is a secretive group due to their low numbers.

History

In 1992, the Deputy Minister of Defence announced he recommended Governor-General disband the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) and create a new military counter-terrorism group. The decision was made largely because the Canadian Forces offered better-trained recruits for the program than civilian police forces. It stemmed the public uproar about police being taught to use primarily lethal means.

Members of JTF2
Members ofCanada’ss Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) at an undisclosed location (Photo: YouTube)

In early 1993, the first members joined the newly formed unit. First members were primarily drawn from the Canadian Airborne Regiment and PrincessPatricia’ss Canadian Light Infantry, and their number was around 100 members. They were given the SERT facility on Dwyer Hill Road near city Ottawa as their training ground and base of operations. Immediately, they were provided permanently with a parked Greyhound bus and a DC-9 aircraft on the ground training purposes.

Their first action was planned to be the protection of highways and water treatment plants around the Oka reserve while a regular police force had an objective on smuggling on the native reserve. It triggered the Oka crisis when two daily newspapers in Quebec revealed the operation details just days before it was to be executed, and of course, it had to be canceled.

From then to now, JTF2 has been part of many missions, mostly under international military campaigns (UN, NATO).

Year by year, their budget demanded more money. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, their budget was allocated with approximately $120 million over six years to expand unit capabilities and double its size to an estimated 600 personnel, as part of the overall plan following the 9/11 attacks. Today’s budget is unknown, but it is estimated to have doubled since 2001.

YouTube video

Operations

  • Bosnia
  • Afghanistan: 2001–2021
  • Haiti
  • Iraq 2006

The comprehensive information about JTF2 is still not publicly available. It is usually not commented on by the Government of Canada. It is considered Top Secret, but that has been changed recently when Canadian Special Forces organized a training showcase. Despite the showcase, the faces of the special group will never be seen, but officials say it’s important that the world knows they are a significant part ofCanada’ss military muscle.

“It’s important for them to be seen and be contributing to Canada’s overall defence because a lot of what they do is in the shadows,” Brig. Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of the Canadian Forces Special Operations Command, told reporters.

“It’s more demonstrative today because there’s more interest up there in just showing that we have the ability to reach out, anywhere, at any time,” said Maj. Gen. David Fraser, a retired military commander.

Task Force K-Bar

Task Force K-Bar took part in 42 reconnaissance and surveillance missions and what US military authorities call “direct action” operations. JTF2 soldiers were part of commando operations that killed at least 115 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters and captured 107 senior Taliban leaders over six months.

The task force earned a commendation for heroism in 2004 from US President George W. Bush.

Selection

First, you need to be a member of the Canadian Forces to get a chance to go to the Selection course. JTF2 recruits members from the army, navy, and air force. It’s best to serve in an infantry unit for 3–5 years. Be best of the best there; they get invited.

The group says marital status and gender have no bearing on the selection process, although it’s unknown if there have been female members. Tattoos and other identifying marks are OK, JTF2 says, but members of the Canadian Forces with criminal records must receive a pardon before applying.

Here are some tips if you are planning to try to join JTF2.

  1. Start working out. Here’s a JTF2 Physical Fitness chart to help guide you.
  2. Stand out, but don’t be a jerk. Teamwork is required in JTF2, so help out, don’t put others down to stand up, and you’ll do fine.
  3. Good luck. If you do good enough, you will be hand-selected by the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, and you may be in Joint Task Force 2.
JTF2 Phyisical Fitness Evaluation Chart
JTF2 Physical Fitness Evaluation Chart (Photo: JTF2)

Training

JTF2 operators use the military’s official system for CQC in their training, although there is a growing movement in the Canadian army to use the American SOCP system. Although CQC is the official system for them, to the best of my understanding, it is a combination of BJJ, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, wrestling and American boxing, knife and weapons fighting, weapons retention, disarming, and improvised use.

JTF training mission
JTF2 during training mission (Photo: CTVNews.ca)

Interesting facts

They are a world-class tier-one special operations unit. Virtually everything about them is classified but what is known is impressive.

  • One of their members shattered the old world record for the longest combat kill shot by over 1,000 meters. The unnamed sniper made a 3,450-meter shot that killed an ISIS terrorist in Iraq.
  • The unit was awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation for its performance in Afghanistan.
  • Navy Seal Captain Robert Harward, who commanded Task Force K-Bar in Afghanistan (which included JTF2), spoke highly of the JTF2 operators and stated that they were his first choice for direct action missions.
  • They have captured or killed dozens of high-value Al Qaeda, Taliban, and ISIS targets.

In conclusion, JTF2 is an excellent special forces unit. They have excellent training and amazing technology. They excel in counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency and also in Arctic warfare. Keep calm, return fire and stay safe!

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