Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2)

Activated: April, 1993 following the hand-over of counter-terrorist duties from Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the Canadian Armed Forces.

Headquarters: Dwyer Hill Training Centre, Ottawa. It is believed to include a CQB (close-quarter battle) facility, an 8-story building for hostage-rescure, a DC-10, a bus, a multi-million dollar shooting range, gymnasium, and olympic-sized swimming pool.

Budget: Start up costs were believed to be around $20 million. Reports recently indicate that JTF2's budget is now approximately $40 million annually. However, actual figures remain classified. In the 2001 budget, JTF2 was provided with an additional $119 million (between then and fiscal year 2006-07) to enhance the group's capacity in the wake of the attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001.

Team Composition: the actual size of JTF2 remains classified. However, it is believed the unit is 250 operators strong. JTF2 is commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel and members are selected from volunteers in the army, navy, and air force. Only the fittest and most capable armed soldiers were approached by unit CO's for tryout into JTF2. They are organized into 2 or 4-man teams known as "bricks". Each "brick" has a specialty (communications, sniping, etc.) A 20-30 man troop is commanded by a Captain.

Miscellaneous: JTF2 is deployed on each and every single large scale peackeeping mission, although it is not clear as to their roles classified. Reports indicate that the Canadian has secretly expanded JTF2's counter-terorist role to include roles similiar to those conducted by other special operations units. It has been discovered that JTF members reportedly train Canadian military snipers for overseas missions.

History of the unit

In 1992, Deputy Minister of Defence Robert Fowler announced he was recommending to Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn that he disband the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's SERT unit 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, and it stemmed the public uproar about police being taught to use primarily lethal means.

In early 1993, the unit was activated with just over 100 members, primarily drawn from the Canadian Airborne Regiment and PPCLI. They were given the SERT facility on Dwyer Hill Road in Ottawa as their own base of operations, and permanently parked a Greyhound bus and a DC-9 aircraft on the grounds for use in training.

Its first scheduled action was Operation Campus, the protection of highways and water treatment plants around the Oka reserve while a police force tried to "crack down on smuggling" on the native reserve, immediately following the Oka crisis. However two daily newspapers in Quebec revealed the operation just days before it was to go into action, and it was canceled.

The federal budget of December 2001 allocated approximately $120 million over six years to expand unit capabilities and double its size to an estimated 600 forces, as part of the overall plan following the attacks of 11 September 2001.

Selection and training

JTF 2 candidates may be of either sex and can come from all branches of the Canadian Forces. Candidates for JTF 2 are expected to be physically fit, capable of high levels of stamina and mental endurance.

JTF2 personnel are divided into two categories: Category A – special operations assaulters (SOA) who are directly employed in the tactical aspects of special operations and other high value tasks; and Category B – support and specialist personnel (SP) fill positions in staff officer, support, and specialist positions. This category also includes the special operations coxswain position.

Support and specialist members selection process

Candidates for the specialists and support roles also go through a selection process, however, there are differences compared to the selection process for assaulter candidates. The main difference is that they do not have to take the seven-month SOAC. In Phase I candidates submit their applications through their unit's chain of command. During Phase II, the candidate must successfully complete the CF Express Test or Specialist Physical Fitness Test, however, they do not have to complete the CF Swim Test and the screening process is done at a later phase than in the assaulters application process. In Phase III the candidates application, fitness test results and related documentation is forwarded to JTF2 for review. Specialist and support candidates do not do a seven-day selection. Finally, during the Phase IV process the candidates are invited for a job interview and psychological testing. Postings for specialist and support average four to six years in length depending on rank and experience level.

Special operations coxswain selection process

Prior to selection, candidates for special operations coxswain positions must undergo a four-phase selection process. In Phase I the candidates submit their application through their unit's chain of command. During Phase II the candidates must pass the JTF2 Specialist Physical Fitness Test and the CF Swim Test. In addition, they must take the same screening test that assaulter candidates take to determine their suitability for JTF2. In Phase III the candidates undertake a four-day assessment process. During this assessment the candidates are pushed to their physical and mental limits under physical and mental duress.

Here they are assessed on the following criteria:
  • Physical fitness (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • Performing effectively at heights, in water and in confined spaces
  • Teamwork
  • Emotional stability
  • Interpersonal skills
In Phase IV the candidates attend a three-month Special Operations Coxswain Course (SOCC) where they are trained in the following skills:
  • Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) RHIOT (Rigid Hull Inflatable Operator Training);
  • CCG Small Boat Course
  • Special insertion and extraction techniques
  • Advanced shooting
  • Medical and communication skills
After the successful completion of the SOCC, the candidates may be selected to serve as coxswains with JTF2. Some of the skills the coxswains can expect to use include:
  • Preparing, launching and high speed tactical driving of the Special Operations Craft (SOC)
  • Navigating to and from operational and training objectives
  • Performing user maintenance on the SOC, vehicles and trailers
  • Proficiently and safely handling a variety of civilian and military weapons