By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian Force’s main counter-terrorism unit should start moving out of its Dwyer Hill base as early as 2012 but the process could stretch on for several more years after that, says the head of the country’s special operations command.


Military officials had previously been talking about the Joint Task Force 2 commando unit vacating the 80-hectare base sometime after the end of the Winter Olympics in 2010.


But Col. Michael Day, head of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, says although work is now underway on planning for a new installation, the earliest the move would likely take place is 2012 and some elements of JTF2 could still be in Dwyer Hill as late as 2015.


JTF2, which expanded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., has outgrown its base, known as the Dwyer Hill Training Centre. The senior military leadership has agreed the unit should vacate the installation but there has yet to be an official announcement from the federal government on when or where JTF2 will be moving to.


Col. Day said he had been involved in the move of his former military unit from Winnipeg to Shilo, Manitoba and noted that the process can be lengthy. “Based on that, if we have physically completed the move before 2012, I will be stunned,” he said. “I just don’t think that we can get all the hard work done and do it right within that time frame.”


He said that the move from Dwyer Hill will likely take place over a number of years. Col. Day noted that at this point he hasn’t committed to a specific date to move but if he receives a decision from the federal government on the unit’s relocation sometime this year then JTF2 will be able to leave Dwyer Hill starting in 2012.


Three years ago, Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais acknowledged to the Senate defence committee that the Dwyer Hill centre was “bursting at the seams” and a larger base was needed. At least 600 military and Defence Department personnel work at the site, which was originally a horse farm.


Over the years, JTF2’s presence at Dwyer Hill has upset some area residents, who have complained about loud helicopter flights and the noise of gunfire and explosions from the training base. Those complaints subsided after the unit made an effort to deal with the problems it neighbors had identified.


Residents still, however, continue to voice concerns that the base has created excessive traffic, resulting in delays and lineups at times along Franktown and Dwyer Hill roads.


Col. Day noted that while JTF2 needs to leave the Dwyer Hill base, the move will be done well before the facility outlives its usefulness to the counter-terrorism unit. “I may have tail end elements there in 2015, I may have, I don’t know, but I’m utterly confident that our movement schedule will be well ahead of the point where that facility becomes absolutely irrelevant,” he added.


The multi-year move is needed because elements of JTF2 are required to be on constant alert to deal with a terrorist incident. “I’m not going to go, ‘Okay guys, take the year off, move to a new location, let me know when you’re good to go again,” Col. Day explained. “We’re on call today.  We’re on call tomorrow.  We’ll be on call the year we move.”


The other reason behind a multi-year move is because the special operations command is taking into consideration the effect the relocation will have on the families of its personnel. Some JTF2 members have been assigned to the unit since 1993 and their families have established roots in the Ottawa area. Col. Day said those families need to be given time so their children can relocate to new schools and spouses can obtain new jobs.


“I’m very sensitive to the fact that my capability is vested in my people,” he said. “My people’s capabilities is vested in the support their families receive. And so it isn’t just the infrastructure process.”


The command has provided a number of different options to the Canadian Forces leadership regarding future locations for JTF2, Col. Day explained.


However, in previous interviews, senior military personnel have stated that Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., is their preferred location.


Positioning JTF2 at CFB Trenton, one of the country’s main military airbases, allows the unit immediate access to aircraft for domestic and overseas missions. It is also an ideal location because another unit in the special operations command, the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, which deals with nuclear, biological and chemical incidents, is already located there. JTF2 works closely with that unit on counter-terrorism exercises.


In January, Defence Construction Canada, a Crown corporation that handles the Defence Department’s building needs, issued a call  for “expressions of interest” from contractors and consultants for the building of a new installation.


The facility is to be in “Eastern Ontario,” with the specific location considered still secret at this point, according to the information provided so far to construction and engineering contractors.


Public Works and Government Services Canada has already purchased three properties adjacent to CFB Trenton for the Defence Department. Those total just under 130 hectares. Another 270 hectares are also being looked at for purchase.


Contractors have been told the new site will consist of indoor and outdoor training areas, storage and maintenance facilities, residence and food service buildings, a swimming pool and recreation centre, and a shooting range. It still hasn’t been decided whether a single building or a number of facilities will be needed to house JTF2.


Contractors working on the site, including the project manager, architect, structural engineer, food services facility designer and a number of others, will be required to have a government secret-level clearance.



For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:






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