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January 26, 2010

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Defence Watch

OTTAWA — Future Canadian soldiers could be wearing new uniforms designed to provide camouflage on the streets of our largest cities.

The Defence Department will know by March what designs might work for what is being called a Canadian Urban Environment Pattern.

Those designs are to be based on the “unique requirements” of the urban settings of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, according to an outline of the project being co-ordinated by scientists at Defence Research and Development Canada in Suffield, Alta.

Ottawa, the nerve centre of government and the military, was left off the list because it doesn’t rate as a major metropolitan centre.

“We’re not trying to slight any city in the country,” explained Scott Duncan, head of the soldier and systems protection group at DRDC Suffield. “We chose the three largest urban centres to have baseline data in this early development project.”

He said information gathered on what patterns might work best in those three cities could also have applications for other urban centres.

Duncan said the $25,000 study to come up with camouflage patterns did not necessarily mean a new uniform would be produced for the Canadian Forces anytime soon. Once the patterns are determined, the results will be presented to the Canadian military and it will be up to the leadership on how to proceed, he added.

“If you were to refer back to the Canada First Defence Strategy, one of the principal mandates that has been given to our military is that they must provide protection to the citizens of Canada and help exercise Canadian sovereignty,” Duncan said.

“Given our large urban population, should any operations be required, there’s a good probability that some of them will be taking place in urban environments.”

However, Eric Graves, the editor of Soldier Systems Daily, a U.S. website that reports on the uniform and equipment industry, questioned whether it made sense to have camouflage based on the landscape of Canadian cities. Various studies indicate the world’s population in developing nations is becoming more focused in urban areas and military officers often talk about future warfare being in those areas.

“It makes zero sense for the Canadian military to produce an urban pattern based on their own cities unless they plan on fighting there,” Graves noted.

“If that’s the case, then it is the perfect choice.”

Still, Graves said, if the Canadian military strategy is to continue supporting the United Nations and NATO on its operations, “the answer is that they have to take a broader look, and develop a pattern more suited to use in ungoverned or under-governed areas that are rapidly urbanizing.”

The contract for the Canadian camouflage pattern was awarded to HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. in Maple Ridge, B.C.

The original contract requirement from DRDC Suffield noted that the current military uniform to protect against chemical, biological and radiological substances was available in only the desert and temperate woodland patterns.

Clement Laforce, deputy director general for DRDC Suffield, said the patterns that would be produced are not just for chemical or biological protective suits, but also for general use for the Canadian Forces.

An urban camouflage uniform was designed in the U.S. in the 1990s based on slate grey patterns. It is used by some U.S. police tactical teams, U.S. special forces on urban missions and a number of foreign special forces and law enforcement units.

However, Duncan said uniforms designed for a U.S. urban environment might not work in a Canadian setting. “There’s factors such as light, the amount and types of vegetation and weather patterns,” he said. “These are all parameters you take into consideration when you develop these patterns.”

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June 27, 2009

War-torn equipment helps provide better safety for Canadian soldiers

By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

June 26, 2009

Canadian soldier of the NATO-led coalition take a rest after six hours foot patrol in the Taliban stronghold of Zhari district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, as seen in a file photo.

Canadian soldier of the NATO-led coalition take a rest after six hours foot patrol in the Taliban stronghold of Zhari district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, as seen in a file photo.

Photograph by: Stefano Rellandini, Reuters

The battered equipment of Canadian troops killed in combat is providing clues for a team of defence scientists to improve gear and to save the lives of soldiers.

Staff from Defence Research and Development Canada have had such a program in place since the fall of 2006 and expanding it to include examinations of the equipment of those wounded in action is a possibility.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to ensure that the equipment did what it was supposed to do and to see if there is anything that could reasonably be done to modify the equipment or add additional equipment that could help mitigate further injuries of that nature,” said Maj. Stephen Boyne, head of the soldier systems integration group at DRDC.

The process builds on the work from the coroner’s office in Toronto where autopsies are conducted on Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. At the end of that examination, a soldier’s personal protective equipment, such as helmet and bulletproof vest as well as other items of clothing, is sent to DRDC facilities where a team begins to look for clues. Each piece of gear is examined.

“They’ll try to relate that damage back to the autopsy findings so (what they’re) looking at was the equipment involved in mitigating any injuries, what was the threat (and), if there were fragments recovered, what were they within?” explained Boyne.

Fragments recovered from the equipment are sent for further analysis.

Staff from DRDC Toronto and the Canadian Forces Environmental Medicine Establishment, DRDC Valcartier, Que., and, at times, DRDC Suffield, Alta., are all involved in the effort. Staff from the military’s various equipment offices are also part of the team.

The tests have already resulted in a number of modifications. For example, shoulder protectors on fragmentation vests have been lengthened and extended to cover more of the upper arm, Boyne said.

“We’ve added throat protection to protect the front of the neck and we’re in the process of developing a protector for the rear of the neck,” he added.

Although such improvements may have been considered before, the equipment analysis allows the military to decide priorities for what extra protection should be developed, Boyne noted.

A similar analysis is done on Canadian vehicles damaged or destroyed in Afghanistan. A technical officer does an on-site assessment and when the vehicle is returned to Canada, a team examines it in more detail.

“They use the findings combined with injury reports and autopsy reports to determine what modifications, if any, need to be made to the vehicles to provide better protection to the troops,” Boyne said.

Boyne said expanding the program to include the wounded and even uninjured would be useful, though the extent of such an expansion is unclear. Because medical records are considered confidential, privacy flags have been raised.

At the same time, the team has to make sure that it doesn’t make changes to equipment that might somehow inadvertently alter its life-saving capabilities, Boyne explained.

“(You want to) make sure that in trying to make something better for an injury that you saw, you aren’t actually making it worse for a bunch of injuries that didn’t happen because of the way the equipment is currently configured,” he added.

The United States military also has a program to examine the bodies of those killed in action as it searches for ways to improve gear. Besides autopsies by military pathologists, a CT scan to create a profile of the injuries of the deceased also is done. So far, approximately 3,000 bodies of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been examined.

Boyne said Canada does not use CT scans in its process. The coroner’s office in Toronto does not yet have a CT scanner but a DRDC official also said that the information gathered through the various Canadian examinations is enough that CT scans are not needed.

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December 31, 2008






By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen


Published: Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The Defence Department won’t start figuring out what to do with its Joint Task Force 2 commando base south of Ottawa for at least another year, says the head of the country’s special forces.

Col. Michael Day said an environmental assessment still has to be done for JTF2’s new home in Trenton, Ont. Once that is finished, along with the development of a more firm construction schedule for the new Trenton installation, then the department can start looking at the future of the facility near Ottawa known Dwyer Hill.

“I don’t think we’ll initiate the look for how we’re going to deal with Dwyer Hill until we have a better sense of the environmental assessment and the construction timeline,” Day said.


The department would likely turn its attention to determining the future of the Dwyer Hill Training Centre in another year to 18 months, he suggested. “I think it’s premature to look before then,” said Day, head of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command.

JTF2, which expanded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., has outgrown the Ottawa installation.

The federal government announced in September the unit would relocate to Canadian Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario.

The process of dealing with the future of 80-hectare Dwyer Hill base will consist of two phases. One will be an examination of whether the Defence Department has a need for the counter-terrorism training facility.

Day said he doesn’t see the country’s special forces having a continued use for the base. “At the moment, I don’t predict an urgent need or an operational requirement to keep it . . . but again, we’re talking multiple years, so my situation may change,” he added.

Other organizations within the Defence Department could, however, indicate an interest in the base.

If the department doesn’t have a use for the facility it could then be offered to other government organizations. If no other department indicates an interest it could then be turned over to the Canada Lands Company, which handles the sale of federal properties.

Day said in a previous interview JTF2 could start moving out of its Dwyer Hill base as early as 2012 but the process could stretch on for several more years after that. Some elements of JTF2 could still be in Dwyer Hill as late as 2015, he suggested.


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© Canwest News Service 2008


December 24, 2008


Elite troops get more pay to stay: Extra money helps ensure JTF2 soldiers don’t go work for private firms

The Ottawa Citizen

August 26, 2006

By David Pugliese


Special forces units ranging from Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 to the British Special Air Service are hiking pay in an effort to stem the flow of skilled personnel to private military firms.


Soldiers with the Dwyer Hill-based JTF2 will have their pay boosted through various means this year in recognition of their skills and the hardships they face on the job in places such as Afghanistan.


Several weeks ago, British military leaders approved a 50-per-cent pay hike for those in the country’s special forces — the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service — to try to stop soldiers from leaving to take jobs as guns-for-hire with firms in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The U.S. military also brought in a series of pay hikes and bonuses a couple of years ago to deal with the same issue.


Canadian Forces spokeswoman Cmdr. Denise LaViolette said the increases in financial compensation for JTF2 were not brought specifically because people were leaving the unit for the private sector.


“Allowances are reviewed on a regular basis for everyone,” she said.


“It wasn’t specific to the issue of going to other groups or leaving DND. It was, that we have a system in place, they regularly get reviewed, they were found to be lacking, (so) we increased them,” Cmdr. LaViolette said.


However, she did acknowledge the end result of making such compensation competitive to the private sector is that personnel will consider staying with the unit.


But Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate’s national security and defence committee, said the allowance improvements are directly related to the fact that JTF2 has been losing highly-skilled personnel to the private sector. He questioned why the military would not acknowledge the obvious.


“If they don’t want to call it a retention allowance, fine, but the bottom line is that you have people who like a certain kind of work and that work is available these days in both the public and the private sector,” said Mr. Kenny.


A March 13 background document produced by the Defence Department on the JTF2 allowances notes the money compensates for various hardships, including conditions of work and risk involved with serving in the unit.


The JTF2 allowance has been increased based on qualifying service, with annual compensation ranging from $7,488 to $8,964 for general support personnel, from $13,680 to $16,356 for close support personnel and from $21,756 to $25,260 for “assaulters.”


The compensation scheme also includes special allowances for certain skills. A special operations assaulter allowance sees annual compensation ranging from $15,000 for those commandos with less than two years’ qualifying service as an assaulter to $39,576 for those with 14 years or more qualifying service.


Assaulters are considered the fighting edge of JTF2 and are serving in Afghanistan and are on duty for counter-terrorism missions in Canada.


The compensation is on top of the regular military salary and benefits, which are based on rank.


Records previously released under the Access to Information law have shown that JTF2 officers are concerned the unit is losing personnel to private military firms. Former JTF2 have found work as guns-for-hire with such companies in Africa and Iraq.


Mr. Kenny said he believes military personnel enjoy serving in JTF2 and would prefer doing such work within the Canadian Forces.


“But if someone is going to come along and offer them silly amounts of money, they know they’re in a high-risk occupation, they have families, they have a future to think about and they also know they have a fairly limited shelf-life, particularly if they are an assaulter,” he explained.


Mr. Kenny noted that being an assaulter “is a young man’s game.”


He said it is likely that the military will have to further increase such allowances to retain such troops.


But other defence analysts, as well as some contract soldiers themselves, have suggested the flow of special forces from western nations to the private sector is slowing as security firms turn to troops from developing nations, who will work for less.


In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, private security firms were paying around $1,000 a day for highly dangerous jobs for the former special forces members from the U.S. and Britain.


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December 21, 2008



JTF2’s top priorites: Dealing with domestic terror attack, 2010 Olympics says commander


By David Pugliese


The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Canada’s special forces including Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) have identified their top two priorities as improving their ability to deal with a terrorist attack at home as well as preparing to provide security for the 2010 Olympics, according to a new publication being circulated among the military’s senior leadership.


The third and fourth priorities, respectively, are the contribution to international operations and the growth over the longer term of the special forces command, the organization that includes the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2  counter-terrorism unit and a special operations regiment in Petawawa.


The overview of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) was produced in August and has made the rounds of the senior military leadership in the last several weeks. It is seen as a primer to explain what the command does and the direction it is headed.


The command’s continued development of domestic counter-terrorism skills includes the capability to deal with nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attacks as well as to quickly provide a special operations task force to support law enforcement agencies. In the case of a terrorism incident in Canada, civilian law enforcement organizations would be the first to respond. Units such as JTF2 would be called in as a last resort.


For the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the command notes that its ongoing preparation “includes completing the requisite planning, training, growth and integration required to provide the necessary (special operations forces) capability to assist with other government efforts to ensure the security of the Games.”


The command is expected to play a major security role at the Olympics and it is likely that much of JTF2’s force will be stationed in B.C. for the Games.


Commander Col. Michael Day points out in the publication that while special forces rely on intelligence and tight operational security, “Just as critical, they are dependent on enlightened and educated support by our conventional forces, allies and coalition partners as well as strong informed leadership with the CF.”


“The requirement for leaders of today and the future to have a full and in-depth understanding of who and what CANSOFCOM is, and most importantly, how to leverage the incredible capability our men and women represent, is critical to their success,” Col. Day writes.


In an interview earlier this year, Col. Day said the education about special forces within the Canadian military and government is continuing.


“That education piece is our responsibility,” he said. “If there’s ignorance, that’s our problem to solve.”


According to the publication, the command sees its contribution to international missions as including not only support to Canadian military operations, but also providing assistance to other government departments. In addition, that would include helping “select nations and allies to develop capacities and skills sets so that they can provide for their own internal security and defence,” the overview points out.


That is an indication that Canadian special operations could undertake training missions overseas, such as U.S. Green Berets.


The publication emphasizes that special forces must be used properly and such units are not a substitute for conventional forces. “In most cases, SOF are neither trained, nor equipped to conduct sustained conventional combat operations, and should not be substituted for conventional units,” it adds.


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December 11, 2008


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.



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May 21, 2008

Plan for supply ships comes up short

Tories’ $2.9-billion budget isn’t enough, DND officials say


David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen


Monday, May 19, 2008


The Canadian navy’s $2.9-billion project to replace its aging supply ships has run aground, with defence and industry officials concluding that the vessels can’t be bought with the amount of money the Conservative government is providing.


Defence Department representatives have met with Treasury Board to ask for more money for the Joint Support Ship project, but at this point, it is unclear whether additional funds will be approved.


The JSS project, as it is called, was announced in Halifax in June 2006 by Public Works Minister Michael Fortier and then-defence minister Gordon O’Connor. The new vessels are to replace the aging supply ships, which are considered vital to supporting destroyers and frigates for long periods at sea.


The project is to acquire three new vessels as well as hire a company to conduct in-service support for the ships over a 20-year period.


The Conservatives used the JSS project to start the equipment portion of their Canada First Defence Strategy two years ago, heralding it as a new beginning for the Canadian military. At the time, Mr. O’Connor said the JSS project showed the government was “committed to getting the right equipment for the Canadian Forces, at the right price for Canadians, with the right benefits for Canadian industry.”


The problems with the JSS are the latest to affect the strategy. Last week, it became mired in controversy after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced further details of the long-term plan, but was later contradicted by government officials on the cost of various equipment programs.


That prompted opposition MPs to accuse the Conservatives of low-balling the cost of new military gear by tens of billions of dollars.


Other opposition MPs said there was no way the government could guarantee funding for various equipment programs would be available that far into the future.


The $2.1 billion set aside for buying three Joint Support Ships is not enough, defence officials confirm. They point out that part of the problem is the new vessels would conduct missions far beyond the scope of re-supplying warships at sea, the role now done by the decades-old Protecteur-class ships.


Besides supplying ships, the JSS will have to carry army vehicles, a command centre and a small hospital, as well as other facilities to support ground troops on shore.


There is no similar type of ship in the world, as most navies use two types of vessels to perform the distinct roles.


Defence officials have heard from industry that the money set aside by the government might be enough for two ships, not three. A minimum of three ships are needed because of the size of the territory covered by the navy and the fact that, at times, one ship could be sidelined for maintenance.


The Defence Department declined to provide comment and referred questions to Public Works and Government Services Canada. That department, however, also declined to discuss the ongoing problems with the JSS.


“As the procurement process has not been completed yet, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” said Lucie Brosseau, a Public Works spokeswoman.


The first ship is supposed to be delivered sometime in 2012, but it’s unclear at this point whether that schedule will be kept.


Liberal Senator Colin Kenny said too many capabilities are expected from the ships for the budget the government approved. “Having some kind of replenishment capability for the navy is vital, so this is a serious issue,” said Mr. Kenny, chairman of the Senate’s committee on national defence and security.


He said that having just two ships would be unacceptable and unworkable because one vessel is often docked for regular maintenance.


Negotiations between Treasury Board and the Defence Department are expected to continue. Of the $2.9-billion overall project cost, about $800 million will be set aside for long-term maintenance of the vessels.


The new ships will be around 200 metres in length and have a displacement of 28,000 metric tonnes.


Defence chief Gen. Rick Hillier views the ships as key to the future of the Canadian Forces, not just to support the navy in its missions. He has said the JSS would be used to provide support to international operations for the other services as well.


“The ships will provide the vital lifeline of supply and support to other Canadian navy ships as well as to army and air force assets in certain deployed operations,” Gen. Hillier has said.


“A key component of the Canadian Forces transformation, the ships will help build a truly ‘joint’ navy, army and air force capability.”


For the latest military news, see David Pugliese’s Defence Watch blog at


May 21, 2008

JTF2 JOINT TASK FORCE 2 zeroes in on Taliban bombers

David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The Canadian military plans to ramp up its campaign, starting this summer, to track down and deal with Taliban bomb-makers and their improvised explosive devices.


Canadian special forces and members of an ultra-secret electronic eavesdropping team are already involved in efforts to eliminate the bombmakers, whose devices, known as IEDs, have claimed the lives of the majority of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.


But they will be getting more support in their campaign from a recently created counter-IED task force.


The focus of the battle against IEDs is shifting from dealing only with the explosive devices to putting more efforts into “attacking the network” responsible for financing, creating and planting the bombs, says Col. Omer Lavoie, head of the task force.


That effort combines combat operations, winning the support of the Afghan population, improving training and making better use of forensic information to track down the identities of the bombmakers and their supporters.


“This really speaks to targeting networks and winning the support of the people so that they’re reporting the builders and the transporters before they do put (IEDs) in place,” said Col. Lavoie.


“It’s also trying to change the mindset,” he said. “This is not an undefeatable bogeyman out there.”


Col. Lavoie said his message to fellow military personnel is that IEDs are not just a problem for combat engineers and explosive experts to handle. All personnel should be involved and the problem should be dealt with through a combination of improved training and attacking the networks, as well as efforts to deal with the devices themselves by locating the bombs and neutralizing them.


IEDs are considered such a threat that a group, made up of Col. Lavoie’s task force, intelligence officials, the Communications Security Establishment, and the Canadian Forces expeditionary and special operations commands, among others, meet every two weeks to review progress and deal with ongoing issues.


Col. Lavoie did not elaborate on what Canadian special forces and intelligence units are currently doing in Afghanistan.


But government sources have confirmed that both the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 and the Petawawa-based Canadian Special Operations Regiment have been tracking down bomb-makers. A team from the Communications Security Establishment, also from Ottawa, has been using its skills to intercept insurgent radio and cellphone transmissions in an effort to locate those who are involved in the IED networks. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has also been contributing with its agents in Afghanistan.


Col. Lavoie’s counter-IED task force, which will eventually have about 60 personnel, will create two new centres of excellence this summer at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B. One will be focused on how to deal with and technically defeat IEDs and will involve the skills of combat engineers. The other centre will concentrate on writing tactics, techniques and procedures for counter-IED operations.


Col. Lavoie will also oversee co-ordinating efforts across the Canadian Forces of the various organizations involved in dealing with IEDs. His task force already has an officer and other personnel in Afghanistan to advise commanders there.


The “attacking the network” concept can also come into play even after an IED detonates. That process involves collecting information at the bombsite and pieces of the device that may aid in determining who built it. Individual bomb-makers can be identified through parts of the bomb, some of which may have telltale signs of specific tools that were used in its construction.


Col. Lavoie said there is a forensic component already involved in dealing with IEDs, but it will be expanded through training courses co-ordinated by the task force. Forensic lab capabilities in place in Afghanistan could be expanded.


At later stages, Col. Lavoie will also look to expand links with other government departments involved in the IED issue. “We do a lot of work with the RCMP now,” Col. Lavoie said. “Do they need to establish a similar and more advanced lab back in Canada for stuff that can’t be cracked back in theatre? That’s what I’m trying to develop (later).”


The colonel, who served in Afghanistan during one of the most violent periods of Canadian operations there, said he has seen up close the carnage that such weapons can cause. Half of the soldiers killed from the unit he commanded were victims of IEDs. “If nothing else I have a vested interest and a passion to get this program up and running and support the troops and the mission,” Col. Lavoie added.


The Canadian military has already spent about $120 million in bringing new capabilities and equipment to deal with IEDs. Last year the government announced it had purchased a number of new vehicles for detecting, investigating and disposing of IEDs and landmines in Afghanistan.


Among those are the Husky, the Buffalo and the Cougar specialized vehicles. The Husky provides the detection capability using various sensors, while the Buffalo uses an extendable mechanical arm to uncover IEDs. The heavily armoured Cougar transports the explosive ordnance-disposal personnel who defuse or dispose of the bombs.


Col. Lavoie said while technological efforts as well as training are important, winning the support of Afghans is crucial. “To think we’re going to win this with technology or moving pillboxes is not the way to do it,” he added.


Winning Afghan support includes programs that provide cash payments for IEDs turned in by the locals. It also involves providing aid to villages that co-operate with coalition and Afghan forces.


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© The Ottawa Citizen 2008