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Vol. 10  No. 4  March 8, 2002  Next Issue: March 22, 2002 

JTF2 at close range Email this article to a friend   Print this article  

OTTAWA  |  Like a photo slowly emerging under a darkroom light, Joint Task Force Two is becoming visible to the public eye.

The famous photo of JTF2 escorting prisoners in Afghanistan has put the elite commando unit in the spotlight. 

Created in 1993, JTF2 has a reputation for being extraordinarily secretive, yet its address is plainly listed in a variety of government documents:  Dwyer Hill Training Centre, on Franktown Road in Richmond, just outside Ottawa.

Encounter at DHTC

I drove out to see the site on Feb. 23.

It's surrounded by farms. A chain-link fence topped with barbed wire encloses a long row of adjoining buildings and garages. The morning sun shone on satellite dishes and communications equipment on the balcony of a two-storey building.

I was taking pictures when a corporal got out of an unmarked Jeep Cherokee and told me he didn't want his picture taken. He said the area was a no-stopping zone, so I drove off ... with him and his partner, a master corporal, following me in the Jeep.

I pulled over, and they stopped behind me. 

Then I pulled a U-turn, and they did, too.

I pulled over again, and they followed me onto the shoulder.

Finally, the master corporal got out and walked up to my car. He  demanded to know who I was, who I worked for, and why I was photographing a military installation.

I said I didn't have to tell him anything. He said he'd call the OPP.

When he went back to his SUV, I started to take photos. They pulled down their sun visors to shield their faces.

I walked back to my car, and the master corporal followed. I showed him a copy of a new book about JTF2.

"I'm halfway through it," he said.

Men in Black

Both soldiers said they were military police, but neither wore the MP's red beret or armband. They were in black turtlenecks and pants — the JTF2 uniform described in Canada's Secret Commandos: The Unauthorized Story of Joint Task Force Two.

'DND takes the attitude that everything on this unit is classified.'

Written by journalist David Pugliese, the new book drags Canada's elite counter-terrorism unit out of the shadows.

It provides details of JTF2's skills, equipment and missions. The bulk of this information previously was unknown to the public.

"I thought people deserve to find out a little bit about the unit that they're paying for," says Pugliese, who writes on defence issues for the Ottawa Citizen.

Releasing more information on JTF2 "would give a sense to the public of what their military does," he says.

To research his book, Pugliese got documents through the Access to Information Act, and from civil and martial court cases.

Policy of Secrecy

"DND takes the attitude that everything on this unit is classified," he says.

Because of the Official Secrets Act, no one at DND can discuss JTF2, its members, equipment or capabilities, says public affairs officer Capt. Darren Steele.

The Defence department bought Dwyer Hill Training Centre from the RCMP, when JTF2 took over counter-terrorism from the Mounties' Special Emergency Response Team in 1993.

Photo of Esprit de corps publisher Scott Taylor
Taylor wrote on JTF2 in Tested Mettle: Canada’s Peacekeepers at War, a book he co-authored with Brian Nolan.

"Whatever they (JTF2) do, whatever they spend, we don't know," says Scott Taylor, 41, the publisher of Canada's Secret Commandos. A war reporter and writer, Taylor also is publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine.

When JTF2 is involved in covert operations on foreign missions, Taylor says, it puts Canadians at risk of being targeted by rebel forces.

Demystifying JTF2

Despite the veil of secrecy, information on JTF2 can be easily found on the Defence department Web site.

For example, a 2001 document says the departmental budget to enhance JTF2's capability is $119 million over a six-year period, ending March 2007. 

There are around 250 members of JTF2.

Recruiting ads regularly run in The Maple Leaf, a Defence department magazine. The advertising says all applications have to be sent to Dwyer Hill Training Centre, and those selected for JTF2 training will get around five months of specialized training. 

Related Links

Opens in a new window Selection process for Joint Task Force Two personnel

Opens in a new window 2001 Defence budget for Joint Task Force Two

Opens in a new window Former JTF2 commanding officer


CF - Canadian Forces

CT - counter-terrorism

DHTC - Dwyer Hill Training Centre

DND - Department of National Defence

JTF2 - Joint Task Force Two

NDHQ - National Defence Headquarters

Ops - operations

JTF2 Terms

Black Ops - counter-terrorism and hostage-rescue missions

CPP (close personal protection) - guarding VIPs on Canadian missions and summits

Doorkickers - slang for JTF2 assault teams

Green Ops - training foreign commandos and intelligence gathering

Men in Black - nickname for JTF2; refers to their black uniforms

Source: Canada’s Secret Commandos


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