Celebrating 10 years of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

Soldiers prepare for extraction by CH-146 Griffon Helicopter from 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (427 SOAS) in Kamloops, BC as part of an exercise designed to train candidates for the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR). Photo: Lt(N) Meghan Marsaw, Combat Camera
Soldiers prepare for extraction by CH-146 Griffon Helicopter from 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (427 SOAS) in Kamloops, BC as part of an exercise designed to train candidates for the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR). Photo: Lt(N) Meghan Marsaw, Combat Camera

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Current and past members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) celebrated the 10th anniversary of the command in Ottawa on June 17.

Ten years into its existence, CANSOFCOM has proven itself as an integral national capability. It has conducted operations domestically and around the world, particularly in combat theatres and countries at risk. Throughout the past decade, its members have demonstrated a high level of professionalism and expertise. Additionally, the Command has provided DND and the federal government with a unique capability that is unmatched elsewhere in the Canadian Armed Forces or any other government department.

Canada’s history with special operations goes back to its beginnings as a French colony.  Specifically, Canada’s SOF traditions can be traced back to la petite guerre conducted by the French-Canadian raiders during the struggle for colonial North America. Their daring and aggressive raids allowed the embryonic nation to punch above its weight in the battle for North America.

This tradition created a legacy that lives on to this day in the nation’s SOF forces. It was next resurrected in the Second World War as Canadians wrote a new chapter of national SOF history. Canadian participation in the British Special Operations Executive, responsible for sabotage and subversion in Occupied Europe, was the earliest example.

Canada also created the Viking Force, its own version of the famous British Commandos, as well as the Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W”.  In addition, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, which boasted a 30 percent selection rate, and the infamous Canadian component of the First Special Service Force, known as the “Black Devils”, were stood up.

The special operations mandate in the post-war era fell to the Canadian Special Air Service Company, which existed between 1948 and 1949, and then to the Canadian Airborne Regiment (Cdn AB Regt), which spanned from 1968 to 1995. The Cdn AB Regt’s mandate was to deploy into an operational theatre, within 48 hours, to provide a force capable of moving quickly to meet any unexpected enemy threat or other commitment of the CAF, as well as special forces types of tasks.

Not until the mid-1990s, however, did Canada’s modern SOF capability begin to truly take shape. On April 1, 1993, Defence took over the national hostage rescue/counter-terrorism responsibility when it created Joint Task Force Two (JTF 2) to replace the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Special Emergency Task Force.

The deployment of a JTF 2 special operations task force to Afghanistan, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, became a turning point for the unit and for CANSOFCOM. Much like many of its predecessors, JTF 2 carved out its reputation in combat and earned its recognition internationally as a Tier 1 SOF unit. Continued combat duty in Afghanistan from 2005 to cessation of Canadian combat operations in 2011 merely reinforced its international credibility.

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