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McG
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posted 21 March 2021 22:18     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
The prefab way to peace
Canadian peacekeeping has bounced back after the traumatic 1990s. Much credit goes to a system that lets soldiers get right to work on arrival

Joseph Frey
National Post
21 March 2021

The mission here is a United Nations first. Canadian and Dutch troops have hit the ground running. In past peacekeeping deployments, by contrast, military contingents have spent months establishing themselves.

The success in Eritrea is thanks to Canada's Theatre Activation Team (TAT), based in Kingston, Ont., 10,000 kilometres away.

At 2,500 metres above sea level, in thin oxygen, plagued by cobras, land mines, heat and dehydration, Canadian engineers took only six weeks to build Camp Groesbeek, the main Canadian-Dutch camp at Dek'emhare, in a region that is remote even by African standards.

A base for 1,200 soldiers, Camp Groesbeek has facilities found in small Canadian towns in Canada: sewers, electricity, water, satellite communications, power generation, gyms, a hospital, mess hall, kitchen, vehicle repair facilities, fuel storage and a heliport with a hangar -- not to mention ammunition dumps, bunkers and barbed wire defences.

To bring the equipment and materials needed to build the camp, 135 sea containers were flown in from a Canadian Forces storage facility in Italy.

TAT is partly a response to the shocks our military suffered on missions to Somalia, Croatia and Rwanda.

It has been used for the first time in the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, which includes 450 Canadians. The UN, Canadian soldiers of all ranks and our Dutch partners in this mission have all lavished it with praise.

Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a two-year border war in which perhaps 100,000 people were killed. Under the December, 2000, peace agreement, the two countries have to pull back their forces, leaving a 25-kilometre-wide Temporary Security Zone with UN soldiers to fill the gap and assure each side that when it withdraws from its trenches the other side won't move in.

The rules of engagement allow our soldiers, if fired upon, to use whatever force is necessary to protect Canadian and Dutch personnel.

"Deployable within 48 hours, TAT allows the Canadian military to rapidly establish itself in a new UN theatre of operation," says Lieutenant-Colonel Don Young, TAT's commanding officer.

It is made up of 129 people, trained in engineering, logistics, communications, combat arms, intelligence, medicine, law and administration.

Before the main contingent comes, TAT engineers oversee the building of facilities that will allow infantry, armoured and air units to engage in UN operations as soon as they arrive.

"When we arrived in Dek'emhare," says Lieutenant-Colonel Jan van Tilburg of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, "our helicopters were operational immediately, since the Canadian engineers assigned to TAT had built our heliport. Normally, it would take us nine weeks to build a camp."

---

Under a blazing sun, at 45 degrees Celsius, Canadian light armoured vehicles (LAVs) kick up thick clouds of dust on a dirt road to Tsorena in southern Eritrea. This once vibrant town of 32,000 people is now uninhabited. Every building has been pillaged by Ethiopian solders.

Just outside Tsorena, the Canadian LAVs stop as three sets of human remains are spotted. The burnt skeletons with crushed skulls lie within two metres of this heavily travelled dirt track.

Crossing Ethiopian front lines is like travelling back in time to the First World War. Trenches that were home to 300,000 men run all 900 kilometres of the Eritrean-Ethiopian frontier.

The Netherlands-Canada Battalion (NECBAT), with 235 Canadians, patrols the frontier's central sector, which saw the heaviest fighting. The odd body is still seen lying in a mine-laden no man's land. The sector is now home to 90,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, backed up by artillery and Russian tanks.

Four shots ring out. Confusion ensues; orders are shouted to lie flat. The inhabitants of Senafe start screaming and many run from the town square, while the gunman melts into a wedding procession the next street over.

Instantly, the three Canadian platoon commanders and their commanding officer communicate with each other and establish voice links with the LAV commanders, who have heard the gunfire half a kilometre away, and with Camp Dunn where an armoured emergency response platoon is at the ready.

In Eritrea, the Canadian Forces have put into practice for the first time their new Tactical Command and Control Communications System (TCCCS), principally the work of Computing Devices Canada in Nepean, Ont. Infantry soldiers, their armoured support vehicles and company headquarters can now communicate seamlessly.

The older radio equipment allowed only short-range communications between soldiers. Now, information can be quickly transmitted among sensors, shooters and decision-makers. TCCCS works at short and long range and provides flexible and secure tactical voice and data communications. On patrol in isolated valleys or on desolate plateaux, soldiers can instantaneously speak to NECBAT and report any violations of the Temporary Security Zone.

The Canadian-designed and built LAV IIIs are being used in Eritrea for the first time. They come from the same family as a highly successful reconnaissance vehicle that was tried out in Kosovo. But the 18 LAV IIIs in Eritrea give Canadian soldiers enhanced firepower, armour and mobility. They can carry 10 soldiers into the buffer zone. (The U.S. Army has just bought one.)

A LAV III can be used in all weather, in normal battlefield smoke, at night and on most terrains. Its stabilized 25-mm cannon allows it to fire accurately on a target while moving over rough terrain at high speeds. Eritrean and Ethiopian tanks would have to stop to get a shot off. In other words, the Canadian LAVs can defeat the combatants' tanks, if need be.

The LAV III has computer display terminals for the Tactical Navigation System, which links a Global Positioning System with a digital magnetic compass and laser range finder. Anti-mine protection and an automatic fire and explosion suppression system help keep the crew safe.

Looting in the towns of Senafe and Kesheat has now stopped, thanks to the LAV III's thermal viewers, which mean Canadian soldiers can patrol at night with serious firepower.

Rapid deployment, state-of-the-art technology and the professional conduct of Canadian soldiers in the field have given confidence levels to both the Eritreans and Ethiopians. Colonel Haile Fekade is the Ethiopian deputy corps commander in central sector. "We feel comfortable with the Canadians," he said. "They are very professional. That is why we decided to pull out of Senafe earlier than planned."

The Eritreans feel the same way.

Vital adaptation, after a rough decade, has now given Canada the world's premier peacekeeping force -- with the help of long experience, organizational skills sharpened inside NATO and state-of-the-art technology.


Posts: 111 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2001  |  IP: Logged
Yard Ape
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posted 22 March 2021 10:53     Profile for Yard Ape   Email Yard Ape     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Is the TAT the same as the JTFHQ we have heard about in other posts?

Yard Ape


Posts: 132 | From: Northern Ontario | Registered: Feb 2001  |  IP: Logged

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