Strathconas in Beirut: CTAT-L Roto 8
By: Capt C.J. MacLean
In November 2022, I arrived in Lebanon as the Deputy Commanding Officer/Operations Officer for Canadian Training and Assistance Team – Lebanon (CTAT-L). The previous rotation featured a host of Strathconas, including Sgt Steven Gross, MCpl Shane Fettes, Cpl Philippe Munger, and Cpl Tony Spence. Although I was the only member of the Regiment deployed to Lebanon for Roto 8, we remained well represented in the JOA, with members at CTAT-Jordan, Op INHERENT RESOLVE, NATO Mission Iraq, and JTF-IMPACT Headquarters. Capt Kai Keewatin did his best to raise morale (and travel points) by constantly transiting around theatre to show off his glorious mustache.
Over the past six months, CTAT-L has supported several Mentoring & Training Teams (MTTs) who have worked directly with their counterparts in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to train a range of skills, all with the goal of “working ourselves out of a job” by developing instructors and courseware that the LAF can eventually use to train themselves. Our Sustainment MTT was with us over the course of Roto 8 and worked directly with the LAF Logistics Brigade to develop best practices, improve path of flow of procured items, and ultimately provide faster, more reliable sustainment to the front-line LAF units. As an Armoured Officer, this focus on sustainment and maintenance to the “F Ech” warmed my heart.
In addition to our one permanent MTT, we hosted several episodic MTTs during Roto 8. From December 2022-March 2023, 2 PPCLI and 1 Fd Amb provided winter warfare instructors who supported five serials of winter training (including one train-the-trainer serial) at the cold, isolated Mountain Warfare Ski School. Although many picture the temperature Mediterranean climate when they think of Lebanon, there are two large mountain ranges which run through the country, including the Anti-Lebanon Mountains on the border with Syria. As part of CTAT-L’s mandate includes assisting in the strengthening of this border, winter skills are invaluable to the LAF soldiers of the Land Border Regiments which patrol this border.
To further develop the capabilities of the Mountain Warfare Ski School and Land Border Regiments, we supported a Mountain MTT Needs Assessment with Subject Matter Experts from the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre, with the intent to conduct serials of a course roughly comparable to our Complex Terrain Operator course. We also conducted a Public Affairs Workshop which saw Canadian Public Affairs Officers and Image Technicians working with members of the LAF to develop their understanding of Public Affairs practices and techniques.
While the MTTs were focused on the near battle, CTAT-L HQ continued to prepare for future operations by developing training packages for Combat First Aid, Gender, Civil-Military Cooperation, and Explosives Ordnance Disposal training. This roto also saw the realization of a host of donation projects totalling nearly $7 million, including UTVs, IT projects, and solar panels.
The roto took place during an interesting time in Lebanon, as we saw first-hand the effects of the magnitude 7.8 Eastern Mediterranean earthquake in February, as well as the largest exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel since the ceasefire that marked the end of the 2006 Lebanon War.
Despite the transfer of the Committed phase from 3rd Canadian Division to 4th Canadian Division, the Regiment will continue to be well represented in Beirut for the next year, as MWO Ben Holmes will arrive shortly as the CTAT-L Sergeant-Major for Rotos 9 and 10.
Although I’ve had an incredible experience over the past six months, I’m equally looking forward to returning to Edmonton and the Regiment soon, reuniting with friends, family, and co-workers, and seeing what the next bound has in store.