Strathconas in Lebanon
Operation IMPACT: “Canada’s Training Mission in the Middle East”
Written by: Master Corporal Lukas McKenzie
As in recent years, members of the Regiment were spread all over the globe with a small contingent of Strathconas being deployed to Lebanon to compose the core of the Canadian Training Assistance Team Lebanon (CTAT-L). The team hit the ground running conducting a speedy but detailed handover with the outgoing personnel which at times was comparable to drinking from a firehose. Introductions were made, relationships built, and the focus was shifted to what could be delivered in training or equipment that would improve the Lebanese Armed Forces’ (LAF) capabilities to maintain and enhance security in the region.
Our nerves, (and reflexes) were immediately put to the test as the team was introduced to what can only be described as “unique” driving conditions in the local area. None more so than the CO, Major Jack Nguyen’s body double, Master Corporal Henry Chen who was responsible for ensuring the entire team got behind the wheel to familiarize themselves with the emergency routes to the hospital and airport. The nuances of which traffic laws to follow and which were only recommendations was difficult to discern. Concurrently, the Project Officer, Captain Emma Perry, busied herself with understanding the capability gaps of the LAF and identifying ways where Canada and CTAT-L could best support.
To the Projects Officers delight, the hard work of the previous Roto came to fruition with minimal complications. A Mobile Training Team was successfully deployed to develop and teach CIMIC Operators curriculum, as well as a contingent of Logistics Officers and NCOs were embedded into the LAF support their logistic enhancement. Captain Perry was responsible for overseeing the delivery of FOB toolkits, and wet weather clothing and their subsequent donation to the LAF, as well as setting the conditions for future project success for the next Roto.
The constant stream of incoming and outgoing personnel kept the Force Protection Team, Sergeant Underwood, Master Corporal Chen, Master Corporal McKenzie and Corporal Tanner on their toes with a multitude of white knuckle rides through Beirut. The team was assigned the complex task of ensuring everyone was capable of driving “safely” in Lebanon. Further, their time was spent leading various hikes up and down the mountainside to recce and familiarize everyone with the local terrain. Scenarios were conducted to ensure CTAT-L remained sharp in the event of an intruder and to keep people refreshed on Combat First Aid ensuring the teams Standard Operating Procedures were wired tight for the most likely situations.
Despite the high pace and number of ongoing projects, the members of CTAT-L still managed to sample their fair share of local cuisine, many developing a borderline addiction to the local shawarma and hummus. Lebanon’s history and location provided many opportunities for professional development trips to places like the ancient city of Byblos and the natural beauty of the Jeita Grotto.