Operation Apollo

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Operation Apollo was the codename for an operation conducted by Canadian Forces in support of the United States in its military operations in Afghanistan. The operation took place from October 2001 to October 2003. In addition, the sequence of events that led to the full manifestation of Operation Apollo started on September 12, 2001, when the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 1368. The resolution had condemned the attacks of 9/11 and reaffirmed via the UN Charter's Article 51 that allied nations had the obligation to eradicate global terrorism.

Chronology of events[edit]

September 12, 2001:

  • The UN Security Council issued Resolution 1368, condemning the attacks of September 11, offering deepest sympathy to the American people, and reaffirming the right of member nations (expressed in Article 51 of the UN Charter) to individual and collective self-defence. It also urged the world community to suppress terrorism and hold accountable all who aid, support or harbour the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist acts, and stated that the UN was prepared to combat all forms of terrorism.

September 20, 2001:

  • Minister of National Defence Art Eggleton authorized more than 100 CF members serving on military exchange programs in the United States and other allied nations to participate in operations conducted by their host units in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks

September 28, 2001:

  • The UN Security Council issued Resolution 1373, setting out the methods by which member states were to root out terrorists and terrorist organizations, and deprive terrorists of the funds and materials necessary to conduct their operations.

October 4, 2001:

  • NATO Secretary General George Robertson announced that, in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States, the North Atlantic Council (NATO's senior advisory body) was invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that any attack on a NATO nation launched from outside that nation shall be interpreted as an attack on all the NATO nations.

October 7, 2001:

  • Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced that Canada would contribute air, land and sea forces to the international force being formed to conduct a campaign against terrorism.
  • General Ray Henault, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), issued warning orders to several CF units
  • Operation Apollo was established in support of the U.S. initiative code-named Operation Enduring Freedom.

October 8, 2001:

  • Minister Eggleton announced the first CF commitments under Operation Apollo, which involved about 2,000 CF members. Navy ships were the first CF units to participate in the campaign against terrorism, and they began deploying immediately.

Command and Control[edit]

The CF units and formations committed to Operation Apollo were organized under the Commander, Canadian Joint Task Force South West Asia (CA-JTFSWA). The headquarters of the CA-JTFSWA was the Canadian National Command Element (NCE) co-located with U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida. The NCE linked the Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff with U.S. CENTCOM and the various CF units assigned to Operation Apollo.

In mid-August 2003, following the re-alignment of Canadian activities in southwest Asia, the NCE was reduced to a liaison staff. This liaison team was part of a new mission known as Task Force Tampa (TFT) or Operation Foundation.

Commanders:

  • October 2001-April 2002: Commodore Jean-Pierre Thiffault
  • April–November 2002: Brigadier-General Michel Gauthier
  • November 2002-May 2003: Brigadier-General Angus Watt
  • May 2003-August 2003: Brigadier-General Dennis Tabbernor

Land component[edit]

In February 2002, the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group commanded by then Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Stogran deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, for a six-month tour of duty that included tasks ranging from airfield security to combat. This mission received airlift support from a Tactical Airlift Detachment, later named the Theatre Support Element (TSE), located in southwest Asia

Deployment of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group[edit]

In mid-November 2001, the U.S. asked its coalition partners (including Canada) to provide ground troops for a stabilization force to be deployed in areas secured by the Northern Alliance to facilitate distribution of humanitarian relief and supplies to the people of Afghanistan. Canada immediately placed 1,000 members of the Immediate Reaction Force (Land) (IRF(L)) on 48 hours' notice to deploy. At that time, it was drawn mostly from the Edmonton and Winnipeg-based battalions of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan changed significantly during November and December 2001; consequently, Canada's troop commitment was revised to a contingent of about 750 soldiers to deploy to Kandahar as part of a U.S. Army task force built around the 187th Brigade Combat Team. In January 2002, Canada agreed to deploy the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI) Battle Group, which included a reconnaissance squadron from Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) (LdSH(RC)), and combat service support elements from 1 Service Battalion. During their six months in Afghanistan, the soldiers of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group performed tasks ranging from airfield security to combat.

The 3 PPCLI Battle Group returned home after six months of service in Afghanistan. The redeployment was announced on June 21, 2002, and the troops arrived back in Canada in two contingents on July 28 and July 30. This troop movement was co-ordinated with the scheduled rotation of American troops to permit the 3 PPCLI Battle Group to travel by American airlift, reflecting Canada's lack of any strategic lift capability.

Operations[edit]

  • Operation Anaconda: During March 2002, members of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group were in the mountains of Paktia Province east of Gardez on Operation Anaconda, a U.S.-led coalition effort to search the mountains for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, capture them, and destroy their shelters. The Canadian contingent comprised 16 soldiers, including six snipers led by MCpl Graham Ragsdale and an emergency extraction force of medical, security and transport personnel with vehicles specialized for winter operations. These soldiers came under fire and engaged the enemy; as a result, some al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters were killed. The coalition force met with determined resistance, and the enemy demonstrated that they were well organized and well supplied. Throughout Operation Anaconda, the Canadian sniper teams were noted for the deadly accuracy with which they suppressed enemy mortar and heavy machine-gun positions. One Canadian sniper, Corporal Rob Furlong, achieved the longest-distance sniper kill ever recorded: over 2,400 m. These operations are credited with preventing or stopping attacks that could have taken the lives of many U.S. soldiers. Joint Task Force 2 provided surveillance and strike teams for Task Force K-Bar in the war against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. For its service in Afghanistan, Task Force K-Bar, in which JTF2 members took part, was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (United States) in 2004.
  • Operation Harpoon: In the early hours of March 13, 2002, the coalition launched a separate offensive operation in roughly the same region as Operation Anaconda. This new mission, called Operation Harpoon, was a joint Canadian-American assault using land and air forces to eliminate a specific pocket of Taliban and al-Qaeda resistance. The land component was a battalion-sized mixed Canadian and American force under the tactical command of Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Stogran, the commanding officer of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group. On March 14, 2002, LCol Stogran's Canadian reconnaissance troops led one of his American platoons to a cave-and-bunker complex where the Americans proceeded to destroy several bunkers. Operation Harpoon was completed on March 19, 2002.
  • Tarnak Farm incident: After Operation Harpoon, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group returned to camp at Kandahar International Airport to resume their security duties and train for other taskings. On April 17, 2002, an aerial bomb was dropped by an American F-16 during a live-fire exercise at Tarnak Farm, a designated training area about 5 km south of the Kandahar airfield. Four 3 PPCLI soldiers were killed and eight others were injured. The Minister of National Defence convened a Board of Inquiry to investigate the "Tarnak Farm incident", as it is now known, and portions of the Board's final report are now public.
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry soldiers at a command post in Tora Bora during Operation TORII
  • Operation Torii: On May 4, 2002, the coalition forces in Afghanistan launched Operation Torii, a three-day operation in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Stogran in command of an international task force that included about 400 Canadian soldiers. Their mission was to find Taliban and al-Qaeda cave complexes, gather information about terrorist operations in the area, and destroy the cave complexes to prevent terrorists from using them in the future. Burial sites discovered during Operation Torii yielded DNA evidence with potential intelligence value.
3PPCLI during Operation Cherokee Sky north of Qalat, July 2002
  • Zobol Province: Between June 30, 2002, and July 4, 2002, most of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group was deployed in Zobol Province, about 100 km northeast of Kandahar, to establish a coalition presence there for the first time. During this deployment, the Canadians and the Afghan National Army conducted a sweep operation in the Shin Key Valley that produced information about recent Al Qaeda and Taliban activities. They also recovered several rockets, fostered relations with the governor of the province, and distributed humanitarian aid (e.g., blankets, food, school supplies) to local people.

Repatriation[edit]

On July 13, 2002, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group ceased operations and began preparing to return to Canada. Following a brief stay in Guam, part of the planned reintegration process, the soldiers arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, on July 28–30, 2002.

Logistics[edit]

During its deployment in Afghanistan, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group was supported by the Strategic Line of Communication (SLOC) Unit, made up of 50 soldiers from 1 Service Battalion in Edmonton and support personnel drawn from other bases. It comprised a headquarters, two movements sections, a supply platoon and a transportation section. The SLOC Unit returned to Canada by the end of August 2002. Because of the complexity of Operation Apollo, the logistic units originally deployed to support the Air Force detachments, the 3 PPCLI Battle Group and the Canadian Naval Task Group were consolidated on April 17, 2002, to form a National Support Unit (NSU).

Air Force[edit]

Canada deployed a small number of aircraft to support Operation Apollo, both in Afghanistan and in the Persian Gulf region in general. Though small in number, Canada's deployment — like its land deployments — included technical or specialist airframes and was thus considered by the Canadian government to be a coalition "force multiplier" which offset its small numbers.

Airlift and patrol[edit]

On November 16, 2001 the Strategic Airlift Detachment deployed from 8 Wing Trenton with one CC-150 Polaris (Airbus A310) long-range transport aircraft and about 40 CF members, including three flight crews and one air-cargo handling team. Initially based in Germany, the Strategic Airlift Detachment later moved to the Persian Gulf region, likely Qatar. Its tasks included medical evacuation, sustainment and re-supply, rapid delivery of operationally required items, and movement of personnel into the theatre of operations. The Strategic Airlift Detachment ceased operations in May 2002. The CC-150 Polaris continued to support Operation Apollo by carrying out regular sustainment flights from Canada to the Persian Gulf region.

Two CP-140 Aurora long-range surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft deployed to the region on December 27, 2001, with about 200 Air Force personnel, including flight crews and support personnel. The mission of the Long-Range Patrol Detachment (LRP Det) was to deliver reconnaissance and surveillance support to the maritime coalition forces. The CP-140 Aurora extended the surveillance range of maritime coalition forces to areas not accessible to ship-borne radar. On June 19, 2003, the LRP Det conducted its last mission in support of the coalition fleet, having completed 500 missions and logged more than 4,300 flying hours on Operation Apollo.

Tactical Airlift Detachment[edit]

On January 21, 2002, the 35-strong advance party of the Tactical Airlift Detachment (TAL Det) departed Canada for the Persian Gulf region to prepare the infrastructure required to operate three CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft. On January 25, 2002, the main body of the TAL Det deployed with the aircraft and about 180 Air Force personnel, most of them from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. The mission of the TAL Det was to support coalition forces by transporting military personnel, equipment and cargo between destinations in the theatre of operations, including Afghanistan.

Two CC-130 Hercules aircraft from Operation Apollo were assigned to Operation Caravan, from 7 June to 6 July, to assist in the airlifting of a UN peacekeeping mission into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On August 16, 2003, the TAL Det was renamed the Tactical Airlift Unit (TAU) and its efforts were refocused on Operation Athena in Afghanistan where it provided sustainment flights to Task Force Kabul. While part of Operation Apollo, TAL Det crews conducted more than 800 sorties and flew about 5,800 hours.

Helicopter detachments[edit]

Most of the ships that served with the Canadian Naval Task Group in the Persian Gulf region had an embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter. Each Canadian frigate normally carries one helicopter, with maintenance personnel and flight crews. Each Canadian replenishment ship carries two helicopters, with flight crews and sufficient maintenance personnel to support other helicopter detachments in the task group while keeping their own aircraft flying. The CH-124 Sea King helicopter detachments that serve aboard HMC ships belong to 12 Wing, an Air Force formation divided between Shearwater, Nova Scotia and Patricia Bay, British Columbia.

Naval component[edit]

Canada's initial response to the U.S. call for assistance was provided with ships already afloat or near the Persian Gulf region. From that point onwards, Canada maintained a small but hard-working naval component in the Persian Gulf region.

Chronology of ship deployments[edit]

Changes of command:

  • February 7, 2003 – June 15, 2003: Commodore Roger Girouard commanded Coalition Task Force 151.

Key operational focus[edit]

  • Force-protection operations: Heavily armed, manoeuvrable warships such as Canada's destroyers and frigates provided defensive capabilities to the more vulnerable specialized vessels in the multinational coalition fleet. While no large naval force opposed the coalition fleet in the Persian Gulf, a repeat of the suicide-bombing of the USS Cole was feared, thus prompting a robust defensive stance.
  • Fleet-support operations: The replenishment ships HMCS Preserver and Protecteur have both cruised the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea at different times to replenish ships of the coalition fleet at sea. During their time in theatre, HMCS Preserver and Protecteur conducted more than 200 replenishment at sea (RAS) operations.
  • Leadership interdiction operations: To prevent al-Qaeda and Taliban members from escaping the area of operations in merchant ships and fishing boats operating from Pakistan and Iran, Canadian sailors hailed vessels, identified them, pursued and boarded them when necessary, and searched them for material and activity indicating the presence of Al-Qaeda or Taliban members.
  • Maritime interdiction operations: Since the beginning of Operation Apollo, Canadian ships have hailed more than 21,800 vessels. To date, Canadian ships have performed more than 50 percent of the 1,100 boardings conducted by the multinational coalition fleet.

Significant events[edit]

While the Canadian Navy did not engage in any fighting, several incidents of note did occur:

  • HMCS Vancouver came to the aid of a disabled dhow carrying 45 dehydrated people who had been adrift at sea for about a week with nothing to eat or drink. After receiving first aid, food, water and engineering assistance from the frigate, passengers and crew were able to resume their journey in the dhow. In March 2002, the crew of HMCS Preserver also saved lives when they rescued two severely dehydrated Arab sailors found adrift in a disabled vessel. On May 23, 2003, HMCS Fredericton rescued two crewmen from the fishing vessel Al Safa who had been severely burned. The burned men were stabilized aboard the frigate, and were then taken ashore to a hospital by helicopter.
  • In July 2002, HMCS Algonquin co-operated with CF marine patrol aircraft and a French warship to apprehend four suspected Al-Qaeda members. On July 13, 2002 and July 17, 2002, boarding parties from HMCS Algonquin detained suspects and handed them over to U.S. forces.
  • On October 31, 2002, HMCS Montréal intercepted and boarded a cargo vessel bound for Iraq. On searching the cargo, the boarding party discovered suspicious material, including five 24-metre patrol boats that appeared to be in violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions against Iraq.

External links[edit]