Each backed up by his Regimental Sergeant-Major,
the incoming and outgoing task force commanders
sign the transfer of command authority certificates
under the eye of the presiding officer, their
superior commander. From left, seated: BGen
Dean Milner, Commander of Task Force Kandahar;
MGen James Terry, Commander, ISAF Regional
Command (South), and Col Todd Wood,
Commander of Task Force Arctic Wolves.
With a series of public ceremonies conducted over three days, the Canadian Forces formally concluded the combat mission in Kandahar Province that began in the fall of 2005 with the arrival of the first Canadian battle group to deploy on Operation ATHENA.
First, on 5 July 2011, came the handover of Panjwa’i District from the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Régiment (1 R22eR) Battle Group, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Michel-Henri St-Louis, to the 3rd Battalion, 21st U.S. Infantry Regiment (3-21 Infantry), commanded by LCol Steve Miller. Conducted at Forward Operating Base Ma’sum Ghar in the presence of Brigadier-General Ahmad Habibi of the 1st Brigade, 205 Corps Afghan National Army (1/205 ANA), the formation partnered with Task Force Kandahar, and Haji Fazluddin Agha, the Governor of Panjwa’i District, the ceremony was nevertheless familiar, including speeches of thanks and praise, the presentation of gifts, and the signing of certificates recording the transfer of authority from the outgoing to the incoming commanding officer, witnessed by Brigadier-General Dean Milner, commander of Task Force Kandahar.
Traditionally the heartland of the insurgency in Kandahar Province, Panjwa’i District received special attention from the 1 R22eR Battle Group throughout its deployment in Afghanistan. During that period, the bulk of construction work on the Panjwa’i Road was completed, and the rate of insurgent incidents declined so sharply that journalists are beginning to describe the area as “safe.” Most of the battle group’s soldiers have already returned home, leaving only a small rearguard to witness the transfer of authority to their successors.
Wednesday, 6 July 2011, was the last day of existence for the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) that supported the partnership of Task Force Kandahar and BGen Habibi’s command, the 1/205 ANA. Since August 2006, the experienced soldiers of the OMLT have provided advice and guidance to leaders at every level and in every unit of the 1/205, co-ordinated the delivery of training in specific soldier and trade skills to Afghan soldiers, and accompanied ANA units in combat to provide liaison with ISAF units, especially Task Force Kandahar.
In one of his last duties as commander of Task Force Kandahar, BGen Milner witnessed the formal farewell of Colonel Hercule Gosselin, the last commander of the OMLT, to BGen Habibi and the soldiers of the 1/205. In fact, the OMLT has worked itself out of a job; the 1/205 is now capable enough to take the field without mentors.
Finally, on 7 July 2011, BGen Milner handed over responsibility for Task Force Kandahar's area of operations - the districts of Dand, Daman and Panjwa'i - to Col Todd Wood and the 1st (Stryker) Brigade Combat Team (BCT). The lead element of the 25th U.S. Infantry Division, the 1-25th Stryker BCT is garrisoned at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The new U.S. formation under ISAF Regional Command (South) is called Task Force Arctic Wolves. With the signing of the certificates, Task Force Kandahar ceased to exist as a brigade in ISAF Regional Command (South).
Conducted indoors at Canada House on the base at Kandahar Airfield, the transfer was witnessed by Major-General James L. Terry, commander of ISAF Regional Command (South), as presiding officer, and the three district governors of the area of operations, who sat as guests of honour in the front row of the audience, within reach of the podium.
These are the last acts of the longest commitment to combat operations Canada has ever maintained in nearly 150 years as an independent nation. The last rotation of Operation ATHENA, the Mission Transition Task Force, is now on the ground at Kandahar Airfield, transferring Canadian infrastructure to coalition partners or the Afghan government, and packing up the equipment and materiel to be shipped back to Canada or north to Kabul, where a new mission is taking shape under Operation ATTENTION.
Op ATTENTION is the Canadian Forces participation in the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A), which provides training facilities and programs designed to prepare the Afghan National Army and Afghan police forces for an orderly transition to responsibility for national security by 2014. The Canadian contingent, based in the Kabul area, will reach its full complement by the end of this year.