Military steps up presence as Olympics near

Less than a month before the 2010 Winter Olympics, there are signs of life on the former CFB Chilliwack base, including more truck traffic and uniforms in evidence.

Canadian Forces will be assisting RCMP, which has the clearly defined responsibility for security, during the international sporting event.

“So the recent activity is attributable to the Games,” explained Maj. Craig Malin, commanding officer of the Area Support Unit Chilliwack.

Canadian Forces troops will be stationed throughout the Olympics region and the former base will be central for the “green fleet” to flow through, he said.

An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 troops will be posted to security detail for the games, involving army, navy and air force personnel.

The commanding officer could not divulge all aspects of the operation for security reasons, but he did share several of the details which might interest Chilliwack residents.

For example, traffic around the former base might be somewhat busy during non-peak traffic times, which could mean the middle of the night.

“The intent in not to disrupt life in Chilliwack, but the public will likely see an increased number of military vehicles on-site, and they will be operating 24/7,” Malin said.

They also might see a series of containers being moved around.

The commanding officer described the former CFB site as a “portal” to the Vancouver area by nature of its geography.

“And with the military infrastructure in place here, it was the logical place for it,” he said. “It’s not a base but it’s seen as a footprint on the ground that can be expanded.”

Typically the ASU has about 75 military and civilian personnel working on-site at the former base.

In addition, a service support unit of roughly 60 soldiers from Edmonton will be living and working from the ASU compound for the next two months.

“They will be here prepared to assist as an operational reserve. Their job will be service support, and as supplies flow in, they’ll deliver them forward.”

The nature of the work is not that much different from what the ASU does now, which is to provide support to Lower Mainland military units.

Troops will be arriving at one of two airports in Vancouver and Abbotsford.

It’s not the first time the Canadian Forces has been asked to assist RCMP. When the G8 Summit was underway in 2002, it was fairly similar. Both were domestic operations, as opposed to an international operation like the CF mission in Afghanistan.

“Planning for this has been going on for three years,” Malin said, adding that the support work will be his top priority in the next few weeks.

He was posted to ASU Chilliwack in the summer of 2008, and the work in anticipation of the games have “increased in earnest” in the last 18 months.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com