By Captain John Kingswood, Project Officer
Operation Support Hubs (OSH) are a concept developed to increase Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) agility throughout the world, reducing reaction time, increasing effectiveness, and improving the flexibility of commanders to respond to fluid situations. This is achieved through the prepositioning of key equipment, including accommodations, communications, and utilities (water, sewer, and electrical distribution) in a suitable location for a region of the world where Canada may be called upon operate. Also importantly, OSHs establish relationships with the Host Nation (HN) countries they are located in, providing key lines of communication, support, and information regarding the region. These OSHs may be in support of Canadian, NATO, or UN missions, humanitarian aid, or support to Canadians abroad during times of crisis. By establishing OSHs around the world, the Canadian government, through the CAF, is able to execute plans rapidly as new and unforeseen situations develop around the world.
OSH Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is located just outside of Kingston, Jamaica near Port Royal, the (in)famous pirate refuge of the 17th century, and the Norman Manley International Airport. This OSH provides an intermediate CAF footprint for the whole LAC region. One of the primary goals of OSH LAC is to provide OSH capabilities to the region in case of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake. OSH LAC is a “camp in a box” which consists of accommodations for approximately 200 people, an eating and common area, and an operations zone-all located on a piece of land about 150m by 300m. When the HUB is not in operation 20 or so sea containers and a few dozen concrete pads are all that can be seen. However, upon activation, modular tentage appears on every pad providing accommodations or working areas and power, communications, and lighting, are rapidly set up in a matter of weeks. However, sometimes, the CAF deploys and needs to be having an effect on the ground in a matter of days, not weeks.
The OSH LAC Facility Upgrade Project (FUP) has been spearheaded by 1 Engineer Support Unit (1 ESU) with support from the Canadian Forces Joint Operational Support Group (CFJOSG) HQ, and Canadian Forces Joint Signalling Regiment (CFJSR) all based out of Kingston, ON. The engineering design work has been completed by 1 ESU’s team of subject matter experts, electrical engineers, electricians, structural engineers, construction technicians, geotechnical engineers, heavy equipment operators, and electrical generation system technicians. Key stakeholders at CFJOSG, CFJSR, and previous Hub Activation Team members have all provided input into what improvements to the OSH LAC facility can be made to reduce activation time, improve capability and effectiveness on the ground, and harden infrastructure. Three main lines of effort were established: improvement of electrical and communications distribution, improved ablutions infrastructure, and improved force protection.
Previously, each time OSH LAC was activated electrical and communication cables were surface-laid throughout the camp. This task required multiple electricians and line crews several days to complete and left the cables vulnerable to passing vehicles or other damage. The improvement of the electrical and communications distribution consists of a semi-permeant installation of over 2 km of conduit and access points with panels for the various tent groups. Four new self-contained ablutions units installed in sea containers for ease of transport, security, and resiliency have been shipped from Canada are being installed. Improved permanent lighting, consisting of six high power LED light poles, will be situated around the site, adding safety to deployed members and security of equipment.
More than 40 soldiers and aviators have deployed from several CAF bases across Canada, and although the project is managed by 1 ESU, the majority of the troops come from 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR) of CFB Gagetown, NB. CFJSR and 77 Line Regiment are providing a team to install the communications portion of the project once the engineers have completed the conduit install. Other supporting units include personnel from CFJOSG, 4 Canadian Forces Movement Control Unit, 3 Canadian Support Unit, 5 Field Ambulance, 77 Line Regt, and 1 Field Ambulance. 1 ESU personnel provide overall project management, engineering guidance, quality control, and drafting and surveying (D&S) support. The construction troop (CT) from 4 ESR is completing the construction while the personnel from the other units enable the CT with material delivery, procurement, health support services, and various other support functions. This custom built team allows the project to be executed with a small footprint despite its isolation from other CAF units enabling future success of the CAF in the LAC region.