A major military search and rescue exercise in the Maritimes will be based out of Summerside, P.E.I. this week.

The Canadian Forces base in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, 14 Wing Greenwood, is setting up a temporary headquarters at the airport in Summerside, starting Tuesday, Mar. 29, through to Saturday, April 2, the Department of National Defence said.

'We thought it was fitting that we go back to Summerside and exercise there.' — Lt.-Col. James Marshall, 413 Squadron

"You're going to see two Hercules C-130 airplanes and two Cormorant helicopters. We're going to be in Summerside for five days doing search and rescue training," said Lt.-Col. James Marshall, 413 Squadron's commanding officer. 

"The training is for the front end, the pilots and the navigators, practicing a lot of our procedures," Marshall added.  

They're using Summerside as a base to test the unit's ability to operate from a remote location while conducting search operations, bringing 83 people to the western capital. 

"Every weekday, we do some kind of training out of Greenwood," Marshall explained. "But once a year, we do a squadron search and rescue exercise where we would deploy the majority of our squadron."

They'll be practicing hoisting people into the aircraft, as well as dropping technicians from parachutes onto the Summerside airfield, Marshall said. 

It's all to prepare for emergencies such as plane crashes or humanitarian efforts. 

Residents of Summerside and Charlottetown as well as Miramichi, New Brunswick, and Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, have been asked to take special note. 

The exercise will encompass simulated rescue scenarios that will include boat operations during the day and night with flares and live parachute drops inland. 

14 Wing has planned these activities a safe distance from the public, a release said, and have issued notices to mariners and those who fly. 

It's asking the public not to encroach on the training areas in the interest of safety, although people are welcome to watch from behind the fence at the Summerside airport, Marshall said. 

If people have comments or concerns they can contact the Department of Defence at (902) 430-3898.

Bittersweet homecoming

413 Squadron had been based in Summerside, until the military base was closed in 1989, against massive local protests. 

"This is the 75th anniversary year of our squadron and also of CFB Greenwood, so we thought it was fitting that we go back to Summerside and exercise there," Marshall said.