Thunder Bay reservists brave Arctic exercise
Fifth annual northern exercise prepares soldiers for arctic operations
Posted: Feb 22, 2013 3:46 PM ET
Last Updated: Feb 22, 2013 3:38 PM ET
Nearly 30 part-time soldiers from the northwest are wrapping up week-long training this weekend in northern Saskatchewan.
Exercise Arctic Bison provides experience in winter survival, search and rescue and surveillance in partnership with the Canadian Rangers. The exercise is taking place at Candle Lake Provincial Park.In its fifth year, Exercise Arctic Bison trains an Arctic Response Company Group, which is made up of 38 Canadian Brigade Group reserve soldiers. The Canadian Forces says, with the North growing in strategic importance everyday, there is a need to further develop Arctic operations capabilities. The training takes place in Candle Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan. (army.gc.ca)
The officer in charge of the 150-person exercise is Colonel Geoffrey Abthorpe of Thunder Bay, who also commands 38 Territorial Battalion Group and the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment.
“Candle Lake is a fantastic location to hold this exercise,” said Abthorpe.
“The scenario includes a broad range of tasks in winter conditions, and the ground matched our training requirements. In addition, the support the local community provided our exercise has been a major factor in its success.”
The ARCG comprises part-time soldiers who belong to the community-based Reserve units of 38 Canadian Brigade Group from across northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. It has exercised every winter since its first deployment in 2008 to Churchill, Man., and is focused on functioning in cold and austere conditions to sustain operations in Canada’s North.
The exercise enables the troops and their leaders to practise their skills in a realistic environment, and incorporates mobility including snowmobiles, snowshoes, and Royal Canadian Air Force CH-146 Griffon helicopter support.
Northwestern Ontario participants include members of the Lake superior Scottish Regiment in Thunder Bay and the 116th Independent Field Battery in Kenora.
Colonel Abthorpe said the Candle Lake area in north-central Saskatchewan has been ideal for training.
"When we first deployed here [Feb. 16] it started out warm, but quickly dropped into the -30 range with wind chill," he said.
Abthorpe added the location mimics being near the 60th parallel.
"[There are] very stunted trees [and] we're out in the open lake with lots of wind," he said.
"They've had a tremendous amount of snow this winter. So all the challenges are here that we'd expect in a mixed environment of trees and open ice."
Canada's military decided to further develop Arctic operations capabilities because the government sees the north as growing in strategic importance, according to information on its website.
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