New Brunswick

Soldiers at Base Gagetown blow up bridge in rare training exercise

Soldiers at Base Gagetown had a chance to put some technical skills to rare use in a training exercise Thursday.
Soldiers at Base Gagetown spent 8 hours wiring the bridge with explosives on Wednesday, before blowing it up Thursday. (Submitted/Base Gagetown)

Soldiers at CFB Gagetown had a chance to put some special skills to use in a rare training exercise this week, when military engineers blew up an old bridge in the training area. 

Built in 1980, the Malta Bridge was nestled in the Base Gagetown training area and hadn't been used for a few years because it was no longer safe for vehicles to cross.

Instead, it gave soldiers a chance to get some technical training. 

"This was a phenomenal experience for everyone involved," said Lt. James Ryan, the operations officer for the engineers who blew up the Malta Bridge. 

The Malta Bridge was built in 1980 and nestled in the training area of Base Gagetown. (Submitted/Base Gagetown)

Ryan, who has been in the military for 16 years, had never had a chance to do a live demolition on a bridge until now.

"Everyone down there has a picture standing next to the bridge, something that young soldiers and old soldiers will likely be telling our family, friends about for years down the road."

Soldiers from Base Gagetown connect 70 kilograms of C-4 explosives to blow up the Malta Bridge as part of a rare training exercise. (Submitted/Base Gagetown)

Soldiers spent eight hours preparing the bridge with explosives Wednesday, installing yellow detonating cords along the bridge and connecting 70 kilograms of C-4 explosives.

The bridge was blown up Thursday morning, giving the soldiers a chance to monitor the site overnight Wednesday.

"Part of our training that we need to do is ensure that the explosives are staying in place, we triple-check, double-check, go throughout our lines to make sure everything is good to go."

Ryan said this was a valuable exercise because soldiers are expected to be able to remove a bridge in a live scenario, but finding a bridge to blow up for practise is rare because of public safety concerns.

Soldiers from the 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown had the opportunity to put an old and unsafe bridge to good use on Thursday - by blowing it up. 1:00

"To be able to follow through to see charge placement, to see the impact the explosives has on the bridge, to see how the bridge fell into the gap was a super learning experience for everyone involved."

People who live near Base Gagetown may have heard the loud noises and noticed the smoke from the demolition, but Ryan said the bridge was located more than 10 kilometres away from the nearest home.

"So we have a huge training area, it's one of the largest in Canada," Ryan said. 

Soldiers wire the Malta Bridge, in the Base Gagetown training area, with explosives. (Submitted/Base Gagetown)

Demolishing the Malta Bridge is one of the exercises that soldiers are doing in October during the annual three-week training period called Nihilo Sapper, which provides practical technical training to military engineers. 

Ryan said the troops have also built a classroom and a road in the training area this month.

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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