Bringing in the troops: Hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces engineers descend on P.E.I.
Soldiers will complete a dozen construction and renovation projects as part of 'hands-on training'
There'll be no shortage of skilled labour on P.E.I. in November. Approximately 450 Canadian Armed Forces engineers are descending on the Island, where they'll be tackling a dozen different construction and renovation projects.
"The last thing the army wants these people to have is skill fade," said Capt. Jamie Tobin, one of the force's public affairs officers. "What these projects give soldiers the opportunity to do is get that hands-on technical training with challenging projects."
Fifty of the engineers are arriving this week to take on the first training exercise: setting up a massive camp at Slemon Park where all the soldiers will stay throughout the month.
Lt. Steven Peregoodoff, who is in charge of building the soldier's 600-person camp for the month of November, said it's basically "like a small town."
"The reason it is important is if we get called upon to deploy overseas, this is a big part of establishing success for missions there, which if we do this correctly and have that practice, it makes it seamless when we go overseas," he said.
When its built, hundreds of regular members and reservists from New Brunswick's CFB Gagetown will land on P.E.I., and get to work on a wide range of projects — from renovating Summerside's Boys and Girls Club, to building a wheelchair accessible walkway at Montague's Royal Canadian Legion, to constructing a new bridge on Lennox Island.
"It's very much a community partnership," said Tobin. "Whether it be a local not-for-profit, or a government department we're working with, they provide the financial and material requirements. What the army offers is skilled labour in the forms of troops and expertise."
This is the third year the Canadian Armed Forces have taken the engineering training exercise on the road, away from their regular training camp in Gagetown.
"I like that it gives us a chance to give back to the community, we get to go out, we get to try out our skills but we are also doing something to help out different parts of the Maritimes and that's a really fun thing that we get to do," said sapper Sasha Van Muyen.
"It's pretty interesting. It is my first time out on an exercise this big so it's pretty cool to see the scope of how we are building such a large camp for the main group to come in next week."
Tobin said Islanders will have a chance to see the temporary base camp in Slemon Park up close, at an afternoon open house.
The aim is to have the 12 projects completed by Nov. 23.
"It's all about leaving a lasting impression here on P.E.I., as a way of saying thank you for hosting this exercise and hosting almost 500 soldiers for the month of November."
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With files from Brian Higgins and Steve Bruce