Arctic Training for Canadian Forces Ramps Up

17 01 2011

Ex NORTHERN BISON 2010 - Canadian Forces

By David Pugliese Defence Watch

The Canadian Army is highlighting an upcoming exercise into the country’s northern region, part of the Canadian Forces move to have more of a presence in the Arctic.

Soldiers from Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be taking part in Ex NORTHERN BISON 2011, which will see them snowmobile 300 kilometres from Churchill to Arviat, Nunavut from Feb 19 to 27.

The soldiers from the Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) have already built Komatiks (long sleighs) and will use those on the trek.

The Army notes that it has tasked four formations across Canada to stand up Arctic Response Company Groups (ARCGs); 38 CBG was given that role within Land Force Western Area and that is who is embarking on NORTHERN BISON.

In October, when I interviewed Army commander Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, we talked briefly about the Arctic.

Devlin said a new emphasis on having troops learn winter warfare skills will begin in 2011, although he acknowledged it will take a while for soldiers to become proficient in such activities.

He also noted that for the vast majority in the Army, winter operations will be new. Before the start of Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, it was common for troops to regularly practice winter warfare skills. But because of the intensity of the war in south Asia that has not been done on a regular basis.

“I often ask guys when was the last time you had your winter whites on and there are a bunch of folks – they’re real young kids – who have not had winter warfare training,” said Devlin.

“There is a need for us to energize our winter warfare training and our ability to operate in the north,” he added.

Devlin also recalled his time as a young soldier conducting winter warfare exercises in Norway. “After a cycle you understood how demanding the winter was,” he explained. “What it was like the haul your stuff in a toboggan across the land, to walk in snowshoes, it takes a lot. But then there is a whole new respect for the winter. There’s a level of confidence that comes with operating in the winter and you get good at it. It takes a bit of time. You need a commitment to it before you become good at it.”

At the time, Devlin suggested that the challenging operations of the Arctic would help motivate troops after the Afghan mission had ended (now this was when the pullout date was thought to be July 2011 and of course before the new training mission in the Kabul area was announced).

The new Arctic response companies are expected to be operationally capable next year, Devlin added. “They will continue to grow and become fully operational with their equipment, skidoos, and ATVs, a couple of years beyond that,” he said.

The units will be made up of Army reservists, although the force will be backed by regular units.

In addition, the Canadian Forces is in the midst of an ongoing expansion of the Canadian Rangers, a reserve force made up of First Nations and Inuit personnel. The Rangers are expected to be around 5,000-strong by 2012.




One response

4 09 2011


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