Canadian Forces Train Under Exercise ARCTIC GUIDE

14 02 2011

Soldiers begin setting up their 10-person tent on the ice next to a small island on Eagle Lake, Ontario.

Eagle Lake, Ontario — The soldiers of 38 Service Battalion and 116 Independent Field Battery conducted Exercise ARCTIC GUIDE January 21–23. They travelled from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario to take part in the training to develop basic winter survival skills.

Soldiers begin pulling their toboggans across Eagle Lake to a small island where they will set up their tents.
“So, the troops are doing basically doing winter indoctrination training,” said Captain John Baker, 116 Independent Field Battery and composite platoon commander. “We came out here on snowshoes, pulling sleds with all of our gear, prepared to live for the next 24 hours in this environment, which is about –20°C to –35°C.”

Set up, tear down
The majority of the soldiers arrived late Friday night and went to ground (to sleep) in 10-person tents (a.k.a. 10 Man Arctic Tent) that had been set up by the advance party. The soldiers from Saskatoon and Regina arrived Saturday morning around 0700 hours after a 12-hour trip and immediately began setting up their tents. With all the troops on the ground, Capt Baker gave orders to pack up their tents, strap on their snowshoes and prepare to march across Eagle Lake to a small island.

Members of 116 Independent Field Battery work on their snow defences. (L-R) Cpl Dave van Enckevort, Pte Donald McDougald and Bdr Matthew Watson.“It was about 1,800 meters that we marched,” said Master Corporal David Goertzen, 16 Service Company Detachment. “We marched to the island on our snowshoes, pulling our toboggans.”

With the temperature hovering around –35°C, there was some concern about the soldiers overheating while performing the strenuous task of simultaneously walking in snowshoes, carrying rucksacks and towing a toboggan.

The instructors decided that the troops would pull toboggans minus their rucksacks, to lower the risk of hypothermia, which can occur during rest periods when clothes damp from sweat begin to freeze. The lower temperatures also meant the soldiers had to work in shifts of 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off to avoid overheating.

Snow defences

Sgt Colin LeBlanc, detachment commander and composite platoon warrant officer, 116 Independent Field Battery, tries out the ice auger on a section of ice. They set up their tents upon arriving at the island, and the second part of the day’s training began. “The troops are working on snow defences,” explained Capt Baker. “Each section has been allocated a certain area of the shoreline to defend against an enemy that would approach from the south.”

“Simultaneously, the sections have been allocated different grids to where they have to march, away from the hide, to measure the depth of the ice. They have an ice auger, and they will drill a hole in the ice to measure how thick the ice is. We’re testing to see where the thickest part of the ice is around our position, so if we had to, we could deploy an artillery battery.”

Following the construction of snow defences and test holes in the ice, the soldiers began their roving sentries and tent routines, such as melting snow for water and cooking rations. Early the next day, the Saskatchewan soldiers had to pack up and take down their tent, march back to main camp, turn in their gear and get back on the bus, which left at 0700 for the 12-hour return trip.

Travel time is always an issue for the units of 38 Canadian Brigade Group, given they are spread over three provinces. The brigade normally trains in areas such as Canadian Forces Detachment Dundurn or Canadian Forces Base Shilo. When one Saskatchewan soldier was asked about travelling 12 hours to train at Eagle Lake, he was enthusiastic.

“Its great; it’s not Shilo. In Shilo, I always know where I am. This is completely different.”

Articles and photos by Cpl Bill Cpl Gomm, 38 CBG HQ Public Affairs

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One response

17 04 2013
ian mccuaig

who makes the scow sled those canadian troops are hauling??? i have one just like it but the taurpaline needs to be replace,d thanks

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