Ex OLYMPIAN BEAR 2011 – Inter-Unit Arctic Skills Competition Feat. Ski/Shoot/Snowshoe/Sledpull

3 03 2011

Story and Photos: DailyObserver.ca

CFB PETAWAWA -After a rigorous few years of training and Afghanistan deployments, the soldiers of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group are taking the week off to compete in a fierce round of inter-unit competition.

Across the base, over 900 soldiers are bringing their athletic best to Exercise Olympian Bear, a five-day series of games pitting brigade and base units against each other in challenging winter and indoor sports.

Watching a vigorous hockey game at the Silver Dart Arena between the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (1RCR) and 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, Brigade commander Col. Wayne Eyre noted the formation has been extremely busy over the past 10 years but now it’s time to slow down and get back to the basics of military esprit de corps.

“It’s an opportunity to push teamwork, competition and have some fun,” said Col. Eyre. “Every soldier I’ve talked to is having a good week.”

One of the exercise’s highlights was Wednesday’s military ski and shoot, a match similar to biathlon that combines physical fitness with marksmanship. Skiing over a 9.6-kilometre route, competitors armed with C7A2 rifles stopped at two assault ranges to engage targets at varying ranges.

The first halt was at a makeshift range on a windswept Drop Zone Anzio where the teams had to take down metal falling plates at ranges between 75 metres and 200 metres. Shooting from the standing position, firers used their ski poles to stabilize their weapon and improve their aim. The second stop was at a more convent ional range where firers needed to hit steel gongs at 300 metres away.

“Sports has always been a big part of the military culture,” Maj. Chris Hutt , the exercise’s director, explained as teams from eight units lined up to set out from the start line at Orange Road. “There’s a really high level of competition out there right now. You can see it in the morale.”

The last of the brigade’s soldiers returned from Kandahar, Afghanistan last December after an eight-month mission as part of Task Force 1-10. Maj. Hutt noted it’s been a long time since the brigade has coordinated a recreational event of this size.

“It’s part of the reintegration process and bui lding the brigade into one team,” said Maj. Hutt. “This is a key milestone in bringing everyone together.”

Of course, soldiers are battling it out this week in the standard sports like ice hockey, ball hockey, indoor soccer, volleyball, basketball and a cross-fit challenge. Teams also engaged Wednesday in winter-oriented competitions such as the snowshoe race where the participants raced over an obstacle filled oval circuit stretching one kilometre.

Pulling a 100-kilogram sled loaded with a standard 10- man tent and accessories, the teams finished off near Dundonald Hall where they were timed how long it took to erect the tent and boil a pot of water.

Fresh from their deployment to Kandahar, Lieut. Stephen Keeble, of ‘B’ Company, 1 RCR, said they had only a couple of weeks to practice and prepare a strategy for the snowshoe race. The toughest part of the route was ploughing through the wind in the open country.

“When we got into the trees, the wind died down,” said Lieut. Keeble, whose tent group finished the entire race in 24 minutes. “We were docked time because we were missing some tent pegs but we improvised with the snow-shoes.”

For Pte. Landon Kippen, also from ‘B’ Company, dealing with the winter conditions was a sharp change from months in the arid terrain of Kandahar.

“It was pretty fast and furious,” he said. “It’s a little cold out here but you suck it up and carry on.”

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