Canadian Reserve Soldiers Conduct Ex ARCTIC GUIDE 2011

14 03 2011

Maple Leaf Story

Eagle Lake, Ontario — The soldiers of 38 Service Battalion and 116 Independent Field Battery conducted Exercise ARCTIC GUIDE in late January. They travelled from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario to develop their winter survival skills.

“So, the troops are 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.”

The majority of the soldiers arrived late on a Friday night and went to ground in 10-person tents that had been set up by the advance party. The soldiers from Saskatoon and Regina arrived about 7 a.m. Saturday morning 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.

“It was about 1 800 metres that we marched,” said Master Corporal David Goertzen, from 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 toboggans.

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 low temperatures also meant the soldiers had to work in shifts of 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off to avoid overheating.

Upon arriving at the island, they set up their tents, and the second part of the day’s training began. “The troops are working on snow defences,” Capt Baker said. “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 this, the soldiers began their roving sentry duties 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 tents, march back to the main camp, turn in their gear and get back on the bus, which left at 7 a.m. 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 CF Detachment Dundurn or CFB Shilo. When one Saskatchewan soldier was asked about travelling 12 hours to train at Eagle Lake, he was enthusiastic. “It’s great,” he said. “It’s not Shilo. In Shilo, I always know where I am. This is completely different.”

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