ARCHIVED - A “boots on the ground” experience at Garrison Petawawa: Carleton University journalism students embedded in Exercise SPARTAN BEAR 2014

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Article / January 16, 2015 / Project number: 15-008

Petawawa, Ontario — Students from Carleton University recently had a realistic taste of what it might be like to be journalists embedded with the Canadian Army (CA) in a real military operation.

The group of 18 aspiring journalists participated in Exercise SPARTAN BEAR 2014, an annual  Canadian Army training exercise aimed at ensuring troops are ready to respond when duty calls. The exercise took place at Garrison Petawawa from November 18 to 26, 2014.

Embedded with various companies of The Royal Canadian Regiment, the students were with the troops around the clock, resulting in virtually unlimited access to the exercise. For the majority of the students, it was their first time on a military base and the opportunity of a lifetime to interact closely with Canadian soldiers.

The two-day program was filled with opportunities to see the work and equipment of Canadian soldiers up close and personal. On the first day, each participant was “kitted out” with equipment used by soldiers to keep warm and safe. The students slept in tents in the field, listened in on orders being given by leadership in preparation for the next day’s operations, and ate the same pre-packaged field rations soldiers eat when fresh food is not available.

On day two, the students rose at 4:00 a.m. to observe the troops in freezing cold temperatures, giving them an appreciation for the grit of the men and women who regularly train and fight in challenging weather conditions. The main portion of the exercise showed students the skill of CA soldiers and demonstrated the awesome firepower of the 84mm Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon and the C-7 rifle.

Throughout the familiarization visit, the students were able to interview soldiers about their experiences and roles within the exercise. This gave both the students and soldiers an appreciation of what it might be like to have media embedded with a unit in combat.

“My time spent with the army was one that I will remember forever … my experience in Petawawa opened my mind to see the army not as individual soldiers, but rather a family whose job it is to protect our country,” said student Jenna Hickman.

Professor Dick Gordon, instructor of the journalism program’s War and Media course, noted that the students had an amazing experience and that the exercise proved far more than they expected.

“They [the students] were surprised at how close they got to the field,” said Mr. Gordon. He added that, “most students came back with firsthand encounters and stories from the soldiers.”    

Familiarization visits such as the one experienced by the Carleton University students offer ordinary Canadians an opportunity to witness the intense training and professionalism of Canadian soldiers in uniform – a rare chance to witness that the Canadian Army is true to its motto of “Strong. Proud. Ready.” 

The annual Exercise SPARTAN BEAR helps the Canadian Army become more efficient and agile as it continues to develop combat effective units capable of responding to a multitude of threats.  By training regularly in realistic and challenging scenarios, CA soldiers remain ready to fulfill their core missions including the conduct of domestic and international operations. The intent of this year’s exercise was to provide training opportunities for the Canadian Army’s high readiness task forces.  Soldiers were faced with scenarios aimed at developing and confirming key skills, including insertion into enemy territory by air, conducting of dismounted offensive operations and live munitions. 

By Jane Houser, Army Public Affairs

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