Arctic Response Company Group makes the most of their First Run

Article / January 25, 2016

By 2Lt Derek Gagnon, 38 CBG PAO

Fierce cold, a biting wind and the “aliens” that allegedly crashed near Jackhead, MB on last year’s winter exercise are just some of the things that soldiers of the 38 Canadian Brigade Group have to fight. The little green men were out near Gimli again from January 15 to 17 this year, but it wasn’t the reported aliens of 2015’s Exercise Arctic Bison making a commotion.

No, just like last year it was the members of the Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) out on the ice of Lake Winnipeg for Exercise First Run, preparing to go to Resolute Bay, Nunavut for Exercise Arctic Ram.

Soldiers deployed in preparation for the search and rescue exercise to come from February 12 to 21. With temperatures during the exercise colder in Gimli than they were in Resolute, the environment proved why winter warfare skills are so important in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The cold, open terrain of Lake Winnipeg is similar in some ways to the high Arctic, but Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Dave Fraser, who commanded the exercise, said that it doesn’t compare to what the soldiers will face on Ex Arctic Ram in one of the world’s most remote regions.

 “It’s arguably one of the most beautiful places on the planet,” said LCol Fraser.   “But it is harsh and unforgiving, and we have to be able to protect that part of the world. We’re here to teach these young men and women how to do that.” 

The 120 soldiers of the ARCG come from around 38 Canadian Brigade Group. Private Katie Commer is a member of the North Saskatchewan Regiment and noted how being able to operate in the extreme cold will ultimately make other tasks easy by comparison later on.

 “If we can get through this, we can get through anything,” said Private Commer.

While some members have gone on northern exercises before, dealing with the extreme cold was a first for some members, who quickly learned how to adapt to their environment.

 “It’s all about making sure you’re dressed properly,” said Trooper William Halabiski of the Fort Garry Horse.  “Sometimes you overdress or underdress, but you learn these things as you go.”  The Canadian environment has long been home to some of the best and bravest explorers, and LCol Fraser looks forward to adding new names to that list when Ex Arctic Ram begins.

 “The cold will slow us down, but we can’t stop if we’re going to get the job done that our country wants us to,”  “ said LCol Fraser.

 “I wear my heart on my sleeve, but those young men and women out there; they represent the best of Canada.” 

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