business pages

NNSL Photo/Graphic


Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Heading North to assert Canadian sovereignty
Two Fort Simpson Rangers participate in Operation Nanook '11

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Canadian Ranger from Fort Simpson who was on the scene after First Air flight 6560 crashed near Resolute, Nunavut, described the experience as surreal.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ranger Rozsika Tsetso of Fort Simpson stands on the beach near Resolute on Aug. 9 during Operation Nanook '11. - photo courtesy of Capt. Steve Watton

Cpl. Lynn Canney and Ranger Rozsika Tsetso participated in Operation Nanook '11 from Aug. 6 to 26. Experiencing the operation and the crash that killed 12 people had different effects on the pair from the Deh Cho.

Canney and Tsetso eagerly volunteered when the Fort Simpson Canadian Ranger patrol was asked to provide members to participate in the exercise, organized as a Canadian Forces sovereignty operation.

Canney was in the camp that afternoon waiting for a dental appointment when the crash occurred.

At first, she couldn't believe a plane had crashed. Operation Nanook 11 was supposed to include a mock major air disaster exercise. The exercise was just hours away from beginning when the First Air flight went down.

"It was surreal to me," she said.

Canney said that within 10 minutes of the crash, she saw people bringing two of the three survivors down the hill from the crash site.

"You couldn't have had a quicker response to a plane crash," she said.

At the time of the crash, Tsetso was at the gun range. When she arrived back at the camp, the Rangers were briefed on the crash response. They were given the option to volunteer for perimeter patrols that would watch for predators and control media access around the crash site.

"I thought that if that's our duty, that's what we have to do," said Tsetso.

Tsetso was with the first patrol group. Being there and witnessing the aftermath of the crash was devastating, said Tsetso.

"Everyone came together and we were all there for each other," she said.

After the crash, Canney was initially tasked with staying with one of the Rangers from Resolute who thought his father may have been on the flight. She later joined the patrols.

Both Canney and Tsetso said despite the fact the crash happened just days before they were supposed to go home, the accident didn't overshadow the whole of the operation.

Tsetso said the operation made her understand just how affiliated and important the Canadian Rangers are to the Canadian Forces. Tsetso said she was told that without the Rangers, the infantry wouldn't be able to go out on the land in the North.

"It's not very often we get to do things with the Rangers like that," said Tsetso, who has been a member for five years.

After spending five days in Yellowknife doing an orientation and training, Canney and Tsetso arrived in Resolute on Aug. 6.

The pair spent almost a month living and working with 43 other Rangers from across the three territories.

"Overall, I am really thankful for the opportunity to test my limits," said Canney, who has been with the Rangers for 11 years.

As a transplant from the south to the North, Canney said having the chance to stand alone on the hills around Resolute and believe she was capable of doing the job in the harsh Northern environment was fantastic.

Predator safety patrols were one of the primary duties the Rangers were tasked with during the operation.

No one was allowed to walk out of the camp without a Ranger escort and their accompanying rifle, said Canney. Rangers also did short patrols by foot around the camp and longer patrols by all-terrain vehicle. Canney said Rangers from above the treeline were great about sharing their knowledge about polar bears and how to deter them.

Tsetso's favourite parts of the operation included shooting the C7 and C9 rifles the Canadian Forces use and meeting Rangers and infantry members from across the North and the country.

Canney said she enjoyed the chance to set up displays to show visiting dignitaries how Rangers live on the land. Canney and Tsetso made bannock for the Canadian and Danish ministers of defense and Canney was part of a display for Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw, the Commander of Canada Command.

Canney said she also enjoyed learning from the Rangers who live above the treeline. She had the opportunity to go seal hunting with three Rangers from Nunavut.

"It was awesome," she said.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.