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Soldiers learn to cope
Canadian military spends week operating in Kivalliq climate

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The military's recent eight-day exercise in the Kivalliq is being looked upon as an excellent learning experience for the Ontario-based soldiers who took part.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ground component commander Lt.-Col. Shane McArthur was extremely pleased with how training went in the Kivalliq for more than 300 Ontario soldiers earlier this month. - photo courtesy Dan Pop

Exercise Trillium Response 14 was conducted from Rankin Inlet Feb. 15 to 23 by more than 300 members of the 4th Canadian Division, primarily the Arctic Response Company Group and Domestic Response Company.

Exercise director Lt.-Col. Shane McArthur of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters in southwestern Ontario said training operations like this just don't happen unless the communities agree to allow it.

McArthur, who hails from near Owen Sound, said the people of Rankin, Whale Cove and Chesterfield Inlet were extremely positive about hosting the troops.

"We can't hone our extreme cold skill sets, individually and collectively, without the participation of the communities," said McArthur.

"Community relations were absolutely awesome, and I can't thank the communities enough for that."

McArthur said the exercise was an excellent opportunity and experience.

He said you realize it's going to be a challenge when the cold hits your face.

"From a troop's perspective, it was both a big eye-opener and a life's lesson," said McArthur.

"We worked up to this training in the south by putting together a series of exercises that built upon our soldiers' skill sets of living under winter conditions.

"Here, we took those skill sets to the next level and provided some soldiers with challenges they hadn't even begun to conceive of."

McArthur said thanks to those with past Arctic experiences and the Canadian Rangers, the soldiers learned an incredible amount of skill and information during the training.

He said that skill development remains ongoing.

"The challenge began for the soldiers when they had to carry their equipment and drag their survival gear and tent groups from position to position, and, in some cases, it was eight kilometres on foot.

"It was more difficult than they thought it would be."

Some soldiers were, in fact, stung by the conditions.

McArthur said having some get frost nipped brought home the reality of the climate.

He said getting frostbite while on exercise in the south is possible, but it doesn't happen nearly as fast.

"Frostbite can happen in minutes here and that was an adjustment they had to make.

"Some were feeling the bite of the cold, but tried to wait until the next stop.

"All of a sudden they realized they had to take care of it right away, which was the responsible thing to do.

"We had no serious cases because they made the right decisions, and that gave me confidence they understood the conditions and the threat."

McArthur expected the soldiers to be challenged by the Arctic climate.

He said he sees the cases of frost nip as positive because it was dealt with before it led to skin loss or further, more severe, damage.

"Survivability is first and foremost with us.

"Our sequence here is survivability, mobility and sustainability.

"The more we can do here, and the longer we can do it, the better off we'll be.

"We have soldiers who are really good at living in these conditions, but we need more to that standard and that's going to take a few years."

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