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'Ready to go': Reservists prepare for Arctic mission at CFB Borden

Soldiers embrace recent cold snap; 'It’s perfect for us. When they go up north, they’re going to see temperatures at minus-40 and minus-50,' says official

The recent cold snap served as the perfect training ground for a group of soldiers training for an upcoming deployment to Canada’s Arctic.

Last weekend, members of the 4th Canadian Division Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) travelled to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, located west of Barrie, to participate in Exercise Arrowhead Chill, a three-day training exercise in preparation for the deployment of a platoon of 31 Canadian Brigade Group (31 CBG) soldiers to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut in support of Operation Nanook-Nunalivut, which is a major Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Arctic presence and patrol mission. 

The effort is led by Joint Task Force North, headquartered in Yellowknife, NWT, and spearheaded on the ground by elements of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group from Petawawa, Ont., explained CAF public affairs officer Lt. (N) Andrew J. McLaughlin.

The ARCG, led by the Grey and Simcoe Foresters of 31 CBG, which is headquartered in Barrie and boasts an additional Company in Owen Sound, is set to deploy on March 10, with the local reservist soldiers scheduled to spend approximately 10 days supporting a larger contingent of CAF personnel from across the country. 

Preparing for the Arctic deployment takes a lot of work, acknowledged Grey and Simcoe Foresters company commander Graham Richards.

“We have to take a lot of courses (like) snowmobile courses, chainsaw courses … to get everyone up to speed and ready to go. Every soldier has to be qualified cold-weather operators, so basically how to live and survive in the cold-weather environment such as the Arctic," he said. "Everyone has to meet requirements to deploy and be medically fit. If they are going to deploy up north, it’s the same requirements as if they were going to deploy internationally.”

The purpose behind the deployment, he noted, is to show a presence in the north, and that Canada — and the Canadian Armed Forces — cares about the north and Arctic sovereignty. 

“There are quite a few different tasks, but the real reason they’re going up there is to show a presence and to show that we are here to stay," Richards said.

Some of those tasks, he added, will include patrolling the region on snowmobiles and interacting with local residents. 

“They will (also) be setting up an austere rifle range so they will be getting to practice their marksmanship up there in a different environment," Richards said. 

The recent training at CFB Borden was a great opportunity for troops to get a real feel for how things could feel once they arrive in the Arctic. 

“We were seeing minus-20 temperatures, which here in southern Ontario is on the colder end of the spectrum, but it’s perfect for us. When they go up north, they’re going to see temperatures at minus-40 and minus-50,” he said.

Last weekend’s training also served as the final check to ensure everyone was prepared as well as to make sure all of the equipment was in proper working order.

“Everyone is really keen and eager to go. It’s such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so everyone was happy to be there,” Richards said, adding there are approximately 15 reservists from Simcoe and Grey counties taking part.

“We are all very proud of the commitment these people are making. They are all volunteering to do this," he added. "They’re taking time off of work, school and away from their families to go up north … to serve Canada and Canadians. This is not an easy task, and these people really want to be there.”