Putting boots in the snow during Exercise NOREX 2017

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Article / April 11, 2017 / Project number: c-ar-17-04-03-norex

By Captain Robert Bungay, 4th Canadian Division Public Affairs

Resolute Bay, Nunavut — While the Air Force may fly over it and the Navy may sail past it, the Canadian Army and the Canadian Rangers must operate overland in the harsh conditions of the Arctic, and, every year, elements of the 4th Canadian Division head north to do just that during Exercise NOREX.

This year, Exercise NOREX 2017 (Ex NOREX 17) was held around Cornwallis Island, Nunavut, just above the 74th parallel. Soldiers from Canadian Army Reserve units from across Ontario spent the exercise honing their skills in survivability, mobility and sustainability in the area surrounding Resolute Bay, Nunavut.  

“The exercise confirmed that we are able to survive, move and work in harsh winter environment of Canada’s north,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Perry Rittershofer, Exercise Commander for Ex NOREX 17 and Commanding Officer of The Grey and Simcoe Foresters, the lead element in the Division’s Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG).

The ARCG was supported by the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Training Centre (CAFATC), and the Polar Continental Shelf Program.  

On March 18th, Ex NOREX 17 began at the CAFATC in Resolute Bay, Nunavut. There, members of the ARCG prepared their gear and psyches to head out over land to a variety of locations on and around Cornwallis Island.  Beginning with a two-day ‘shake-out’ in Crystal City, a small encampment six kilometres north of the CAFATC, the soldiers confirmed they had the skills to safely survive both night and day out on the land in the Arctic before heading further out, far from any infrastructure.

With temperatures plunging as low as -55°C, skills that are usually relatively simple such as putting up tents, lighting stoves and lanterns, and towing traditional Inuit quamatik sleds with snowmobiles, are more difficult to perform and dangerous to get wrong.

1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group members played an important role in the ARCG training in cold weather conditions. Being the subject matter experts of the North, the Rangers performed many roles to ensure that training was successful. This included advising soldiers on ways to do simple tasks in the new environment, to fixing snowmobiles and teaching basic Arctic survival skills. The Rangers also provided predator protection from the wildlife that calls this vast white area home.

Once confident of their abilities in the conditions, the ARCG moved north and further isolated themselves to continue the exercise, eventually reaching as far north as Eureka on Ellesmere Island at the 80th parallel. By the end of the exercise on March 27, 2017, the ARCG had sharpened their Arctic skills and headed back to the relative warmth of a southern Ontario spring.

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