Cpt. Chris Poulton

Army gearing up for skills event in Greater Trail

One of biggest military exercises held in Greater Trail set for August

This summer if you should happen to notice a dramatic increase in the number of military personnel, vehicles, and helicopters in the Greater Trail area don’t be alarmed; they’re on our side.

Some 500 reserve soldiers, up to 100 military vehicles, and a squad of Griffen helicopters will arrive in the area for Exercise Kootenay Cougar as the 39 Canadian Brigade Group makes use of the Trail area for its annual major training event Aug. 18 to 28

An assortment of local municipal politicians, representatives from Teck Metals and BC Hydro, emergency personnel, and numerous local and provincial military personnel were on hand Thursday morning for a briefing on what to expect in August when the Canadian Army’s BC Reserve force goes through a series of training exercises at six Forward Operating Bases (FOB) around the area.

“This is a military skills competition at the platoon level,” said Cpt. Adam McLeod, who will be responsible for running the exercise’s central operations base. “It’s an opportunity for skills development for overseas expeditionary deployment and domestic emergency training.”

The exercises will be taking place over the 10-day period at FOB Cougar, situated at the Trail Armouries, FOB Dieppe, north of Warfield, FOB Casino, at the Casino Gun Range, Ft. Sheppard, FOB Batoche, east of Nine Mile Creek near the Pend d’ Oreille, FOB Amiens, west of Nine Mile Creek, and FOB Juno, the operations centre near the Trail airport.

Eight 30-person teams will progress through each of the FOB’s being assessed and scored on their training performance.

The exercises will focus on the soldiers performance in platoon attack and water crossing, clearance patrol, close quarter battle, small arms range, downed pilot extraction, live grenade drills, gap crossing, and survival skills.

When asked by an audience member if there would be any opportunity for the public to view any of the operations McLeod hesitated briefly before replying.

“This isn’t exactly a spectator sport and it’s not like we’ll be able to set up stands to seat 5,000 people to watch the exercises,” he said. “We’ll have checkpoints set up near any access points to the exercise areas advising the public of what’s going on so they’re not taken by surprise but in the live fire exercises we’ll obviously have to keep the area closed off for the public’s safety.”

Military personnel assured the gathering that after the exercise all areas will be restored to original condition, that the downtown core wouldn’t see soldiers in fatigues filling the streets, and that equipment and personnel would arrive and leave gradually so as to not clog local roads and highways.

“The Trail area gives us the fabulous combination of community support and fantastic terrain to develop the soldier’s skills so they can better serve B.C. and as the country calls in the future,” said Col. Matthew Haussmann, commander of the 39 Brigade Group. “For us this is like the big game at the end of the year. We work towards this all year long and then come together to work on it all. It’s the culmination of our training for the year.”

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