Soldiers invade region for training exercise

150 reserve soldiers from the Canadian Army are expected to attend Exercise Kootenay Castor from Friday to Aug. 24 in the West Kootenay.

Soldiers will be massing in the hills of the West Kootenay over the next two weeks as Canadian reserves and American National Guard members take up arms in search of Kootenay Castor beginning this Friday.

Around 150 reserve soldiers, primarily from the Canadian Army’s 39 Combat Engineer Regiment, and the 204th Engineer Battalion of the Washington Army National Guard are expected to attend Exercise Kootenay Castor here from Friday to Aug. 24.

The West Kootenay region was deemed “ideal” for hosting the engineer training due to its varied terrain, lakes, and rivers, said Major Andy McQuilkin, exercise director and officer commanding the Trail-based 44 Engineer Squadron (44 ES), in a press release.

“To maintain our readiness for a broad spectrum of tasks, our focus will be on rafting, ferry operations, and assault boating above the Hugh Keenleyside Dam and on the Columbia River from Castlegar south to Trail, and on demolitions at the Stoney Creek Range.”

Soldiers and leaders at all levels will certainly be challenged, noted Master Warrant Officer Sharman Thomas, 44 ES Sergeant-Major, and one of the exercise planners.

“Especially during a day-long military skills competition that will include rafting on the mighty Columbia River, shooting at the Casino Rifle Range along with individual and group tasks in the Fort Sheppard area,” he said.

But safety and environmental protection are inherent in the exercise’s planning and implementation, including an environmental impact assessment, said Thomas.

He noted that members of several other units will provide medical, signals and logistical support to enable the “sappers,” or combat engineers, to accomplish the physically and technically demanding tasks.

Thomas said the majority of the military personnel will be living at the Trail armoury compound and moving from there to their daily tasks daily over the two weeks.

Convoy and traffic movements will be coordinated with the RCMP, and public service announcements will be issued when warranted to advise people about any temporary delays.

Exercise Kootenay Castor is the third international reserve combat engineer exercise in the area, with the Kootenay Castles held in 1992 and 2002.

As reservists, most troops serve in the military in addition to their civilian employment and educational commitments. Many of the Canadian soldiers have taken part in international operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, while the U.S. soldiers have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reserve soldiers serve their communities through participation in domestic operations at home, such as support to the province during the 2003 forest fire season and to the RCMP for the security of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

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