The rugged terrain of Greater Trail can be tough to conquer. But the mountains, river, sand and rock will serve as ideal challenges for the military when the 39 Canadian Brigade Group puts boots to the ground next week.
“The way the geography is set up provides the soldiers with challenging training,” said Cpt. Christopher Poulton, the brigade’s public affairs officer. “It’s something different for them and a good venue because when we train, we want to train as if we fight, so to speak. We want to make it as realistic as we possibly can.”
Some 450 reserve soldiers, ranking from junior privates to senior officers, and 80 military vehicles are scheduled to land in Trail beginning Monday for the 2014 Kootenay Cougar training exercises.
Civilians can expect to see soldiers and military equipment between Aug. 18 and Aug. 20, said Poulton, noting that the exercises may be audible within the training vicinity between Aug. 20 and Aug. 28.
The purpose of the 10-day exercise is to confirm the soldier’s readiness abilities to respond to domestic emergencies and international operations when required.
Training exercises will be carried out at four Forward Operating Bases (FOB) throughout Greater Trail with two “scenario” based stands.
“The FOB emulates how the army would interact if they are in say, Afghanistan,” said Poulton. “There’s always a base they work out of and FOB Cougar, at the Trail Armouries, is the exercise’s headquarters.”
The exercises focus on the soldiers performance in platoon and water crossing, clearance patrol, close quarter battle, small arms range, downed pilot extraction, live grenade range, decontamination drills, gap crossing, and survival skills.
Junior platoon leaders are required to direct their soldiers through each stand in an unyielding and challenging environment, using the “first principle skills” which are shoot, move and communicate.
In a round robin fashion, the platoons will rotate through each base, explained Poulton.
“The great terrain challenges their capabilities and skills so they will gain a lot of learning from this.”
Though live action would be exciting to watch, the training exercises won’t be visible to private citizens.
Earlier this year, Cpt. Adam McLeod made a stopover in Trail to brief local municipal politicians, representatives from Teck Metals and emergency personnel about what to expect during the largest military exercise of the year.
“We’ll have checkpoints set up near access points to the exercise areas advising the public of what’s going on,” he explained. “But during the live fire exercises, we’ll have to keep the area closed off for public safety.”
The 39 Canadian Brigade Group is the provincial Canadian Army representative that recruits, trains and retains reserve soldiers and leaders to support the country’s armed forces both at home and abroad.
The majority of serving members have civilian jobs, attend university, or work part-time for the army reserve.
The brigade’s units are located across the province with its command station in Vancouver, engineering squadron in Trail, North Vancouver and Chilliwack, and infantry on the coast, Lower Mainland, Kamloops and Prince George.
“Kootenay Cougar provides realistic and challenging training for soldiers of the 39 Canadian Brigade Group,” said Poulton. “Through instilling resolute determination through competition, soldiers will confirm their soldier skills and readiness abilities to respond in support of the Canadian Armed Forces.”