About 200 Canadian soldiers began a winter warfare exercise in an unusually balmy weather on Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba Friday.
Dubbed Arctic Bison, the biennial winter exercise will see approximately 100 members of the Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) travel by snowmobile from Gimli on the southwestern shore of Lake Winnipeg northeast to Berens Island, with additional soldiers remaining in Gimli at the exercise headquarters or in supporting roles, the Army said in a press release.
The exercise is designed to train members of the Regular and Reserve Forces of the Canadian Army in conducting long-range patrols, ground search and rescue, and casualty evacuation in the unforgiving environment of Canada’s North.
Manitoba’s harsh winters and the frozen expanse of Lake Winnipeg usually provide a perfect stand-in for the Arctic. But this year, soldiers begin their exercise with temperatures hovering around 4C, when the normal temperature for this time of the year ranges between -8C and -20C.
And temperatures are expected to remain above freezing for almost half of the ten-day exercise, according to Environment Canada’s meteorological forecast.
The exercise will test the ability of the ARCG to operate, communicate, and sustain itself over 200 kilometres from its support base, according the Army’s press release.
Each of Canada’s four Army Divisions has an ARCG. The members of this force come primarily from the Army Reserve, and are trained and equipped to operate in all Arctic conditions, the military says.
Exercise ARCTIC BISON 2017 will involve participation from 38 Canadian Brigade Group (CBG), as well as soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, and 440 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The Canadian Rangers, a sub-component of the Reserve, are the military’s eyes and ears in the North, and regularly assist with training and exercises conducted by the ARCGs. Rangers act as guides and scouts, as well as teaching troops vital survival and land skills.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canadian Rangers to get new rifles, ditch WWII era Lee Enfields, Radio Canada International
Norway: Norway patrolling Russia’s military activity in Arctic with new intelligence vessel, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Paratrooper exercises over Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: National draft may be reintroduced in Sweden by 2019, Radio Sweden
United States: U.S. general says Alaska military cuts not final without Arctic plan, Alaska Public Radio Network