Out on Peg Lake, Yellowknife-based C Company of the Loyal Edmonton Infantry Reserve, took part in a military training exercise known at Wolverine Blizzard 19 during the weekend of Jan 25.
The group, weighed down by gear, skied roughly four kilometres across Kam Lake and arrived at Peg Lake in two hours to set up camp late Friday evening.
“We train at night quite a bit,” Master Cpl. Greg Kinsman said. “We work on communicating through hand signals and getting used to moving at night. With the snow it’s pretty light out but we also get to use night vision monocles sometimes.”
The following morning, the soldiers practised tactical patrolling with snowshoes as well as undertaking a retrieval mission to find stashed food rations.
Cpl. Micheal Camille and Ranger Charlie Quitte from Behchoko joined the exercises to impart practical knowledge to the soldiers on how to live in a winter landscape in an emergency situation.
Part of that training included practising making improvised shelters such as a lean-to out of pine branches and a quinzhee – shelters made from piling up and packing snow before digging out the centre.
The Rangers also showed the reserve soldiers the basics of snaring rabbits with wire.
“Bringing a small piece of copper wire is worth being able to set snares,” Cpl. Ryan Collier said. “You also want to set them near tracks and build a barrier to drive them to the snare. It really only takes five minutes of work to set one up.”
After working on improvised shelters and snares, the reserve unit practised skijoring behind a snowmobile, or a light over-snow vehicle (LOSV).
“The purpose of skijoring is to mobilize as many troops as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Capt. Gerald Fillatre. “With just one LOSV, up to eight soldiers can mobilize to a remote location in a matter of minutes.”
Master Cpl. Kinsman described the activity as “fun,” adding that it’s “something we’ve practice a bit.” Kinsman also mentioned some members of C Company will become part of a team in the Frostbite 50, a Yellowknife snowshoe and ski run held every March.
In the final evening of Wolverine Blizzard 19, the soldiers constructed an improvised shelter as quickly as possible while simulating giving first aid to a solider with hypothermia.
The reserve regiment participates in extended weekend practices once per month, often going to Edmonton.
Last weekend’s exercise took place on public trails and handfuls of civilian snowmobilers passed through while the exercises took place.
Fillatre noted that he always encourages citizens to stop and talk with members of the regiment.
“We always want the public to know what we’re doing. It’s a great opportunity to engage with the community and let them know that we’re always looking to recruit.”
Though the mood was often light and the soldiers said they enjoyed themselves, camping in tight quarters and exercising in extreme winter elements can be challenging.
“It’s certainly difficult,” Master Cpl. David Chafe said. “But now in my career here I can have more of a presence instructing the young guys and give them the discipline, skills and confidence, and I enjoy that.”