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Learning lessons on the land

Rangers partake in map reading and marksmanship and hone survival skills

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Nov 30/01) - A four-day, land-based exercise may sound challenging in itself, but even getting to and from the location can be arduous.

NNSL Photo

Members of the Fort Simpson Ranger patrol ventured to Cli Lake and Little Doctor Lake to sharpen their skills as part of Exercise Nanook Ranger last week. The Rangers held target practise with C-7 automatic rifles, .303 rifles 9-mm handguns. - Lynn Wharton/NNSL photo

That's what Ranger Lynn Wharton found out when accompanying 13 fellow members of the Fort Simpson Ranger Patrol Group to Cli Lake and Little Doctor Lake last week.

She was accustomed to riding snowmobiles on the flat terrain of the Eastern Arctic, not tackling the snow drifts of the Deh Cho.

"Here, it's like riding a horse. You have to stay on the thing. It's a very physical activity," she said.

Wharton said there were points where she had to overcome her fears of traversing ice and riding across a narrow bridge.

After several hours on a snowmobile, the Rangers made camp at Cli Lake.

"I have the utmost respect for the people that spend lots of time out there," Wharton said.

"Boy, it takes hard work ... (but) I loved it. The scenery is beautiful.""

The Rangers also practiced map and compass-reading and tried out their hand-held global positioning satellite devices. Technology has made things easier, but there's no substitute for a basic grounding in orienteering, according to Wharton.

"You still need to know where you are and be able to read the map so you can understand what sort of perils are around," she said.

The marksmanship competition was a popular event, evidenced by the Rangers eagerly gathering around the table to study the posted results after Tuesday's drill at the Fort Simpson recreation centre. Mike Byland was the top shooter with a score of 46 points out of a possible 50. He was followed closely by Gord Villeneuve, who totalled 45 points and Randy Sibbeston with 44.

Byland said he tries to avoid becoming tense on the firing range.

"I just let 'em go as quick as I can get 'em out," he said. "I find if you wait too long the more flustered you get and you start to shake."

Jim Villeneuve, voted Fort Simpson's patrol sergeant for the fifth year, said he was pleased with overall outcome.

"The exercise went very well," he said.

Sgt. Denis Lalonde, an army instructor from Yellowknife who was also involved in the exercise, commended Villeneuve for his leadership. Lalonde said he was also impressed with the Rangers' ability on the land, particularly Ranger Paul Guyot's skills as a scout.

The Rangers elected Dennis Nelner as their master corporal, while John Homister and Bob Hanna will remain corporals.