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Simpson Rangers patrol High Arctic
Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 13, 2010

ALERT, NUNAVUT - Master Cpl. Mike Byland felt a sense of pride as he travelled on Ward Hunt Island by snowmobile last month.

Byland and Paul Guyot, two Canadian Rangers from Fort Simpson, participated in Operation Nunalivut, a Canadian Forces sovereignty exercise based out of Alert, Nunavut.

NNSL photo/graphic

Canadian Ranger Paul Guyot of Fort Simpson rides in the ceremonial parade in Alert, Nunavut, at the end of Operation Nunalivut. - Jennifer Geens/NNSL photo

"Not only is it a great experience and you get to see the country as it is, you also get to say you put your flags up there and say this is our country and no one else's," Byland said.

The operation, which took place from April 6 to 26, included more than 120 Canadian Forces personnel from across the country, including Arctic Response Company Group soldiers, Air Force Search and Rescue technicians and the Navy's Combined Dive Team. Thirty-two Canadian Rangers from the Yukon, Nunavut and the NWT participated.

The operation was based out of Canadian Forces Station Alert, the world's northernmost permanently inhabited settlement, 817 km from the geographic North Pole.

"Its purpose there was to show we can improve and demonstrate our ability and capabilities to be able to respond to security challenges in the Arctic," said Cpt. Trevor Henderson, one of the public affairs officers with the operation.

The Rangers were divided into five patrols that established camps in and around Alert, on the sea ice 90 km north of Alert and on Ward Hunt Island. The Rangers were tasked with conducting regular snowmobile patrols around their camps. The campaign demonstrated that Rangers can operate in the far North, Henderson said.

Byland was part of the patrol that was based on Ward Hunt Island. The patrol made the approximately 226-km trip to the island by snowmobile, pulling all of their necessary gear in komatiks. The Rangers lived in canvas tents at the camp and subsisted off of rations and some fresh food, including char.

"We did a lot of exploring," Byland said.

One highlight was entering an ice cave during one of the patrols.

"It's beautiful up there," Byland said.

"The different colour of blues in the ice is just phenomenal."

With temperatures averaging -15 to -25 C, it wasn't too cold at the camp, Byland said. The Rangers were also able to experience the almost 24 hours of daylight that occurs this time of the year.

In addition to their patrols, the Rangers had other tasks, including learning how to build snow shelters and how to pick the right snow for igloos and construct them. The Rangers also tested new electronics and other equipment to see how it would stand up to Arctic conditions.

No one lost sight of the fact the operation was all about Canadian sovereignty, Byland said.

"Making sure the world knows we are active and we are able to operate up there," he said.

The operation ended with a ceremonial parade in Alert. All of the Rangers rode in the procession on their snowmobiles. The parade also included 12 dogs and two personnel from the Danish military's Sirius dog sledge patrol, which operates in Greenland.

Now that he's returned to Fort Simpson, Byland is looking forward to rebuilding the village's Ranger patrol. Membership in the patrol has dropped, said Byland, and he hopes that experiences like the Alert operation will draw more participants.

-with files from Jennifer Geens

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