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Operation Nanook arrives
One hundred military personnel expected in Inuvik by the end of the week

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, July 12, 2012

Preparations for the largest military operation based in Inuvik since the Government of Canada closed the Canadian Forces military base in 1985 began this week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Lt.-Col. Glen MacNeil, deputy chief of staff operations and plans with Joint Task Force North, and Capt. Sandra Levesque were the first of many military personnel to arrive in Inuvik this week. The pair were in town Monday for a last pre-mission community consultation in the leadup to Operation Nanook. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

The 2012 operation marks the first time Operation Nanook has held exercises in the Western Arctic. In the past, it has been held exclusively in Nunavut.

"About a year and a half ago there was a conscious decision made that for 2012, the Canadian Forces wanted to make the operation more complex," said Lt.-Col. Glen MacNeil, deputy chief of staff operations and plans with Joint Task Force North. "We're going to do that in a few ways and one of the ways is that we're going to have it in multiple locations in the North."

The Western Arctic portion of this year's exercise will be held in the Inuvik and Tsiigehtchic regions. There are two main goals of the mission, said MacNeil to build a self-contained camp near Inuvik, and then to co-ordinate with other stakeholders during a fictional scenario that will take place around the community of Inuvik.

Military personnel involved in the building of the military camp at the north edge of Inuvik near Old Navy Road began arriving Tuesday, and by the end of this week, 100 members are expected to be on the ground in the area. At its peak, there will be as many as 350 military personnel on the ground in Inuvik during the operation.

The type of camp being built in Inuvik is called an RTC a relocatable temporary camp.

"We want to demonstrate a capability that we can take it and put it anywhere in Canada's North," said MacNeil, who will be commanding the Western Arctic portion of the operation. "So, rather than waiting for a crisis ... we're going to take the opportunity to do it as part of our training during Operation Nanook."

Self-sustained camp

Being able to bring in and set up a self-sustained military camp in the area is essential if the military is going to be able to assist in a real-life situation where support is needed, said MacNeil.

"This allows us to go out and practice it and demonstrate that we can do it and if there are things that we have difficulty doing, then we can learn those lessons when we have the time and can perfect what we're doing so that if there is a crisis or incident somewhere and it's requested that we go in and set up a camp, then we can actually go and do that," said MacNeil.

Construction of the base complete with its own communications system is no small task. MacNeil estimated that about 100 sea cans will be shipped from Montreal to the camp site with supplies for the operation.

The camp is expected to be completed by Aug. 10, at which point some of those 100 troops will travel to Tsiigehtchic to build a more austere camp, while others will stay in Inuvik and help with construction of the Children's First Centre.

"They will be skilled carpenters, electricians (and) plumbers, as well as manual labour," said MacNeil. "So, that should provide some cost-savings to the Children's First Centre."

The centre, which will house Inuvik's early childhood and pre-school programs, is still short funding to finish the $4.4-million project, said Terry Halifax, project co-ordinator. However, the Town of Inuvik has recently released the $2.3 million it pledged to help make the centre a reality. Without that funding, construction would not have gone forward in time to capitalize on the military's donation of service.

"That's going to give a significant boost," said Halifax of the donated labour. "It actually works out better with the delay in the construction schedule. Originally, we would have been done the bulk of the framing so we were wondering what they were going to do.

"Now, we will be right in the framing stage of it so there will be lots of work for many hands."

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