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Satellite down in military exercise
Rangers play key role in Arctic Ram near Resolute

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, February 29, 2016

Canadian Rangers play a key role in Arctic exercises conducted by the Canadian military, such as Arctic Ram 2016 from Feb. 8 to 22 on the land outside of Resolute.

Maj. James Meredith with Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) said 15 Canadian Rangers were part of the exercise that involves a complex chain of response which changes depending on a given situation.

The ARCG is part of the 38 Brigade Group and soldiers hail from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and a portion of northwestern Ontario. The group of approximately 120 soldiers is trained to deploy at a moment's notice to the North. Of the soldiers involved in Arctic Ram, the response company worked the most closely with the Rangers.

"Should weather impede a fast response from the Forces, Rangers would generally be a first response," said Meredith. "The situation will dictate, but it would be SAR Tech (Canadian Forces Search and Rescue Technicians) then IRU (Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit), then domestic response unit. Rangers would be asked by the RCMP. It would have to be a large situation for the military to be involved."

The Arctic Ram scenario was a satellite down.

"A satellite had crashed down in the area of Resolute Bay. The regular force from PPCLI (Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry) Bravo Company, they jumped in as the initial response unit to be able to get feet on the ground as fast as possible," said Meredith.

"Then the ARCG, which is the follow-on organization, which has a few more bodies, we were there for a longer, extended period of time conducting a more detailed search in some other areas. The Rangers, because of their intricate knowledge, they're right there to provide assistance right off the bat."

Meredith says the Rangers supply vital information to the Army.

"They supply so much knowledge of how to operate and live and survive in the Arctic. They were able to show my soldiers how to cut snow blocks properly for snow walls around their tents. (The soldiers) also learned how to operate machines in harsh conditions. They also learned about cultural aspects of how to work with the Rangers."

Eight Nunavut-based Rangers worked directly with Meredith's group, which spent a night at the Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Training Centre northwest of Resolute Bay, on a compound shared with the Polar Continental Shelf Program.

For the remainder of the exercise, they lived in tents as they moved. When the soldiers travelled, moving as a platoon of between 25 and 30 people, at least two Rangers moved with them.

"We always had at least two Rangers with us to help lead the way. As well, if there were any problems that we had, they were in the rear to help pick up and pass along information, be it snowmobile maintenance, how to tie a qamutik properly, looking out if we have some frostbite."

Meredith says the Rangers do a phenomenal job and he describes the rapport developed over the years as "amazing."

"The interaction between the Canadian Rangers and the ARCG has been an ongoing relationship for the last eight years," he said. "Every exercise that we have, an Arctic Ram or an Arctic Bison, we have always incorporated working with the Rangers. That's been in Churchill, Kugaaruk, Arviat, Yellowknife. This year especially we were working with the Rangers from Resolute Bay, some from Arctic Bay."

As for the Arctic Response Company Group, it's made up entirely of reservists.

"All of them volunteered. That was 112 up into Resolute Bay - students, police constables, teachers, mechanics, a very wide-ranging group of people that come together," said Meredith.

"Just from the soldiers themselves, they enjoyed so much the learning that the Rangers provide to them. They're trying to learn as many skills and they take those skills the Rangers teach them and take them on future Arctic exercises.

"The benefit is just outstanding."

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