Ontario’s top military commander impressed by Canadian Rangers’ skills on the land
By Canadian Ranger Master Corporal Chris Vernon - Special to The Bulletin
The Commander of the 4th Canadian Division (4DIV) said he was “impressed” after observing the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3CRPG) in action as it conducted its largest Far North exercise since the pandemic struck in early 2020.
More than 125 participants attended Exercise Mobile Ranger from Feb. 21 to 28 in five locations across Northern Ontario. Including in the vicinity of four Canadian Ranger Patrols located in the First Nation communities of Moose Cree in Moose Factory, Nibinamik, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, and Fort Severn. Training was also conducted at Whitefish Lake near Thunder Bay.
Exercise Mobile Ranger was designed to challenge and reinforce the winter capabilities of Ontario’s Canadian Rangers with a focus on cold weather survival, transportation logistics, and operability in an austere and cold environment.
According to 3CRPG Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur, the aim of the exercise was to “shake off the rust” while making a presence in the Far North where 3CRPG operates.
“I think Exercise Mobile Ranger went really well. We completely fulfilled all aspects of our exercise agenda. It’s a positive thing after we come out of the stranglehold of the pandemic,” said Lieutenant-Colonel McArthur.
Exercise Mobile Ranger reinforced various winter fieldcraft skills, including:
• winter survival skills;
• building improvised shelters;
• ice fishing;
• field first-aid;
• operating the Ranger C-19 service rifle in a cold environment;
• operating a snowmobile;
• map and compass navigation in austere field conditions;
• and mobility by way of overland, air charter and winter road systems.
Lieutenant-Colonel McArthur said the exercise was unique because it was the first time in three years that Canadian Rangers have trained with Regular and Primary Reserve Force soldiers from Ontario.
Canadian Rangers in the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Canadian Ranger Patrol taught the Reservists winter survival skills and bushcraft, while in Hannah Bay near the Moose Factory Canadian Ranger Patrol, the Regular Force soldiers trained with Canadian Rangers from Ontario as well as Quebec’s 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (2CRPG).
Members of the 4DIV command team, including Brigadier-General Joshua Major and Sergeant-Major, Chief Warrant Officer Jeramie Leamon, put boots on the ground during the exercise to observe the training first-hand.
It was the first time Brigadier-General Major attended a Canadian Ranger field exercise and he said the 4DIV, responsible for Ontario’s 31, 32, and 33 Canadian Brigade Groups, wants to offer combined training between the Canadian Rangers and army members again in the future.
“Rangers are experts in winter survival, and you can’t cheat this far north. It was a learning experience for me. It is impressive to see what the Rangers do beyond the brochure version. It is not just a military thing, it’s a cultural thing. It’s important for the military and the community,” said Brigadier-General Major.
To verify their training in a real-world scenario, the Reservists were placed in small groups and dropped off on four Big Trout Lake islands where they were required to construct an improvised shelter, build a fire, then hunker down for the night as the temperature plummeted.
“I think the Canadian Armed Forces should incorporate more Ranger training into the army training. It’s brilliant. It was interesting to share different perspectives. I am happy to be here,” said Master Corporal Kevin O’Brien, a Reservist with the Governor General’s Foot Guards.
Members of the Junior Canadian Rangers (JCR) program, a youth organization similar to the national cadet program, also took part in Exercise Mobile Ranger.
JCR training included building improvised shelters, field first-aid, starting a fire in a cold environment, chopping firewood, chainsaw safety, and operating a snowmobile.
Ontario’s Canadian Rangers are predominantly First Nation who are skilled and accustomed to working outdoors in remote areas. They are a sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces reserve force, primarily serving in remote and coastal First Nation communities in Canada.
“The collaboration between the Rangers and the army was impressive,” said 4DIV Sergeant-Major, Chief Warrant Officer Leamon.
Today, Canadian Rangers conduct surveillance in Canada’s remote areas, sovereignty patrols, search-and-rescue, disaster relief, and training of other armed forces personnel with survival skills.
Last year, Ontario Rangers participated in 21 ground search-and-rescue missions, rescuing 31 people, including two stranded truckers on an ice road, an injured Attawapiskat First Nation snowmobiler, and two young hunters whose all-terrain vehicles broke down, leaving them stranded about 100 kilometres away from their communities.
3CRPG is headquartered at Canadian Forces Base Borden, near Barrie, Ont.
Although the fish weren't biting, participants in this year's Debbie Hill Memorial Ice Fishing Derby said it was still a great event.
Hosted by the Sioux Lookout Anglers and Hunters on March 19 on Bigwood Lake, approximately 120 people came out to fish.