Over 200 Canadian Forces Military Engineers out of Gagetown descended upon 5 Wing Goose Bay this past February. 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR) came to the Base in order to take part in Exercise NORTHERN SAPPER conducted on the Wing from Feb.17 through 29.
EX. NORTHERN SAPPER was a combined 4 ESR and Canadian Ranger exercise intended to provide cross-training between both units. Participants of the exercise got to experience Labrador’s pristine beauty first hand during numerous long range patrols. They also practiced winter warfare and survival skills including weapons training. The construction of an entire ice road was also accomplished during 4 ESR’s short stay at 5 Wing. With so much to do EX. NORTHERN SAPPER proved to be an intense but enjoyable exercise for both 4 ESR and the Canadian Rangers. It was an excellent opportunity for both units to work together and learned from each other. All the members of 4 ESR that I spoke to had great admiration and respect for the Rangers. Over, and over again I was told about how invaluable the Rangers were during the Exercise due to their local knowledge, their skills both traditional and modern and their eagerness to share that knowledge.
The Engineers brought in 60 snow machines for the exercise. These were used as transportation for long range patrols. These patrols were led by the Canadian Rangers and took the members 80 km out along Lake Melville. They would then set up camp, practice winter survival skills before bunking down for a night or two, then heading back the next day. All 4 ESR members had to complete a snowmobile driver course here at 5 Wing before they were permitted to operate the sleds no matter if they had experience or not.
Unfortunately not even a snowmobile course could stop some members from getting stuck occasionally, but that did not dishearten those who took part. After all, most of them had never seen so much snow before and according to Capt Jeffery Day, many members of 4 ESR wished the exercise was longer.
“5 Wing Goose Bay and surrounding area was ideal for NOTHERN SAPPER, because of its climate, the snow conditions, and the infrastructure on the base.” Said Capt Jeffery Day “We don’t have anything like this in Gagetown.”
Members of 4 ESR really enjoyed the pristine beauty that the Big Land offered, and working with the traditional knowledge past on to them from the Northern Rangers.
Military Exercises and operations like NORTHERN SAPPER demonstrate sovereignty in the north and enhance the skills of Canadian Military and Canadian Rangers by using their knowledge, skills and experience in a challenging environment. Members of 4 Engineer Support Regiment practice weapons training in snow and icy conditions at 5 Wing during exercise NORTHERN SAPPER. It is important to hone these skills as there are many challenges to working with equipment in an arctic environment.