Island Reservists mount up for Exercise Strong Drive

A platoon from Land Task Force Vancouver Island’s Domestic Response Company assemble at Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot Rocky Point before returning to base May 6. Photo by Capt Jeff Manney, LCC D/PAO

A platoon from Land Task Force Vancouver Island’s Domestic Response Company assemble at Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot Rocky Point before returning to base May 6. Photo by Capt Jeff Manney, LCC D/PAO

Capt Jeff Manney, Public Affairs Officer, 39 Canadian Brigade Group ~

Making their first foray from their armouries since the start of the pandemic, B.C. Reservists took to Vancouver Island roads two weeks ago to continue honing their skills working in a COVID environment.

On May 6, Exercise Strong Drive saw the Domestic Response Company (DRC) from Land Task Force – Vancouver Island dispatch a fleet of nine vehicles from Victoria’s Bay Street Armoury and another three from Nanaimo.

Soldiers conducted convoy and communications training en route to Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot Rocky Point. Two days later, 17 DRC vehicles carrying troops from Comox, Nanaimo, and Victoria met up at the Nanaimo Military Camp before heading into the city’s environs for more training.

“We are all Reservists; we care about our communities and Vancouver Island has a significant amount of land to cover,” says LCol Brendon LeBlanc, commanding officer of Land Task Force – Vancouver Island. “We want to be good at convoy ops so we can deliver assistance when called upon. That means having a task force that is flexible, well-trained, and prepared to handle any situation.”

LCol LeBlanc’s Land Task Force is one of five across British Columbia answering to Land Component Command. It represents the army element of Joint Task Force (Pacific), which is mobilized to respond to requests for assistance from government on either the COVID front or for natural disasters such as wildfires or floods.

While convoy driving and communications skills may be second nature to soldiers, correctly disinfecting vehicles, staying at least two metres from one another, and wearing masks when that’s not possible is new to everyone. 

“We must be confident in all of these aspects while protecting ourselves and others from COVID, so learning how to operate while wearing personal protective equipment and physical distancing is critical,” says LCol LeBlanc.

In addition to the actual driving, Exercise Strong Drive featured plenty of theory as well. At each stop, soldiers dismounted and broke into groups, thinking through their likely actions in the event of emergencies, breakdowns, or traffic control in a COVID environment.

“It’s important that each soldier has developed these thought processes,” says LCol LeBlanc. “They need to be prepared in the event they are faced with a real-life situation.”

If that all sounds a little heavy for these perilous times, LCol LeBlanc says the exercise had a positive impact on morale. After all, this was a chance for his troops to get out of the house and see their friends again, enjoy some glorious Vancouver Island scenery, and improve their skills.

“Soldiers always prefer action training to conceptual training,” he says. “Coming together, learning to work in close quarters with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), it improves everyone’s confidence.”

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Filed Under: Top Stories

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