1st Canadian Division champions joint exercises

A soldier from the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), conducts a security check on a “Canadian citizen” entering the processing centre. Photo by Capt Elizabeth Tremblay-Lewicki, 2 Wing Public Affairs

A soldier from the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), conducts a security check on a “Canadian citizen” entering the processing centre. Photo by Capt Elizabeth Tremblay-Lewicki, 2 Wing Public Affairs

Exercise Ready Renaissance, Exercise Ready Angle prove whole of government approach

Capt Jeff Manney, NDPAO Vancouver ~

Despite moving more than 290 navy, army and air force members to British Columbia in April to practice large-scale evacuations of Canadian citizens in an unruly country and bring them to a safe-haven, there wasn’t much to see on Exercise Ready Angle 17.

That, of course, is precisely the point when the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), working at the behest of Global Affairs Canada, is asked to withdraw Canadians from hostile or dangerous situations abroad.

“Discretion is a key element of a non-combatant evacuation operation,” says Exercise Director Col Normand Gagné, 1st Canadian Division. “No government wants to see large numbers of foreign armed soldiers on its territory. So when Canadians are in danger in another nation, it is expected that CAF personnel have authorization to not wear their uniform. We need to be low-key and agile, moving in numbers small enough not to arouse alarm. Coordination with our government partners is critical, which is why this type of integrated training is so important.”

Twice this year, Vancouver Island was the fictitious nation of Macadamia, as the regions of Nanaimo, Comox and Port Alberni hosted exercises to support the 1st Canadian Division’s unique skillset and mandate.

In February, “Macadamia” suffered a major earthquake and tsunami. Exercise Ready Renaissance tested the ability of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to react to a major disaster in another nation.

In late April, the government of “Macadamia” was unable to adequately restore services, and the social order was faltering. Armed gangs roamed the streets. Macadamia’s security services were carrying out extra-judicial killings. The Canadian ambassador decides it was time for Global Affairs Canada to execute a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) for “Canadian and eligible persons” – Canadian citizens or others deemed eligible for Canadian support – to “safe havens” in nearby countries.

“In spite of our significant, joint capabilities, we are not the lead in such a mission,” says Col Gagné. “We are enablers for Global Affairs Canada. They call the shots, we bring an effective, finely tuned skill-set to bear.”

In both exercises, (DART and NEO), the Joint Task Force included a fully integrated CAF response: ships from the Royal Canadian Navy protecting the sea lanes; aircraft, airspace control, surveillance and the ability to assess and prove an aerodrome from the Royal Canadian Air Force; and security, protection, and logistics from the Canadian Army.

Added to this truly joint capability is a close integration with government partners. Under the leadership of Global Affairs Canada personnel; the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and Public Safety all provided input to the exercises, as they would in a real-world situation.

“This is as ‘joint’ as Canada can get,” says Col Gagné.

On Macadamia that integration saw military teams criss-crossing the Island, reconnoitering access routes to Canadians in danger. Role-players acting as evacuees gathered at hastily erected processing sites, where Global Affairs Canada staff validated their claims to citizenship.

Finally, it was time to move to the designated safe haven, represented by HMCS Discovery in Vancouver. Evacuees boarded a B.C. ferry for a trip across the Strait of Georgia, under the watchful eye of their 3 Princess Patricia Canadian Light Invoice security team, an orbiting CP-140 Aurora, and the ferry’s escort, HMCS Brandon.

“Exercise Ready Angle demonstrates again that collective training is our great strength,” says Col Gagné. “It’s vital that we test our interoperability to ensure Canadians abroad can be safely removed from harm’s way should the need ever arise.”

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