Exercise Northern Lights 2019 – cross training with the Australians

Major James Oliver, Australia’s North-West Mobile Force Arnhem Squadron Commanding Officer, pictured left, and his Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class One Kenneth Nelliman, lay a unit wreath at the B.C. legislature cenotaph during the Remembrance Day service. Photo by Lieutenant Natasha Tersigni

Major James Oliver, Australia’s North-West Mobile Force Arnhem Squadron Commanding Officer, pictured left, and his Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class One Kenneth Nelliman, lay a unit wreath at the B.C. legislature cenotaph during the Remembrance Day service. Photo by Lieutenant Natasha Tersigni

Lt Natasha Tersigni, 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group Public Affairs Officer ~

Ten members of the Australian Army Reserve’s North-West Mobile Force traded their sunhats for toques and travelled to British Columbia for Exercise Northern Lights 2019 hosted by the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4CRPG).

The Australian Army Reserve unit and 4 CRPG have shared hosting yearly unit exchanges since 2011 to give a better understanding of each other’s training and practices.

The military units are both wilderness living experts with extensive knowledge of the land where they operate, and both contribute to their country’s national security and public safety in remote, isolated areas.

“This ongoing exchange has proven immensely successful with many best practices learned on both sides, as well as valuable cultural exchanges, including an understanding of Aboriginal culture,” said Lieutenant Colonel Russ Meades, Commanding Officer of 4 CRPG. “This exchange not only strengthens our respective units, but bolsters the ties between Canada and Australia, two quite similar allied Pacific Rim countries.”

Training activities took place from Nov. 10 to 22, delivered by Canadian Rangers in Victoria, Terrace, and Smithers, British Columbia. Training included operating the Canadian Ranger C19 service rifle; learning about predators that might be encountered in northern British Columbia; avalanche safety; equipment used while patrolling the backcountry; helicopter operations in winter conditions; overnight operations in the backcountry; and snowmobiling on the Hudson Bay Mountain.

“It is just incredible the number of similarities we have with the Canadian Rangers,” said Major James Oliver, Officer in Charge of NORFORCE’s Arnhem Squadron. “The distance in remote areas our governments require us to patrol, the areas where we recruit soldiers from, the amount of information that we rely on from soldiers in this remote communities, that is just the tip of the iceberg.”

While the tasks are similar between the units, it is the climate difference that is the biggest challenge.

“We perform similar tasks to the Canadian Rangers, but the cold weather environment, it adds that extra layer of resilience for our soldiers to develop. We make the troops uncomfortable, which is not hard to do with the climate here in Canada right now,” said Major Oliver. “These soldiers have never even seen their breath before, so this is pushing them out of their comfort zone.”

Now that Exercise Northern Lights 2019 has wrapped-up, the focus has shifted to Exercise Southern Cross 2020, where members of 4 CRPG will travel to Australia to work with the Australian Army Reserve’s North-West Mobile.

“Next year, in August 2020, we will be reciprocating the training exchange and we will be teaching the Canadian Rangers that come over to Australia on how to operate and live in a hot climate,” said Maj Oliver.

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