Saskatchewan reservists land in river for training

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Members of HMCS Unicorn take a moment in the K158 Annex boatshed after a busy training exercise.

If you believe in sun gods, then they certainly smiled down on HMCS Unicorn Oct. 18 as members of the stone frigate took to the South Saskatchewan River for the final official boat exercise.

The summer-like weather bolstered the spirits of Port and Starboard watch commanders, who responded to scenarios based on supporting other government departments at the direction of Domestic Operations.

This training exercise had watch officers reacting to a HAZMAT spill, patrolling the river, assisting in search and rescue, and providing first aid as required. Watch officers had to make decisions while running the Operations Centre, which included managing the unfolding situation and giving orders to their sailors accordingly.

The first task was to move to the boat launch by the Broadway Bridge to stand ready to assist after a briefing at Unicorn. The Operations Centre was stood up with boats and personnel launched, and at the ready to receive further instruction. In the first scenario, sailors located and assisted a casualty; this was accomplished by a small search party on the shoreline, and a water search that involved Unicorn’s hurricane and zodiac.

“It is interesting to see how each person approaches problems,” said Lt(N) Nick Tien, Unicorn’s Training Officer. “They have to figure it out.”

A Unicorn first happened; when the starboard watch relieved the port watch in the afternoon a second Operations Centre location was used in the exercise to test Unicorn’s readiness and reaction capabilities. The Operations Centre was quickly torn down and boats recovered to move to the new site – a boat launch north of the first site. This scenario had the search parties looking for a missing man.

The exercise was well received as a valuable training day.

“It is great to get Hurricane experience,” said AB Etienne Levesque, a junior boatswain.  He spent the bulk of the day training on the river. “I am getting to know what the sounds are like when sand gets in the engine – that is the challenge of a sandy bottomed river.”

Unicorn will continue to make use of lessons learned that came from this evolution, and carry on with challenging training for 2015. As the inevitable happens, the river turns into its annual frosty winter state; a spring river is always a welcome sight to prairie sailors who are ready to get their boots wet.

SLt Alicia Morris, HMCS Unicorn

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