Canadian Rangers exchange remote patrol skills with Australian counterparts

Article / December 15, 2015 / Project number: 15-0193

Esquimalt, British Columbia  — The 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (4 CRPG) hosted 10 members of the Australian Defence Force’s North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE) during Exercise NORTHERN LIGHTS (Ex NL) from October 10 to 25, 2015.

The exercise was the Canadian half of an exchange which saw members of 4 CRPG train with NORFORCE in Australia’s Northern Territory in the summer of 2015. The intent of Exercise NORTHERN LIGHTS is to strengthen ties with Australia, an allied nation, and to allow the exchange of tactics, techniques and procedures between two units faced with similar challenges, roles, missions and tasks. The exercise was successful in providing a challenging developmental opportunity for each country’s respective units and served to strengthen the bonds between the Canadian and Australian Armies.

NORFORCE is one of the Australian Army’s three Regional Force Surveillance Units (RFSUs). The RFSUs are unique regiments whose mission is to conduct long-range reconnaissance and surveillance patrols in the sparsely populated and remote regions of northern and western Australia. Like the Canadian Rangers, RFSUs are largely made up of indigenous people who typically live in the remote areas that they patrol. As a result, the exercises also provided an opportunity for cultural awareness.

During Ex NL, the NORFORCE soldiers participated in training in three of the four provinces in which 4 CRPG operates, exposing them to a broad range of geographic and climatic conditions.

In British Columbia, the training focused on the rugged northwest coast of Vancouver Island. The Gold River Canadian Ranger patrol hosted the Australians at Yoquot (Friendly Cove) on Nootka Island, a traditional Mowachaht/Muchalaht (Nuu-chah-nulth) First Nations community. There, they introduced them to the difficulties of operating in the rugged coastal environment. The humidity and cold temperatures were quite a shock for the Australians who are used to year-round temperatures of 35C and higher. Despite the temperatures being well above freezing, the NORFORCE troops were quick to don their borrowed Canadian parkas.

The exercise continued with the Australians being hosted by the Grande Cache Canadian Ranger Patrol in Alberta, where they experienced a shortened version of 4 CRPG’s Basic Wilderness Survival Training course. The NORFORCE soldiers found this training to be particularly interesting as they frequently operate deep in the Australian bush. Despite the obvious differences between northern Australia and western Canada in terms of geography, climate, and flora and fauna, it was noted that many survival skills are universally applicable and the Australians’ only complaint was that the training was not long enough. It should also be noted that the Canadian Rangers’ only complaint was that the weather was not nearly cold enough!

The Alberta portion of the exercise also included a quick stop in one of Canada’s premier outdoor locations: Jasper National Park. It didn’t take long for the very fit NORFORCE soldiers to feel the effects of altitude when hiking over its mountainous terrain.

An exchange such as this would be incomplete without venturing into the Canadian sub-Arctic and so the last leg of the exercise took the NORFORCE soldiers to Churchill, Manitoba. There, the Australians received training on the region’s history and culture, as well as information from local trappers and Parks Canada officials on wildlife and the environment. The Australians also enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime as polar bears had begun to gather in the area in anticipation of the sea ice forming over Hudson Bay, which allows them to begin hunting seal.

By the end of the exercise, the NORFORCE troops had become more accustomed to the Canadian cold, though they remained thankful for the warm clothing 4 CRPG had provided. Coming from a hot climate, the Australians were as impressed by the Canadian Rangers’ ability to operate in the cold as our Canadian Rangers were that the Australians can operate in extreme heat.

The Canadian Rangers and NORFORCE soldiers were all very impressed with the quality of the respective training and cultural experiences shared within the exchange, as were the 4 CRPG staff and the two units’ command teams. The many similarities between the units, including their unique mandates, cultures, and skill sets, created an ideal environment for the exchange.

By Captain Steven Parker, 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group

Date modified: