Fighting with the elements

Justin Crann
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Saskatchewan Dragoons train for frigid conditions

The Saskatchewan Dragoons were fighting a different sort of enemy in Wakamow Valley this weekend.

Members of the Dragoons took to the valley Saturday to practice winter operations tactics.

"We're learning about the cold weather operations: dealing with the cold, equipment, the added clothing layers, setting up and taking down the tent in wintertime and dealing with frozen ground," explained Capt. Matthew Bittner. "The principles can be applied no matter how cold the temperature."

Among the skills developed in the exercises were cold weather patrols, tent up and down procedures, and winter survival, according to Cpl. Austin Nancarrow.

Participants were split into "tent groups" of five men (the capacity for each tent), Nancarrow said.

Each group was comprised of a commanding officer, a second-in-command, a navigator and "the two guys pulling the sled — your pack mules, basically," he noted.

The sled contained the tent, rations, stove and lanterns needed for survival, Nancarrow said. 

"Basically everything is in there, other then your personal kit," he added.

Once the team finds a good position to pitch their tent — and provided all of the right conditions are met — every Dragoon has a specific job, Nancarrow said.

"You have a guy getting the stove going while everything else is being set up, and a guy inside with the tent pole. Everyone else is staking down the lines, and the commander patrols the tent to make sure everything is going smoothly," he explained.

Though the process may seem painstaking and tedious, Bittner said a practical application exists for the skills.

"Right now, (the Dragoons) are part of the Arctic Response Company, so we have a few guys participating with that ever year," he said. "They go and do a big exercise up north … that's where they'll be using these skills, or if at any point in time we are deployed."

Nancarrow said he was a veteran of the Arctic Response Company.

"I was with (them) last year. We were up north at Candle Lake, and it was -30 or so. It was important to get the tent up and get the stove in there as quick as possible so you could at least have somewhere to warm up quickly," he said.

"Not freezing to death and not lighting your tent on fire — those are the big priorities," added Nancarrow.

Organizations: Arctic Response Company

Geographic location: Wakamow Valley, Candle Lake

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