Military staging weekend exercise in town

Duane Hicks

If you see soldiers in fatigues and driving military vehicles in town this weekend, there’s no need for alarm–it’s only a test.
Army reservists from the 116th Independent Field Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery in Kenora will be using the area north of the Fort Frances Curling Club late Friday through Sunday for Exercise “Frosty Gunner.”
While the soldiers will be training out in the bush most of the weekend, there will be a “focused display” right near the curling club on Saturday from 1-2:30 p.m.
This will entail the reservists setting up their tents, pulling toboggans with all of their equipment on it while wearing snowshoes, building fires and boiling water as quickly as they can, and more, Maj. Jon Baker told the Times.
For those interested in learning more about joining the army reserves, a recruitment information booth also will be set up Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in the curling club parking lot.
“The purpose of the exercise is our annual winter training indoctrination,” Maj. Baker explained.
“The Canadian Army has said that every soldier, regardless of their trade in the military, even if they’re cooks or clerks or vehicle technicians, has to be able to live and operate in a winter environment.
“Every year, we have to have at least one training weekend where we live out in our tents in the cold and practice navigations and other skills,” he noted.
“Even just the routine that comes with our tent–setting it up, tearing it down on a fairly quick basis, pulling it ourselves with snowshoes and a toboggan.”
He noted it’s “fairly low-level training” done on an annual basis.
This time, however, instead of picking a location in the boreal forest near Kenora, the 116th Independent Field Battery decided to come to Fort Frances and pick an area near the edge of town, where they still could do their training but also was accessible by the public who can come out and watch.
“It’s the second-largest community in our recruiting catchment area, and we decided that we need to spend a little more time in this neck of the woods,” said Maj. Baker.
“We want to remind the public that we’re the army reserve unit of Northwestern Ontario,” he noted.
“That includes not just Kenora, where we’re based out of, but Fort Frances and Rainy River and Dryden and as far north as Red Lake.
“We [also] have some soldiers that come in from Sioux Lookout,” he added.
For more information about the army reserves, drop by the curling club this Saturday.