A Sqn currently has the honour of being the vanguard Coy of the Immediate Reaction Unit, or IRU, which is the first stabilizing force, coming in just after the first responders, to any number of natural or man made disasters, which have the capacity to overwhelm normal emergency services. The capabilities that we bring to the table are our quick reaction capability, self-sufficiency, ability to live in any environment for extended periods of time and muscle; be that for manual labour or security services.
In preparation for this task, A Sqn recently deployed on Ex TRILLIUM RESPONSE (TR) in Cochrane Ont. The exercise scenario, designed by DND, but incorporating many other agencies, including the OPP, involved a mock air disaster 500Km in the middle of nowhere. We knew ahead of time where and when this was happening, but we didnít really know what was happening. So, we spent the previous month training for every possible scenario we could think of and did a lot of work up training in order to ensure that our Sqn was prepared, not so much for the exercise, but for the actual task itself. We ran snowmobile courses, navigation exercises, two rounds of basic winter warfare, live ranges, a week in garrison preparing for a week in the field where we put it all into practice, and snow-shoed everywhere we went.
The nice thing about working in the civilian world, outside of our training area, is that you never know where you are going to end up and who you will meet. Our forward operating base (FOB) was an airplane hangar at the Cochrane airport. A tiny landing strip at the doorstep of the arctic tundra with a few outbuildings and a hangar and a half; the half one is either currently under construction or recently destroyed, we couldnít tell which.
1Tp got to go and secure the crash site via air-bridge (Griffon helicopter), 3 Tp secured the airport and 2 Tp had to figure out how to travel the [notional] 500kms from our location to the crash site, bush-bashing snowmobiles through the woods, discovering and marking the trail for follow on forces. In actual fact, it was only 60k and there are more snowmobile trails than roads in Cochrane.
When the first elements of 1Tp were flying into the crash site, we did not know what to expect. Sometimes, in our training we have to imagine certain things: notional enemy, air support or injuries. When we got our first glimpse of the crash, there was nothing notional or imaginary about it. An actual passenger aircraft, in three segments, lay ploughed into the snow in a clearing in the woods. Actual Search and Rescue technicians (SAR) out of Trenton, and follow on airmobile forces with skids and skids of medical and survival supplies preceded us. By the time we got on the ground, the first responding forces had the scene secured, the casualties (played by our brothers and sisters from the reserves) treated, counted, fed and tucked into nice bright orange beds in a nice bright orange tent with a heater. Our training had prepared us to do exactly this, which was already done. The only thing they needed us for was to evacuate the casualties with our air bridge and to hand the site over to us. We established and maintained security on the site and did just that. It was a far less onerous task than we expected, but our training was to prepare us for the actual job of IRU, not the final exercise.
To the untrained eye, it might have looked like we were hanging out by a giant campfire, but in actuality we were providing an invaluable service to the agencies which need to get to and work at the crash site: OPP, MTSB, the Provincial Coronersí office, and potentially others. We ensured that their site was uncontaminated, secure and that the agencies that needed it, had a means to get information about the crash site and a means to get there.
Once we had completed our part, we handed the site over to the remediation team from the Arctic Response Unit, reservists whose sole task is to travel to and live in the north. Our Sqn complete deployed to the Tim Hortonís Centre in Cochrane Ont, a local arena where the town was gracious enough to host us in order to get some much needed rest prior to making the long trip back to CFB Petawawa. As a special treat, we were invited to watch a midget AAA Hockey game between the Cochrane team and their playoff rivals from Timmins. I think that the good folks of Cochrane will be taking about that game for years and years to come. We were not sure what the players thought when, quite suddenly and without warning, and entire Sqn of Cad-patted soldiers descended upon their arena and cheered for them. The ground shook and plates rattled in cupboards all over town when the ĎCochrane Rushí scored their first goal. We quickly learned some of the players names from the local people sitting among us. What must Tony have thought as an entire Sqn of soldiers cheered him on by name? How did they know? Thank your cousin in the front row. Undoubtedly, as a result of our support, the team was victorious. Morale, both the teamís and the Sqnís, was never higher. Between the successful completion of a very good exercise, our new found confidence in our ability and opportunity to give back to Canadians the support they have shown us, and a great game of hockey, it was a very good week. Thanks again to the people of Cochrane for your outstanding hospitality and support.
EX Trillium Response 2012