Army soldiers complete major exercise in Greenstone Region

Image: Bombardier Julia Currie, 31 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs, DND 2020
Image: Bombardier Julia Currie, 31 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs, DND 2020

Approximately 200 soldiers from local Canadian Army Reserve units completed NOREX 20 on March 8, 2020. Troops from London, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor, Barrie, and multiple other communities across Southwestern Ontario took part.

NOREX is run by the Toronto-headquartered 4th Canadian Division (4 Cdn Div), which is the Army command for the majority of Ontario. The exercise takes place in Canada’s Arctic or North, with this year’s operations conducted in the Municipality of Greenstone, approximately 300 km Northeast of Thunder Bay from February 28 – March 8, 2020.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Meehan, NOREX 20 Exercise Director says, “This challenging exercise was an incredible opportunity for our soldiers to test their survivability, mobility, and sustainability in the North, while ensuring that we can provide critical support when and where Canadians need us.”

This major exercise was conducted by 4 Cdn Div’s Arctic Response Company Group’s (ARCG), a specialized sub-unit that maintains an ability to command, move, and communicate under harsh weather conditions in remote locations. The ARCG is the mission task of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters, of Barrie and Owen Sound, and is reinforced with soldiers drawn from across 31 Canadian Brigade Group, based in London, which has units all across Southwestern Ontario.

Exercises like NOREX 20 fulfill several pillars of Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, to include enhancing the Canadian Armed Forces’ presence in the region by demonstrating mobility, reach, and footprint. These capabilities are required to better respond to the needs of those residing in Arctic and Northern communities with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, whenever needed.

NOREX 20 participants engaged local leadership and citizen groups to enhance emergency preparedness and foster the lines of communication required to respond to crises in isolated communities. Local Northern experts from the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group supported the effort to reinforce partnerships in the area, and help ensure readiness to respond to emergencies like wild-fires and floods, for example.

Throughout the exercise, soldiers demonstrated arctic survival and winter warfare skills in a harsh climate, including the maintenance and operation of snow vehicles and communications gear, operating survival equipment, and conducting patrols in both austere environments and within local communities.

“NOREX 20 demonstrated our ability to rapidly respond to emergencies in the far North within its austere and harsh winter conditions. These exercises help to improve and sustain our skills in support of Canada’s defence priorities in the North, and to serve our most remote communities,” concludes Colonel Joe Robinson, Commander 31 Canadian Brigade Group.

Quick Facts

  • 4th Canadian Division is responsible for all Canadian Army Regular and Reserve Force elements in Ontario, with the exception of a portion of northwestern Ontario that falls under the 3rd Canadian Division (Edmonton).
  • NOREX 20 deployed the 4 Cdn Div Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) who conducted a major road move from CFB Boden to the training area on February 28, 2020.
  • The ARCG is composed mainly of Reserve Force members from 31 Canadian Brigade Group, primarily consisting of members from the Grey and Simcoe Foresters based in Barrie and Owen Sound, Ontario.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces are committed to maintaining the highest degree of capability to respond to civil disasters at home. Formations such as the ARCG ensure the 4th Canadian Division is ready to respond to disasters in cold weather conditions.
  • The Canadian Rangers are part of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Reserve, working in remote regions. They provide lightly-equipped, self-sufficient mobile forces to support CAF national security and public safety operations within Canada.
  • The 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group commands the Canadian Ranger patrols that are Canada’s army in the remote coastal and inland regions of Northern Ontario and report to the 4th Canadian Division.
  • Canadian Rangers provide a range of specialized services to the peoples in their area, including humanitarian assistance, local search and rescue, rapid response for disaster situations, such as aircraft crashes, and support for evacuation in natural emergencies, such as forest fires and floods.
  • While operating in Canada’s North, the CAF often works in close partnership with other federal, territorial, and local partners