Canadian Rangers Complete Massive Search and Rescue Training Operation

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Master Corporal Charlie Barkman leads a search team for a missing person in Sachigo Lake
Master Corporal Charlie Barkman leads a search team for a missing person in Sachigo Lake

Master Corporal Charlie Barkman leads a search team for a missing person in Sachigo Lake
Master Corporal Charlie Barkman leads a search team for a missing person in Sachigo Lake

SACHIGO LAKE – The Canadian Rangers in Northern Ontario have completed the biggest search and rescue training exercise of its kind ever held in the province’s Far North. It involved 80 Rangers from 18 First Nations and was spread over four days.

The exercise involved Rangers in four communities – Attawapiskat, Peawanuck, Sachigo Lake, and Mishkeegogamang – suddenly facing complex scenarios requiring simultaneous searches for missing persons. The searches required more manpower than the four patrols had. So Rangers from neighbouring communities were flown in to help them.

The exercise tested the Rangers’ abilities to respond quickly to life threatening emergencies and working with Ranger reinforcements from other communities. It also tested the Canadian Army’s ability to organize reinforcements and co-ordinate multiple searches.

“To see the leadership that’s been exhibited by the Rangers in this exercise has been amazing,” said Brigadier-General Lowell Thomas, commander of the army in Ontario, who visited Sachigo Lake to see the local Rangers conducting searches with reinforcements from Muskrat Dam, North Caribou Lake, and Sandy Lake.

“The collaboration between the different patrols was amazing,” he said. “The thing I liked the most was the learning and the sharing going on between the Rangers from the different patrols.  It was absolutely fantastic.”

Ranger Jeff Fiddler gives a briefing on a search and rescue exercise in Sachigo Lake to his brother, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler
Ranger Jeff Fiddler gives a briefing on a search and rescue exercise in Sachigo Lake to his brother, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler

The Rangers are part-time reserve soldiers. One of their major responsibilities in Northern Ontario is providing on-the-ground search and rescue expertise in their remote communities on behalf of the OPP, who are the lead ground search agency in Ontario. In most cases, the Rangers complete a search before the OPP can assemble and fly in a search team.

In October, for example, Rangers completed successful searches in four Northern Ontario communities. They involved two hunting parties, a missing 9-year-old boy, and an elderly woman.

“We don’t realize in Southern Ontario that two-thirds of the province is in the North,” General Thomas said, “and our military representation in that vast area is through the Canadian Rangers. It makes you proud when you see what they can do, the services they provide, and how they are relied upon in their communities.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler accompanied General Thomas on his visit to Sachigo Lake. He visited the command post established by the Rangers for their searches and spent time with a search team.

“This was my first experience with the Rangers,” he said, “and they were impressive. To see what they can do with the skills they have acquired from their army training is something to see.  These were real life search scenarios that were part of the exercise (they involved a drug overdose, an overdue hunting party, and an overturned canoe) and they happen in our communities too often. The Ranger program allows our communities to respond in a way that  meets their needs. I think it’s great.”

Sergeant Jackson Beardy, commander of the Sachigo Lake Ranger patrol, said the exercise in his community was a success.

“The community did not really know that much about the Rangers until now,” he said. “They took a great interest in this exercise. They saw what we did. They now have a much better idea of what we can do. The army has given us the training required to respond professionally. And we did.”

 Canadian Rangers carry a drug overdose "victim" out of the bush after finding him during a search and rescue exercise in Sachigo Lake

Canadian Rangers carry a drug overdose “victim” out of the bush after finding him during a search and rescue exercise in Sachigo Lake

 

(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.”