THUNDER BAY – A total of 64 Canadian Rangers from eight First Nation communities from across northern Ontario have completed two on-the-land training exercises in which they learned a range of responses to emergencies.
In the middle of a busy training schedule one group of Rangers found a famished dog that had been missing for several weeks. They nursed it back to health and returned it to its delighted owners at the end of the training.
The Rangers who found the dog came from Bearskin Lake, Muskrat Dam, North Caribou Lake, Sachigo Lake, and Sandy Lake. Their training was conducted at Quicksand Rapids on the Windigo River.
The dog followed a hunting party from Muskrat Dam in April and got trapped in the ice break up. “She was in pretty bad shape,” said Warrant Officer Barry Borton, a Canadian Army instructor. “We slowly fed her and brought her back to life and took her back to her family in Muskrat. They were pretty happy to see her.”
The Rangers received seven days of intensive training and covered a range of subjects, including how to use a new rescue stretcher that is being issued to Ranger patrols. They also practiced cold water rescue techniques and different ways to warm victims who have fallen into cold water.
“All in all it was a pretty good exercise,” Warrant Officer Borton said. “No one got hurt. Only one boat propeller was damaged slightly. It went smoothly. Every one learned a lot.”
A group of 11 Junior Canadian Rangers from Muskrat Dam spent a day with the Rangers at Quicksand Rapids.
The second group of Rangers were from Kashechewan, Fort Albany, and Moose Factory. They travelled by freighter canoe to Cheepay Island, an uninhabited island in the Albany River, where they trained for a week.
“It rained for all of the exercise, except for one afternoon when we had sun,” said Warrant Officer Carl Wolfe, a Canadian Army instructor. “The rest of the time it was nothing but rain. It snowed one morning. It was miserable. The temperatures were between zero and five degrees in the day and it went below zero at night. The one afternoon it didn’t rain I let the Rangers go fishing.
“But, you know, we had a blast. The weather didn’t get many people down. The Rangers just got on with the training, learned a lot, and enjoyed themselves.”
During the exercise he presented Canadian Forces Decorations to Master Corporal Hannah Nakogee and Ranger William Gillies, both from Fort Albany. The national medal recognizes a minimum of 12 years of honorable military service.
“These training exercises allow the Rangers to learn from both the army instructors and from each other,” said Captain Caryl Fletcher, the officer commanding the 650 Canadian Rangers in 23 First Nation communities in northern Ontario. “They talk to each other and they exchange ideas and find out what other communities do in emergencies. They encounter a whole array of new ideas and they like that.
“The two exercises were held in isolated locations and the Rangers themselves had to organize boats and make sure there’s engines and fuel for them. They were responsible for things like food and water. They are learning new organizational skills all the time.
“You see the value of it when they face an emergency such as a search and rescue, a forest fire, or a spring flood evacuation in their communities. They are getting better all the time as a result of this kind of training and they save lives.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)