By Sgt. Peter Moon
TORONTO – A small group of experienced Canadian Rangers from Northern Ontario has completed two days of passing on some of their traditional winter survival skills to 70 members of a Toronto-based army reserve regiment.
The seven Rangers showed the soldiers from the Toronto Scottish Regiment how to start fires, snare and trap small game, make emergency shelters, prepare signal fires for search aircraft, and ice water rescue techniques.
But the highlight of the training was learning how to prepare and cook wild food.
The Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, were from the remote Cree communities of Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Peawanuck, and Moose Factory on the Hudson Bay and James Bay coasts. When they travelled south to the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre at Meaford, near Owen Sound, they took with them 91 kilograms of moose and caribou meat, as well as snow geese, so that they could demonstrate their outdoor cooking skills.
The Rangers showed the southern soldiers, most of whom had never seen anything like it before, how they prepare wild food outdoors over open fires.
“They devoured all the food in one day,” said Sergeant Matthew Gull, who commands the Ranger patrol in Peawanuck. “What they really liked was when I threw a whole rack of caribou ribs on the grill and put on the barbecue sauce. They’d never seen something like that before.”
The food was donated by members of the Peawanuck Ranger patrol to provide realistic training for the troops from the Toronto Scottish Regiment.
But the regiment’s soldiers had a surprise for the Rangers. They had two haggis with them for the Rangers to eat. They showed the Rangers how to cook the Scottish national dish, a type of savoury pudding made from oatmeal, onions, salt, and spices, and invited them to try it.
“It was my first time eating it,” said Master Corporal Pamela Chookomoolin of Peawanuck. “It was pretty tasty actually. It was good. I had two plates. I went back for a second helping.”
The two days of training were a success. “The reactions of the Toronto Scottish to the training by the Rangers was unbelievable,” said Warrant Officer Carl Wolfe, an instructor with the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. “Most of the time the army doesn’t get a chance to do this kind of training. It’s more focused on fighting. Experiencing wild game, some traditional foods, learning how to get yourself out of icy water, how to start a fire, snare a rabbit, that sort of thing, is something new for them. They were blown away by the Rangers’ survival skills and they had a blast.”
“I can absolutely say the troops loved it,” said Captain Ann Lockhart, a rifle company commander with the Toronto Scottish. “They were so impressed by the Rangers and their way of life. They couldn’t believe they’d ever get this kind of training from such genuine people with such impressive survival skills. We felt very grateful.”
The Rangers who provided the training were Corporal Gilbert Spence from Attawapiskat, Master Corporals Joe Lazarus and John Sutherland from Kashechewan, Master Corporal Christopher Keesic and Ranger Devin Spence from Moose Factory, and Sergeant Gull and Master Corporal Chookomoolin from Peawanuck.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)