CFB SHILO — The 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry is conducting pre-deployment training for Operation REASSURANCE in preparation for being stationed in Latvia.
The ongoing training saw 321 soldiers and officers on the ground Monday in preparation for deployment to Europe sometime in June. The unit began training on April 4 and will conclude the exercises on May 9.
"We’re already where we need to be. We’re just kind of confirming a couple of things and shaking off a couple of cobwebs," said A Company Second-in-Command Lt. James Molyneaux. "I think the company right now that is going to Latvia is ready to go."
The soldiers will spend two weeks moving to a new location each day for exercises on the 100,000-acre training ground at CFB Shilo. Molyneaux and his unit had been camping on the military exercise grounds for four days as of Monday in the rain and snow.
"Every morning you pack all your stuff up and get in your cars and you go do training and every night you occupy a new spot," Molyneaux said. "You’re constantly moving around. You never stay in the same spot for very long."
The on-the-ground military training helps prepare soldiers for their deployment overseas. They will spend about two-and-a-half weeks out training living outside and practising different exercises from around 6 or 7 a.m. to as late as midnight or 2 a.m.
The training has been a progression of skills, Molyneaux said, because the unit includes amalgamated military members from across Canada. Units will be working with light armoured vehicles (LAV) each day growing from a section level with one vehicle and a crew of people to a full company of 15 LAVs with artillery support and a troop of engineers.
Second Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2PPCLI) members are motivated to prepare for their deployment because the Latvia mission remains critical, Molyneaux said.
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has members serving in Latvia as part of Operation REASSURANCE. Members are stationed in Central and Eastern Europe as part of NATO assurance and deterrence measures. During the operation, CAF is conducting training, exercises and some NATO-specific tasks.
About 1,475 Canadian Armed Forces members are deployed in support of the operation, making it Canada’s largest current international military operation.
"It’s super important that we have skills up to par because the consequences of not [doing so] are pretty grave. In Latvia, while you’re there as a deterrence presence, but the training continues. A lot of our activities over there will look a lot like this just to keep the skills sharpened."
Molyneaux was deployed to Latvia in 2019 for a six-month tour. It is an amazing experience living in Europe, he said, and recommended those who are deployed enjoy their time in the country.
Master Cpl. Cody Monague has been tasked as crew commander of a LAV during the training exercise sitting on top of the vehicle for a bird’s eye view of the ground to help maneuver effectively with a driver and gunner.
"There’s a lot of great people here, a lot of experienced men who fought over in Afghanistan and learning from them it’s been great," Monague said.
Monague was deployed to Latvia in 2019. It was an amazing opportunity offering important training exercises and the chance to work with different NATO allies.
It is a fast-paced environment getting ready for deployment and ensuring soldiers are qualified on different weapons systems and vehicle operations, Monague said.
There is no typical day for those preparing for deployment. For the past week or so they were practising company-level manoeuvres for attacking an objective and switched to defensive training on Monday.
The training amalgamated different companies into one for the departure, he said. The CFB Shilo exercises offered the opportunity for them to work together for the first time.
"The past couple of days that’s what we’ve been doing, hashing out our standard operating procedures, and it’s looking pretty well so far," Monague said.
Military training also drives home the need for camaraderie and support so CAF members are ready to step up to the plate if the need arises.
"I like doing my job and I’m happy to be out here right now, especially with all the guys," Monague said. "We’ve got a great group of guys and everything is going well."
Hailing from Portage la Prairie, Pte. Avery Scarrett, 22, was part of the training exercises in preparation for deployment to Latvia.
"They’re pretty tiring, but it’s pretty fun to work with all your co-workers and all your other soldiers," Scarrett said. "It really just shows you the ropes of working in a team … working under your leadership, taking orders and fulfilling those orders."
He is excited to get over to Latvia and work with other countries while furthering his soldiering skills.
"We’re just regular people doing our job," Scarrett said.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun