Author Topic: Military still struggling in Arctic  (Read 13946 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline kilekaldar

  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • 250
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 94
Military still struggling in Arctic
« on: June 22, 2008, 13:20:06 »
Military still struggling in Arctic
By Bob Weber, THE CANADIAN PRESS

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2008/06/22/5954666-cp.html

EDMONTON - As Canada prepares to spend billions defending the Arctic with icebreakers and deep-water ports, the soldiers who will actually stand guard over that frigid frontier have a shopping list of their own.

Warm boots would be nice. So would snowmobiles that run, food that doesn't freeze and shovels that dig.

Internal assessments released to The Canadian Press of a Canadian Forces advanced winter warfare course last March in Resolute, Nunavut, depict a military still learning the basics of working in the North and vulnerable to challenges that extreme weather can bring.

"A lot of things popped up" said Lt.-Col. Marco Rancourt, commander of the Canadian Forces Land Advance Warfare Centre in Trenton, Ont. "Conducting operations in the Arctic is difficult."

The course is designed to train participants to safely lead other soldiers in Arctic operations. It was also intended as a dry run for a permanent winter warfare school based in Resolute.

Mistakes, however, were made even before the soldiers and equipment arrived.

Snowmobiles were drained of gas on the flight up to save weight. But that allowed condensation to form inside the gas tanks, which caused the machines to repeatedly stall as water in their fuel lines froze in Resolute's -60 C temperatures.

Soldiers had to boil water, pour it over the frozen sections and try to get the machine going before the hot water turned to ice as well.

"It's kind of tricky working machines up there," Rancourt said.

Tricky cooking, too. The soldiers were issued standard boil-in-a-bag rations, which promptly froze and required large amounts of fuel to thaw out, placing added demands on limited supplies.

"Up North, logistics lines are much more fragile," said Rancourt. "It's more of a problem up there."

Building snow shelters was also part of the course, but military-issue, aluminum-bladed machetes and square-nosed shovels couldn't cut into dense, wind-compacted Arctic snowbanks.

Then there was the clothing.

Soldiers didn't have gloves to wear inside their outer mitts, so they froze their hands every time they had to remove their mitts to do something such as fuel up snowmobiles. The trainees only had one toque and balaclava each, so those vital articles never got a chance to dry out during the week-long exercise.

Mukluks also got damp from snow melting along the sides of the snowmobiles. That led to cold and wet feet. And soldiers didn't have warm slippers to wear once they got their feet out of the mukluks.

"Extremities suffered the most in the Arctic," says one of the documents summarizing the problems.

The course was designed to first give participants a couple days to acclimatize to cold weather, but that was done at CFB Borden near Toronto - nowhere near the type of terrain or climate the soldiers were about to enter.

"Due to the warm weather conditions, proper winter training and preparation for Arctic winter training was not achieved," says a document.

Still, the military is calling the program a success. All 33 candidates graduated and Natural Resources Canada facilities in Resolute were declared suitable for ongoing winter warfare courses.

Offline Eye In The Sky

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 239,990
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 9,328
    • VP INTERNATIONAL
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2008, 13:37:49 »
I am actually very surprised to see this report worded this way, with simple little things like the gloves inside arctic mitts issues being reported here.  How many SOVOPs have gone on over the years, there were no lessons learned?  I am left shaking my head on this one.  What gives??

Offline Foxhound

  • Member
  • ****
  • 16,032
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 102
  • A thin red point from the line.
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2008, 16:14:17 »
Good Lord yes.  The Arctic Warfare TQ4 was part of my Inf TQ3 in '78.  (Dec. '78 to Mar. '79 London 1RCR)  So, when we graduated, we already had the TQ4 qual.  Of course then, the focus was on combating the ravening Soviet hordes that would be assaulting Hall Beach NWT.  ( http://www.hallbeach.com/ )  We have (perhaps "had") the institutional memory and expertise to conduct arctic ops with these very basic issues as part of the training process.  Food, fuel, and weapons function in the Arctic were primary PO's as was the C.O.L.D. lecture.  Practiced often in Northern Ont. and Que. and put to the test in Norway.  I realize that our current focus is AFG and it's particular issues, but as a nation with an arctic "border", we cannot afford to neglect potential operations in the North.  We knew damn well back then that the aluminum shovels were crap at anything below -20 degrees C, the snow at that temp is like heavy packed gravel.

We brought the heavy short, steel spades when we went North, as well as snow saws and steel machetes.  We did not turn the vehicles' motors off, even when refueling.  The weapons det had their own tent with a 24/7 stove and stove watch, with the weapons maintained with graphite instead of oil as lube.  Then there was the Arctic Compass.  This was a ***** of a tricky thing to learn, but we did.  How can guys who can't even keep their fingers warm learn to use an Arctic Compass?

Loose and layered clothing.  Multiples of replacement sets for wet, close-to-body items like socks.  How does this stuff get forgotten?

Acclimatization at Borden?  Seriously?  I lived there for eight years as an Air Force brat.  Trained there later many times.  Those eight years plus training time acclimatized me for Arctic Warfare in the same way that riding Space Mountain at Disneyworld┬« prepares one for a shuttle mission.
1983 - Regimental Centennial
HRH Price Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh:  "And where are you from, Corporal?"
Cpl. Bloggins, 1 RCR C of D: "Belfast Sahr!"
HRH Price Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh:  "Well Corporal, next time you go home, you'd better wear your iron knickers."

Offline Sheep Dog AT

  • The Fly in Someone's Ointment - Giggity
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *****
  • 58,120
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 10,219
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2008, 16:24:28 »
When was the last time someone ran a real winter ex in my BN.  Well before this last winter I'd say it must have been 5-6 years.  Never been to the Arctic or up deep up north in my career.
Apparently infamous for his one liners.
Oh Giggity Well...........Giggity

Offline Eye In The Sky

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 239,990
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 9,328
    • VP INTERNATIONAL
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2008, 16:28:21 »
I am just surprised, the course was ran out of, assumedly, CFLAWC as the Snr Officer being interviewed was the CO.

Surely ALL the lessons-learned haven't been forgotten.  I haven't been on a winter ex in 8 years but I am sure I'd remember lots when I kicked my brain into Winter Warfare mode, and during the prep as well.  *shrugs*

Offline Sheep Dog AT

  • The Fly in Someone's Ointment - Giggity
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *****
  • 58,120
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 10,219
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2008, 16:30:21 »
You and I might but what about the dozens (in each platoon) that got in 5-8 years ago.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2008, 16:37:09 by Lone Wolf Quagmire »
Apparently infamous for his one liners.
Oh Giggity Well...........Giggity

Offline Eye In The Sky

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 239,990
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 9,328
    • VP INTERNATIONAL
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2008, 16:32:47 »
Seen

Offline Foxhound

  • Member
  • ****
  • 16,032
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 102
  • A thin red point from the line.
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2008, 16:41:43 »
Quote
When was the last time someone ran a real winter ex in my BN.  Well before this last winter I'd say it must have been 5-6 years.  Never been to the Arctic or up deep up north in my career.

And that, in my opinion, is a crying shame.  The CF, as an institution, has lost some of its flexability if it cannot even conduct ops on all areas of its own soil.  The Innu trainers (Rangers) that I worked with way back when, were indeed masters of their environment, and the tips and tricks that they passed on in a 40 minute lecture are definite life savers.

Should the balloon go up, we may find that there are too few people in the CF that know what these guys know.
1983 - Regimental Centennial
HRH Price Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh:  "And where are you from, Corporal?"
Cpl. Bloggins, 1 RCR C of D: "Belfast Sahr!"
HRH Price Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh:  "Well Corporal, next time you go home, you'd better wear your iron knickers."

Offline Sheep Dog AT

  • The Fly in Someone's Ointment - Giggity
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *****
  • 58,120
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 10,219
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2008, 16:54:42 »
Above my pay grade as to why it happened that way.
Apparently infamous for his one liners.
Oh Giggity Well...........Giggity

Offline George Wallace

  • Army.ca Fossil
  • *****
  • 436,695
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 31,592
  • Crewman
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2008, 17:16:35 »
And that, in my opinion, is a crying shame.  The CF, as an institution, has lost some of its flexability if it cannot even conduct ops on all areas of its own soil.  The Innu trainers (Rangers) that I worked with way back when, were indeed masters of their environment, and the tips and tricks that they passed on in a 40 minute lecture are definite life savers.

Should the balloon go up, we may find that there are too few people in the CF that know what these guys know.

I have no idea of what you are talking about.  Canada has conducted at the very least two Sovereignty Operations in the Arctic every year.  OP Narwhal and OP Nanook are annual events.  There are still SUEs happening. 

DISCLAIMER: The opinions and arguments of George Wallace posted on this Site are solely those of George Wallace and not the opinion of Army.ca and are posted for information purposes only.
Unless so stated, they are reflective of my opinion -- and my opinion only, a right that I enjoy along with every other Canadian citizen.

Offline Tango2Bravo

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 53,460
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 2,839
  • All your base are belong to us.
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2008, 17:40:53 »
We should try to keep this article in some persepctive.  The article is based on a report about a course.  I would expect a course conducted in that environment to have things come up for improvement.  Given that this appears to have been the first time this course was run (at least for some time) we shouldn't be surprised that there were surprises.  It is often the little things that slip when a person, group of institution hasn't done something for a while.

I guess I see the glass as being half-full in that the Advanced Course was run up there despite the operational tempo of the army (a war) and some good actionable lessons came out of it.  Those graduates are now sprinkled across the Army while the instructors have more experience.  I also take it as a positive in that the issues that did come up were noted by the chain of command and recorded.  
Well-trained, older Panzer crews are the decisive factor for success...It is preferable to start off with fewer Panzers than to set out with young crews who lack combat experience.

 - Verbal report of Gen Balck 1943

Online Old Sweat

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 227,585
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 7,957
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2008, 18:28:49 »
To the query why that organization in Trenton ran the course, I bear some of the responsibility. Many, many years ago we had a base in Churchill, MB that ran winter warfare and winter warfare instructor courses besides supporting cold weather testing for both the US and ourselves. It was closed in the early years of integration and then when the north became important again circa 1969-1970 it was set up on a greatly reduced scale to teach nothern 'operations.' Somehow it was transferred to Aircom from FMC and the army positions gradually turned blue to support the air navigation school.

As a result, we had to set up a winter warfare training centre every year by means of individual taskings and grabbing equipment from wherever and beyond. It wasn't working well and the training shop in Mobile Command was searching for a solution. I was a newly promoted lieutenant colonel running the individual training shop and the problem landed on my desk with a resounding crash. As I also looked after the airborne centre in Edmonton, I asked the CO if they could handle it, and how would they do it, including a temperate indoctrination period. Long story short, CABC ran the course in the NWT with a work up in Wainright and it worked. At least it reduced the tasking load and the graduates seemed satisfied that they had been properly trained in difficult conditions.

I guess responsibility for the course shifted east a few years ago. Hopefully in time the proposed training centre in the high arctic will solve the problem.

edit: other solutions that were proposed at the time included Gagetown, Petawawa, Dundurn and Wainwright as well as Goose Bay. None of these places really replicated the Canadian north and the rest, as as they say, is history.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2008, 18:48:28 by Old Sweat »

sandyson

  • Guest
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2008, 21:26:53 »
Many, many years ago we had a base in Churchill, MB that ran winter warfare and winter warfare instructor courses besides supporting cold weather testing for both the US and ourselves.

I was the logistics and administration officer for New Viking at the time--'69-70.  Maj (Black Pat) Patterson commanded with the likes of WO Larkin.  After each and every rotation of troops into the Ex, an "after action/lessons learned report" was sent to and filed at FMC (Forces Mobile Command) headquarters at St Hubert.  Patterson was a practical man with loads of experience from armoured action in World War Two.  His reports were worth reading and would be again today.  So!  Whatever happened to all those reports?  What happens to such reports today?  Granted, reading time is in short supply for everyone, but has anyone seen them?  Is their a catalog or index somewhere?
The shortcomings of this training are all too familiar and they shouldn't be.  There are no half full glasses in logistics.  That is just sloppy forethought--something Patterson would never have tolerated.

Offline lint

  • Guest
  • *
  • 40
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 4
  • is full of linty goodness
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2008, 07:07:51 »
this article is misleading.. this course has been run every year
from this article, sounds like the people on the course didn't think for themselves to have proper kit.  :-\
I really dislike articles like this.

Offline Teddy Ruxpin

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 3,380
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 2,063
  • Grumpy Bear
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2008, 11:50:10 »
So, a reporter, in an effort to find a "gotcha" story, dredges up what is obviously the course's internal POR - which is why "simple little things" are commented on.  How, for the love of God, is this even remotely newsworthy?

T2B is exactly correct.  None of the "problems" mentioned in the story are new - and many are symptomatic of working in the Arctic with students, a situation that is hardly indicative of systemic problems as the author would have us believe.
A man may fight for many things. His country, his friends, his principles, the glistening tear on the cheek of a golden child. But personally, I'd mud-wrestle my own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing clock and a sack of French porn.

Dulce bellum inexpertis.

Offline Bob Terwilliger

  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • 190
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 52
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2008, 15:42:29 »
Back in the 80's, we conducted a minimum one month long battalion level winter warfare exercise every year, without exception. Is that not still the case?

Offline Sheep Dog AT

  • The Fly in Someone's Ointment - Giggity
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *****
  • 58,120
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 10,219
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2008, 15:44:49 »
This is not the case and hasen't been for a VERY long time.  (At least in my BN)
Apparently infamous for his one liners.
Oh Giggity Well...........Giggity

Offline King Elessar

  • Currently In Borden
  • New Member
  • **
  • -410
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 35
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2008, 17:07:59 »
Many, many years ago we had a base in Churchill, MB that ran winter warfare and winter warfare instructor courses besides supporting cold weather testing for both the US and ourselves.

last i heard sending troops to Churchill for Winter Warfare training was against the Geneva Convention >:D

hehe i kid i kid

reading the article it doesn't sound like we are failing in our mission just we are experiencing what it's like to operate in those temperatures. i don't care how many layers of clothing you have on, -60 degrees Celsius is make you cold right down to your bones.

guess i can't complain when it gets to -30 degrees here in winter ;)

i really can't comment on it too much since i have never been that far North nor am i in the Armed Forces, not yet at least. but Arctic Warfare training up there would be a good lesson to learn and wouldn't think twice about going there for training.
Hail To The King Baby!
I Love The RFT Program.

Offline axeman

  • Full Member
  • *****
  • 1,405
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 389
  • It's lonely at the top, but you eat better.
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2008, 20:50:50 »
 :warstory: man do i remember the days ,,  before i joined the regs and was a reservist .  Went on  a SOVOP  with 3 PPCLI when it was still the Hollywood Bn, there was about 5 of us from the militia regiment  i was from. .Before we deployed there was all the refresher of tent routine and storing of tent ,and equipment.  seems at the time there wasn't alot of knowledge of cold weather exercises in the Bn at the jnr side of the house.Seems that the Bn hadn't been on winter ex for 3 yrs.   In the reserves we did the yearly winter ex , in the regs for a while  we didn't due to operational necessity [workups for deployment]. it seems that it happens more and more and when that happens the instiotunal memory gets filled with other things . while it seems that we will not need to operate out of the tent groups today or tomorrow  what happens when we do? .  While its a crappy way to getready for warfare  its just as sucky to be dropped into something that none has any memory of how to make things work. IE jungle warfare. but its just as much of a necessity
I'm not saying to kill all the stupid people . .. Just remove the warning labels and let nature run it's course

Offline Bob Terwilliger

  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • 190
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 52
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2008, 23:05:47 »
Well, I was in the Hollywood battalion, and our winter ops skills were pretty good. 86 we did a month in the Chilcotin(Rapier Thrust) 87 we spent almost a month in the NWT (Hay River) 88 was Cyprus, so there was no time.  Every soldier knew his drills, either because of winter exercises in battalion or by virtue of having gone through battle school in winter.

Offline Sheep Dog AT

  • The Fly in Someone's Ointment - Giggity
  • Army.ca Legend
  • *****
  • 58,120
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 10,219
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #20 on: June 24, 2008, 23:14:30 »
Lack of troops
operational tempo
Plug and Play Battle groups IMO
have negated the ability you speak of
Apparently infamous for his one liners.
Oh Giggity Well...........Giggity

Offline Bob Terwilliger

  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • 190
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 52
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #21 on: June 25, 2008, 00:22:23 »
Lone Wolf, I watch the news, you guys are taxed beyond anything we ever saw. We always had lots of time, predictable PCF cycles, RVs or Waincons, and winter ex's. Hats off to you all. Makes me proud to have worn the capbadge(s).

Offline glogan

  • Guest
  • *
  • 0
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 1
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #22 on: June 25, 2008, 00:29:09 »
I read with interest the comments on what today's young soldiers have to put up with while taking Winter Training and can understand some of the problems they are facing..... however I cannot understand why time would be wasted in training in Base Borden..... it has been many years since I spent time running around Borden as a young RCASC Soldier Apprentice  Jan 54 to Jul 55,  but I never seen it cold enough to worry about taking Winter In doctrination....  I spent 2 years in Rivers Manitoba and found it a little chillier after jumping and field rolling an old T10 parachute,  but in 1959 while on a Junior NCO course in Manitoba I can still remember spending a week doing winter training from the Carberry Hills into Shilo, Man. dragging sleds.... Manually.... we didn't have the luxery of snow mobiles, we lived in arctic tents, did our own cooking, and walked from one range to another, I can still remember how our feet became scalded from the sweat in our mukluks..... mind you I never had to worry about going to far North but then Camp Shilo could be bad enough in January..   I'm also reminded of my father while serving in the RCAF being sent to an Arctic positng in a place called Kittygazuit, NWT..( it was around 1949 ish and I can't trust my spelling from those days,   I still have some Red Fox pelts that he traded with the Eskimos stored somewhere in my home,  I also remember he brought home a Polar Bear rug, he eventually had to burn,  hugh weather balloons,  a large piece of Mastadon Tusk that was found in the ice by the Eskimos,  it eventually decayed once it came out of its ice storage...   I can remember photos that he sent us, he sure looked cold...

my blessing to today's young men and women of the Forces, they have a whole new set of rules to live and/or die by......

Gerry Logan
Nil Sine Labore :salute:

Offline retiredgrunt45

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 2,715
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 540
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #23 on: June 25, 2008, 21:06:39 »
It's sad really when you think that a few decades ago we used to be one of the prominent winter warfare militaries, along with the Norwegians and the Finns. We were so good at it that the Americans used to send their troops and instructors up here to get qualified.

Then there was our EME's who kept our vehicles and LOSV's running, most of the time working in exposed conditions with the mercury dipping well below -30, but they did it.

A point to bring up here about water in the fuel lines, why didn't the CQ have Isopropanol to mix with the gasoline, this would have solved their engine problems. A few ounces in every gas tank and voila, no more condensation, works everytime. Contact gloves, what, we don't issue them anymore? Common sense, hand warm, metal cold, touch cold metal, hand sticks to metal, get frostbite, or worse loose some skin.

You don't use regular MRE's in the artic, of course they freeze. Hot water freezes three times faster than cold water. Doesn't the military have dehydrated rations anymore? Add hot water stir, eat. Chilli-con-cardy, eat one of these and you could crap through a cheerio at 30 feet, standing up! Just don't let anyone smoke near you. ;D

I think the powers to be in Ottawa have to go digging in the pham library and dust of a few of them old winter warfare phams and start teaching how to properly train troops in winter warfare. Starting with the basics, because we seem to have even lost that.

Damn shame.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2008, 21:14:18 by retiredgrunt45 »
The first goal of any political party is to stay in power by whatever means possible. Their second goal is to fool us into believing that we should keep them in power.

A politician is like a used car saleman, he'll promise you a "peach" and then turn around and sell you a "lemon"

"Politicians are like diapers, they have to be changed often because their usually full of crap.

Offline Ecco

  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • 378
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 67
Re: Military still struggling in Arctic
« Reply #24 on: June 25, 2008, 21:12:06 »
Hot water freezes three times faster than cold water.
???

You will have to explain that one very slowly...