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Army, navy storm Comox beach in joint training operation

Exercise Cougar Gauntlet provides week of training for military reservists

Canadian Armed Forces personnel combined forces the morning of May 11 to storm a beach in Comox.

The littoral, or shore, assault was part of Exercise Cougar Gauntlet in the area as of March 6 for a one-week period.

More than 300 reserve members, primarily army reserve from 39 Canadian Brigade, but with assistance from navy members stationed in a few vessels off Air Force Beach, took part.

“We really wanted a controlled environment where we could do this,” said Col. Scott Raesler, the 39 Brigade commander. “Littoral operations are obviously a combined part of warfare.”

For the morning’s exercise, the soldiers were loaded from the vessels onto combat engineer and assault pioneer boats to prepare for the beach landing after which they would climb the bluff above the beach as preparation to engage with enemy forces.

The army reservists from 39 Canadian Brigade were in the area for practice at HMCS Quadra at Goose Spit earlier this year, in preparation for Cougar Gauntlet. The army personnel are based in Vancouver, with members participating from all over B.C. and some from Alberta.

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The littoral exercise offered them the chance to combine efforts with the navy, which has not happened for some time, and allowed them to familiarize themselves with navy and air force capabilities.

“We are conducting what we term is a joint operation. It’s the army training with the navy,” Raesler said. “We haven’t done this in many, many years.”

For the joint effort, the navy members operated the small boats or served as divers on hand for any rescues.

“We’re exercising what would be considered a real world operation,” said Comm. Bryan Price of HMCS Discovery. “It’s the kind of skills development that we’ll use almost every day, whether we’re employed overseas or domestically.”

Exercise Cougar Gauntlet offered the navy reservists real world training as well as a chance to work with other members of the armed forces. The members are mainly based in Victoria and Esquimalt, through Price said they come from St. John’s, N.L., to Victoria.

“For our sailors, it’s a great opportunity to practise our skills and learn a new set of skills,” he added.

Other aspects of training in Comox included using ammunition and explosives, setting up tents, building sandbag walls, digging trenches and conducting work-up drills.

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