With more than 100 military members and dive teams set up on its shores, Comox Lake is providing the backdrop for an international combat diving training event.
The Canadian Army is hosting five countries for Exercise Roguish Buoy, with the goal to prepare army dive teams to conduct diving tasks in support of deployment operations.
Soldiers from Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the U.S. are also participating in the exercise.
“What we’re doing here, we’re practising navigation underwater … we’re really focusing on the collection of information underwater or close to the water,” explained Capt. Harry Morrison, who is based in New Brunswick.
The event is organized by the Army Dive Centre located at CFB Gagetown, and Morrison said Roguish Buoy has been an exercise used by the military since 1979.
“The first Rouguish Buoy was in Chilliwack. Every year we invite our ally counterpart divers and depending on the year .. it’s always a great opportunity to learn from them and share our standard operating procedures as NATO members. It’s good to have common training practices and to learn from them.”
The exercise this year is the last leg of a three-exercise effort designed to build on the successes of Exercise Roguish Buoy 2014 and 2015. The two previous exercises saw Canadian and international teams improve underwater demolitions and hydraulic/thermal breaching strategies, and practise ice diving search and recovery operations.
Morrison noted besides the scenery of the province, the Comox Valley was chosen for the exercise because combat divers need to conduct their operations mostly in inland waterways such as lakes and riverways.
“In Eastern Canada, there’s not a lot of lakes that aren’t frozen over … this is a perfect opportunity to do this type of training this time of year.”
Cpl. Joshua Rainville, a combat engineer who finished the diving course last November, said working with other militaries is providing a lot of value.
“I’ve been attached to the Belgians and the French and especially when it comes to diving techniques we have a lot to learn from them. They do a lot more than us and they use different equipment then us.”
Rainville said it was the challenge which drew him to the field of combat diving.
“As far as specializations go, it’s one of the hardest; it was the challenge, and we get to do something new all the time. We’re doing a lot of tactical training, and that’s what I like the most. Everyday we’re always doing something different.
“It’s very long days. We get up at 5 or 6, we’re doing 14, 16 hours days in a row. I’m doing what I like, and I’m not getting bored out here.”
Exercise Roguish Buoy will continue in the vicinity of Comox Lake until March 1.