Aircrew Learn How to Survive in High Arctic

By Kives, Bartley | Winnipeg Free Press, February 7, 2013 | Go to article overview

Aircrew Learn How to Survive in High Arctic


Kives, Bartley, Winnipeg Free Press


RCAF program run by 17 Wing

The renewed Canadian military presence in the High Arctic has led the Royal Canadian Air Force to relearn old lessons about survival in the world's most inhospitable climate, one wet sock at a time.

In January, 44 air force personnel from bases across Canada underwent Arctic survival training at Resolute Bay, Nunavut, the second-most northerly permanent settlement in North America. The 10-day course constituted the first High Arctic survival training for regular aircrew in 18 years.

During the Cold War, when the Canadian Armed Forces planned for the prospect of a Soviet incursion, Arctic survival training was conducted regularly for many units of the military. But the collapse of the Soviet Union led to military budget cuts that included the end of High Arctic survival lessons for regular aircrew in 1995.

Now, Ottawa is attempting to reassert Canadian sovereignty over Nunavut's vast Arctic archipelago by conducting more training exercises and expanding permanent facilities at Resolute Bay. To deal with the possibility of a crash in the remote Arctic, the RCAF has embarked on a plan to ensure at least one member of every flight operation in the area knows how to contend with a survival situation in a landscape with no trees to serve as shelter or firewood, only a few hours of winter daylight and bitter January lows.

"We need to get better at this as an air force," said warrant officer Dave Lazarowich, the Arctic course director for the Canadian Forces School of Survival and Aeromedical Training, based at 17 Wing Winnipeg.

From 1996 until last year, only air force search-and-rescue technicians based at 19 Wing in Comox, B.C., undertook Arctic survival training. In January, two groups of 22 other aircrew spent 10 days in and around Resolute Bay, including four nights in the fully exposed McMaster River valley several kilometres north of the town's airport. …

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