CANMORE – Standing atop a high-rise summit, says Master Corporal MacKenzie Meehan, tops his to-do list during the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recent adventure training in the Rocky Mountains.
Along with 30 personnel from Calgary’s 41 Canadian Brigade Group, Meehan is spending Feb. 13-21 in the icy mountains and backcountry around Canmore, building individual and team skills while testing oneself as a soldier.
“In the winter time, in particular, because it gives an opportunity to really put to use the training we all go through,” said Meehan. “Then, you add on extra layers of that physically demanding landscape and still try to navigate where you’re at. All those together are down to the T for our training.”
The adventure training, which includes ice climbing, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing under the guidance of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, sounds like a pretty nice weekend out in the mountains.
The benefits gained by CAF personnel during this specific type of training, however, could potentially save lives.
While knee-deep in snow in the backcountry, Meehan said his guide is educating them on weather patterns, weighing avalanche risks, key events in the area, and also mountain navigation.
“This is new to everyone in my group, as far as looking it up,” Meehan said. “It is really important in different environments to look at a map and traverse it and lead a team through an area confidently.”
The temperature won't be as chilly as earlier in February, but it's still expected to drop to -7 C during the day this week.
The Rockies, a place renowned for its beauty and also its unforgiving landscape, also help to push the CAF personnel’s abilities to become better soldiers.
A major part of that is being thrown into a new situation and foreign terrain, said Capt. Michael Beerman.
“We have to be able to operate at any time and in any environment and by getting them out to the mountains, in this case, it exposes them to that new environment, which you can’t necessarily get in a training environment like CFB Suffield or Wainwright,” said Beerman.
All participants, ranging in ages from teenagers to mid-40s, are following strict public health measures while training, added National Defence and CAF in a statement.
Despite the edge of the Rockies being just down the highway from Calgary, Meehan said he hasn’t had the opportunity to spend much time going up and down mountains.
While participating in the adventure training, he’s determined to change that.
“That’s a team goal of ours, let’s get to the top of a summit and just have that experience because it’s both physically demanding, but I think one of the things we’re finding is it’s more mentally demanding than anything, so I would say that’s a huge goal,” he said.
“Now that we’re so close to it, I just can’t see myself and or my team not doing it.”