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Army, navy perform beach assaults at Air Force Beach in Comox

Canadian army and navy forces are training together at Air Force Beach during a week-long exercise.

Around 350 Canadian Army Reserve, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force are participating in the 39 Canadian Brigade Group training event called Exercise Cougar Gauntlet.

The exercise event culminates in beach assaults at Air Force Beach on May 11 and 12.

The training, in combination with the Royal Canadian Navy, gives an opportunity for the soldiers, who are mainly reservists, to learn many vital skills in a simulated, realistic environment, according to exercise director Lt.-Col. Jim Julien.

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“We have a multitude of different trades and cores represented here and when we integrate all these different capabilities together, each of them are having not only the chance to hone the skills that are their trade,” said Julien. “When they’re together they have to take it to the next step and integrate it with what all those other trades and skills are doing around them.”

Soldiers were seen Wednesday going from large navy boats to small boats before storming the beach to begin an on-land portion of the battle training.

He adds the training isn’t something they get to do very often, and the planning for an exercise of this scale takes many months.

“Having soldiers onboard ships and then getting into our small boats to assault the beaches is something we do very rarely,” he said. “So there’s all sorts of brand new skills and that integration piece with these other arms is an entire set of skills that we don’t get the opportunity to take advantage of.”

The exercise that will take place on May 12 will be without the assistance of the navy. However, they will still have the opportunity to practice skills they have learned after being reviewed, according to Julien.

“What we’re doing is exactly the same attack without the boat landing,” said Julien. “The reason that we want to repeat the same scenario is they can actually make the right decisions and see what right looks like.”

He says the Canadian Weapons Effects simulators are used during the exercises to track what happens during training. The events can be replayed and used as another learning opportunity.

“These are weapons systems that talk to each other so when you engage your foe, there’s a laser and receiver system almost like laser tag, but it’s GPS tracked,” said Julien. “We can actually get a video replay on a satellite image that shows individuals moving on the battlefield.”

“You can see the shots back and forth and you can play artillery rounds landing, so it’s an amazing teaching tool.”

While the navy will not be involved in Thursday’s exercise, Julien says it should be quite the spectacle. They will start earlier than Wednesday, at around 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning.

He adds he is very pleased with how the exercise has gone and how the soldiers performed in the training.

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