Operation Nanook ‘outstanding’ across NWT

Operation Nanook ‘outstanding’ across NWT
CAF members navigate Her Majesty’s Canadian ship Saskatoon through the icy waters of the Amundsen Gulf on Aug. 22 as part of Operation Nanook’s oil spill scenario.Photo courtesy of Canadian Armed Forces.

From Fort Smith to Tuktoyaktuk, Operation Nanook 15 left its mark on the Northwest Territories, with hundreds of participants spread across thousands of kilometres last week.

In contrast to the high level of interaction Canadian Forces personnel had with local officials in Fort Smith during Operation Nanook last week, the military kept mostly to itself while operating in Sachs Harbour, according to senior administrative officer Stephen Wylie.

A “joint, combined and interagency training opportunity where Canadian Armed Forces assist federal and territorial authorities,” Nanook included three scenarios: a simulated oil spill event in the Eastern Beaufort Sea played out in Inuvik and Ulukhaktok; an Arctic security task involving ground and air patrols in Tuktoyaktuk and Sachs Harbour; and a mock forest fire emergency in Fort Smith with a simulated evacuation and other activities.

Canadian Joint Operations Command and Joint Taskforce (North) members board a CH-147F Chinook helicopter at the Northern Warning System DAI site in the Beaufort Delta.

Photo: Canadian Armed Forces

Canadian Joint Operations Command and Joint Taskforce (North) members board a CH-147F Chinook helicopter at the Northern Warning System DAI site in the Beaufort Delta.

The action in Sachs Harbour included about two-dozen soldiers patrolling on foot and on ATVs, supply aircraft overhead and a visit from MCDV (Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel) Saskatoon. A document provided by the military read like an action film: members of the Arctic Response Company Group, the Fleet Diving Unit, four types of aircraft and elements of the Joint Task Force Support Component deployed to respond to a simulated sabotage-based scenario put in motion by NORAD warning indicators, including land and marine threats to the Northern Warning System.

In terms of what the 100 or so people living in Sachs Harbour saw, though, Wylie said the military kept mostly to themselves.

Inuvik, on the other hand, was hopping during the off-shore oil spill simulation, according to Acting Mayor Jim McDonald.

“The community got a lot of insight into what the military is capable of,” he said. “Not all military activity is war-based, they do a lot of civic work too.”

The community day in the town of about 3,500 included fly-overs by Chinook and Gryphon helicopters and Otter aircraft.

Some of the 300 Nanook personnel were still there tearing down the camp in the centre of town and the command post at the recreation centre on Monday afternoon.

It all amounted to a “home run” for the 800 or so people involved directly or indirectly in the whole-of-government activity, according to a source in the military, who described their interactions with local participants such as town officials as “outstanding.”

“The goal was having people work together,” the source said. “We do a lot of activity in the North in the winter, not as much on land in the summer (when) it’s more of a maritime focus so it was an interesting exercise.”

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