Army engineer reservists from across Canada swarmed Chilliwack on Boxing Day to build bridges together as part of an annual bridging and rafting exercise.
More than 250 reserve soldiers converged at the Pacific Regional Training Centre for training event Exercise Paladin Response from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31. Troops were in town to learn how to assemble various types of bridges over water and land gaps.
The focus of Exercise Paladin Response is on building bridges that would be used to cross gaps during domestic operations such as earthquakes, fires and floods, but the skills learned can be applied abroad and in combat.
On Tuesday, following three full days of physical and mental training, the soldiers wrapped up Exercise Paladin Response with a friendly bridge-building competition.
Three teams of nine put their brains and bulk to the test as they assembled a medium girder bridge over an imaginary 10-metre gap as quickly as possible.
Everything for the medium girder bridge was assembled by hand. Each section of the bridge weighed anywhere from 400 to 1,250 pounds and was manually carried into place by the troops.
From start to finish, the medium girder bridges were assembled in less than 15 minutes.
Throughout the six days they were here, soldiers were training at Col. Roger St. John Armoury (at the former CFB), Cultus Lake, and the OPSEE training area east of Cultus Lake where they were assembling three different types of bridges: raft bridges, medium girder bridges and ACROW bridges.
ACROW bridges are heavy-duty structures put together using equipment. They are used to more as a long-term “temporary” solution to replace civilian traffic bridges that have been destroyed, or used to build a bridge as an alternate route.
Medium girder bridges are assembled more quickly and mostly by hand. They are not meant for high-speed traffic and are more for short-term use.
Raft bridges (medium floating bridges) are assembled section by section right on a body of water. With a ramp on either end, the raft bridges can act like a ferry to move vehicles from one shore to another and they are moved around by powerful boats attached to either side.
Of the 250 soldiers, about two-thirds of them have taken part in Exercise Paladin Response before.
“They will walk away on New Year’s Eve with improved skills they would not have the opportunity to gain elsewhere. The exercise provides sappers enhanced training to better enable them to respond to requests for assistance in times of need within our nation, or if called upon abroad,” said Lt.-Col. James P. Julien, commanding officer with 39 Combat Engineer Regiment.
The exercise was organized and lead by the Army Reserves of B.C., 39 Canadian Brigade Group, primarily 39 Combat Engineer Regiment.
Aside from engineering units from across the country, the Royal Canadian Navy, 11 and 12 Field Ambulance, 39 Signals Regiment, 39 Service Battalion and other support units from the 3rd Canadian Division got to practice their skills during the exercise.
Exercise Paladin Response