Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove visits Army Reservists training in the field at the Opsee Training Area in Chilliwack on August 21. Due to the COVID-19 health situation, everyone maintained a six foot distance or wore a face mask. (Photo by Bombardier Albert Law, 39 CBG Public Affairs)

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove visits Army Reservists training in the field at the Opsee Training Area in Chilliwack on August 21. Due to the COVID-19 health situation, everyone maintained a six foot distance or wore a face mask. (Photo by Bombardier Albert Law, 39 CBG Public Affairs)

Chilliwack mayor Ken Popove visits well-hidden military base near Cultus Lake

The Canadian Armed Forces have been training in relative secrecy at the site for years

You know you’re doing a good job keeping your secret military base hidden when even Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove doesn’t know you exist.

Popove got his first look at a Canadian Armed Forces facility tucked away in the hills overlooking Cultus Lake last week. He met 100 reservists who’ve spent the summer training, and came away amazed by the experience.

“Frankly I bet you 90 per cent of the population of Chilliwack does not know this place exists, and I have to be honest and admit I am one of those,” Popove said after the tour. “I didn’t realize the extent, the structure, how it’s all put together here. It’s very interesting.”

Popove’s visit was initiated by Lt.-Col. Chuck MacKinnon. The commanding officer of the Royal Westminster Regiment, MacKinnon has spent this summer leading the Territorial Battalion Group (TBG). The TBG combines all elements of 39 Canadian Brigade Group (the Army in B.C.) needed to respond to any domestic emergency.

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The OPSEE training area is one location the TBG could deploy to if it was called upon to help battle fires, floods or even COVID-19.

“The military’s been training in Chilliwack’s backyard for the last 30 summers, but as Mayor Popove said, a lot of people don’t know that,” MacKinnon noted. “We want to show that the Canadian Armed Forces stands ready, even in the face of COVID-19, to help them. We’re proud to be part of this community.”

Popove was impressed by how the military has adapted to operations in a pandemic.

Soldiers are required to live in close quarters, and measures are in place to keep them safe from the virus.

“It’s so well thought out,” Popove observed. “The masks. The protocols with the vehicles. The cleanliness of the sleeping quarters. It’s a plus for anybody interested in joining the Reserves.

“It was really surprising for me to be exposed to what they are doing up there. We can always be comforted knowing that there are people here that have our backs through any kind of disaster.”


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eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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