PICTOU – This past week, Pictou was the epicentre of a chemical attack while a ship of interest was intercepted and boarded in Pictou Harbour.
A member of the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Decontamination Company artificially ventilates a simulated casualty after a fictitious chemical attack scenario during Exercise Frontier Sentinel 2013 this past week in Pictou. PHOTO – MASTER CORPORAL DAVID SINGLETON-BROWNE
Don’t be too hasty to grab your gas mask however.
These simulated events were a part of Exercise Frontier Sentinel, an annual training event aimed at preparing the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces for co-ordination with the RCMP and more than a dozen other government departments, in case the real thing happens.
This year’s exercise is being conducted in several locations throughout the Maritime Provinces, notably Halifax, Pictou and Port Hawkesbury, P.E.I. and along parts of the U.S. eastern seaboard from Oct. 26 to Nov. 5.
The ultimate goal is to further develop the co-ordinated operations of Canadian and U.S. forces and other government departments. Exercise Frontier Sentinel is taking place under the auspices of Exercise Determined Dragon, which is aimed at exercising the Canadian Joint Operation Command’s ability to execute various scenarios in defence of North America and global defence operations.
One of the domestic scenarios during the exercise involved a mock chemical attack and the assembly of a joint military-RCMP run decontamination centre. Another included boarding a ship of interest at the mouth of Pictou Harbour. ‘Interest’ could include drugs, weapons or illegal immigrants.
National level scenarios included a major air disaster and a submarine threat off the coast.
Rear-Admiral John Newton, commander Maritime Forces Atlantic, said Pictou was chosen for its well-suited coastal location.
“It takes a long time to preplan an exercise,” he stated. “This location and environment provided a challenge and stress our capabilities from Quebec and national headquaters team.”
Newton said 93 troops from the decontamination company, 45 crew members from the HMCS Shawinagan, 30 Canadian coast guard members, and various air force and public affairs members were present. Also, 200 sailors from HMCS Ville de Quebec also participated but didn’t come ashore.
“We were up around a 1,000 people committed,” said Newton.
That, of course, was good news for Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes.
“We were very happy to host this exercise and for the spin-offs,” Hawes said with a smile. “The military are more than welcome to come back next year.”
According to Hawes, military members stayed at a few bed and breakfasts in town.
“(On Thursday night), quite a few went of the soldiers went downtown for wings and beer,” he said. “I know there were a couple of troops in the convenience stores as well.”
The Frontier Sentinel exercise series began in 2006, to develop information sharing and to practise a planned and co-ordinated response from Canada and the U.S. in case of a threat along the Atlantic coast of the two nations.
In a post 9/11 and security-emphasized world one wonders who are our enemies.
“We don’t go around specifying enemies per se, but we recognize different types of threats,” said Newton. “They include those who challenge our soveriegnty and security or use Canada as a springboard to threaten the U.S. Of course there’s always the threat of espionage whether for domestic or military purposes.”
He noted that an exercise such as this will prepare various groups for transnational criminal elements in illegal drugs, or human smuggling.
Exercise Frontier Sentinel is related to other allied exercises by a common scenario under Exercise Determined Dragon and linked through multiple events, such as Exercise Vigilant Shield, a North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command exercise focused on homeland defence and homeland security missions and Exercise Global Thunder, a U.S. Strategic Command-led exercise with the primary emphasis on exercising nuclear command and control capabilities.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn