Exercise helps “evacuate” Canadians

A rendezvous at sea between a B.C. ferry, HMCS Brandon, and a CP-140 Aurora Long Range Patrol aircraft during Exercise READY ANGLE on May 2, 2017. Photo: Cpl Andre Maillet.
A rendezvous at sea between a B.C. ferry, HMCS Brandon, and a CP-140 Aurora Long Range Patrol aircraft during Exercise READY ANGLE on May 2, 2017. Photo: Cpl Andre Maillet.

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More than 290 military members and federal government employees recently participated in the annual Exercise READY ANGLE to practice evacuating Canadians from a country in the midst of social and political unrest, where international transportation had ceased.

This year’s exercise, coordinated annually by 1st Canadian Division (1st Cdn Div), involved Global Affairs Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Public Safety Canada, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

A continuation of the scenario started during Ex READY RENAISSANCE in February where an earthquake and tsunami hit the fictitious island country of Macadamia, READY ANGLE saw the government’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) sent in to provide military humanitarian aid. Both exercises involved assets from the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Navy.

The majority of participants were located at HMCS Quadra, a naval cadet camp in Comox, B.C., which represented the affected nation of Macadamia. A smaller team stayed at HMCS Discovery, Vancouver’s Naval Reserve division, which acted as the safe location in the Republic of Kalasy where evacuees were taken. The remainder were onboard the Kingston-class coastal defence vessel HMCS Brandon.

“The priority of the Government of Canada is the safety of Canadians abroad,” said former ambassador Philippe Beaulne, who played the Head of the Mission in Macadamia for this non-combatant evacuation operation. “Exercises such as this allow for the government to refine its guidelines and practices and ensure that we are improving current mechanisms in place in the event of an incident or crisis. It also allows for a whole-of-government approach in ensuring that clear communication and efficiency are a priority for such an endeavour. Security is also key.”

After several days of intense effort, military reconnaissance teams and their Global Affairs partners located and safely transported Canadians to processing centres on the ailing island nation of Macadamia (Vancouver Island, in reality). Ready to move to their safe haven in “Vencouvert, Republic of Kalasy” (the Lower Mainland), the Canadians were then bussed to “Namo.” Under the watchful eyes of a security team from the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, they embarked on the Queen of Cowichan for the trip to Vencouvert. As pirates had begun operating in the area, HMCS Brandon escorted the ship, their path ahead made safe by an Aurora providing surveillance overhead.

“Our role is to protect our Government of Canada partners and the evacuees in a manner that does not add to the instability,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Dany Poitras, Commander of the Joint Task Force sent to Macadamia to facilitate the evacuation and provide security. “Therefore, we adapt our approach, our messages, and even our dress code when mingling with the local population. We want our presence to be perceived as neutral as we find efficient and secure ways out, whether by sea, land or air.”

“A comprehensive approach is key,” said Colonel Normand Gagné, Exercise Director and 1st Cdn Div Chief-of-Staff. “This scenario embedded realistic sequences of events for all GoC departments involved, not only the CAF. We are quite happy with the training objectives and results: they are ready.”

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