CCG-CF joint training: Been there, done that

For the interest of your readers, the CF and Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) have conducted joint training in the recent past.

Specifically, 32 Canadian Brigade Group (32 CBG), the Militia formation based in Toronto, conducted a series of exercises called Neptune Strike together with various Great Lakes Canadian Coast Guard vessels including, but not limited to, CCGS Samuel Risley. All the exercises were conducted in the Georgian Bay area and were staffed and lead by The Queen's Own Rifles, which is one of the infantry units in 32 CBG. Neptune Strike was conducted annually from the late 1990's up to 2002.

Not-with-standing the limited scope and duration of the exercises, they were truly combined in that Canadian army, air and naval forces worked together with the coast guard in training that included primarily the landing and recovery of light infantry from various beaches in Georgian Bay, all in the context of some, armed tactical scenario which changed year to year.

Virtually the only interopable systems shared by the DND and the CCG were the fact that everyone spoke one or both official languages. The coast guard is both unionised and unarmed but also very professional and equipped with excellent ships. The reservists participating in the training were all reasonably well trained with all the weapons, comms gear, and boats used during the training. Labour code or union restrictions did not apply to any of the DND personnel participating. The different operating rules of the respective participants in no way detracted from the training conducted. Comms were a challenge but a way was always improvised to overcome any incompatibility in equipment. All involved seemed to benefit from the chance to work with other government agencies which otherwise have little to do with each other on a day-to-day basis.

Regrettably, the exercise series is now no longer conducted by 32 CBG.

Drawing on the experience of Neptune Strike, I would suggest that the navy would definitely benefit by drawing on the expertise of the coast guard. An ongoing exchange of personnel for professional development would go a long way towards bringing both organisations into line with the challenges facing our nation's arctic sovereignty.

For that matter, given the time it will no doubt take to lay down and commission the navy's new patrol vessels, it would seem prudent to immediately "recommission" some existing ice capable coast guard vessels into the navy and man with them with naval personnel, say - today.

After all, the Swedes, Danes, Norwegian, Finns, Americans and Russians are not going to wait for us to stake their claim up north.

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