A group of 10 staff and instructors from the Regional Training Centre, Northern Ireland (RTC(NI) recently took part in Ex CANPADDY FINN – a 14 day exercise based at Trails End Camp (TEC) in the Canadian Rockies. The group included staff members from the Royal Irish, RLC, Royal Signals and AGC (RMP) all of whom are currently employed with the RTC (NI) in Ballykinler.
The main aim of the exercise was to deliver a challenging five day Canadian open boat expedition package, followed by an introduction to a range of other adventurous training opportunities as part of a multi-activity package. While some of the instructors had previous experience across the range of activities, for most this was their first opportunity to participate in a Level 3 AT expedition. The training was designed to be physically and mentally demanding, and would test the soldiers as individuals and as part of a team.
After a day of administration, familiarisation and acclimatisation including signing over all of the kit required to complete the first five days of the Exped we met with our 2 local instructors provided by TEC to bring us up to speed on the skills and techniques required for our Exped on the Kootenay River in British Columbia.
On days one and two we practiced on flat and moving water before heading off on a three day expedition down the wide and fast flowing Kootenay.
It wasn’t long before we met our first set of rapids known as Gibraltar Rock which we all managed to negotiate safely before continuing towards our destination at Canal Flats. On route we managed to spot a black bear, a grey wolf and a bald eagle (brownish) thankfully all of these were observed from a safe distance! Every turn of the river presented a new and even more impressive vista and everyone was overawed by the scale, beauty and majesty of the mountains, the forests and the power of the river itself. There were no ‘epics’ to speak off and everyone made it safely to the finish.
You can’t go to Canada in July and not see the Calgary stampede so after successfully completing the Canoe expedition the group headed off to take in the sights of Calgary and to prepare ourselves mentally for the challenges ahead.
We obviously all watched carefully as the Rodeo experts (Cowboys to you and me) demonstrated how to handle unruly horses as unbeknown to us at the time, we were to face a similar challenge the next day.
Horse riding in the Rockies creates mental images of high peaks, forested valleys and azure blue rivers meandering through the valley. It doesn’t normally include locals out shooting the wildlife causing horses to bolt into the wild blue yonder and ten Ulstermen (and women) with 15 minutes horse riding experience trying to control and restrain our mounts. However after a brief interlude and composure regained we continued on our route back through the afore-mentioned spectacular mountains and valleys to a well earned rest at TEC.
The following days involved two days trekking at Mount Sulphur (2,451m)and Little Beehive (2,200m) which is situated beside the very picturesque Lake Louise.
Each trek took around 3 hours to the top and physically tested some within the group but all was worthwhile as the views of the surrounding areas were breathtaking.
Our final activities involved an introduction to rock climbing and completion of the foundation and safety rescue course in Kayaks. A further day was spent mountain biking from Canmore to Banff along the Goat Creek mountain trail and returning to Canmore via the Legacy trail both providing even more opportunities to see the rugged beauty and vastness of the Rockies.
Exercise Canpaddy Finn was a resounding success, it presented different challenges to different people and everyone was tested and taken outside their comfort zones with the different activities. Even our most experienced paddlers had to learn new skills of working successfully in tandem with others less able. All of the participants were however awarded with a O2F (Open Boat Foundation) while 3 achieved a British Canoe Union 2 Star award by adding this to their Kayak foundation gained on a previous Exped. All of the team rose to the challenges and the team work and leadership skills were evident throughout.
The expedition delivered challenging and real life leadership training which will go along way to making them better soldiers and leaders on return to their posts.
On behalf of all of the participants I would like to thank all those who helped put this together financially, including the Ulysses Trust, the NI Garrison Support Fund and all of the Regimental Associations with participating troops for without their help many of those involved would still never have experienced opportunities such as this.
Faugh a Ballagh
Captain Ian McQuitty