The Canadian Army will proceed with its main training exercise in May, but will scale it back to about half its regular size because of COVID-19.
Exercise Maple Resolve takes place annually in Wainwright, Alta., usually involving around 5,000 soldiers. But this year’s exercise is expected to involve around 2,500 military personnel.
“Our current intent is to scale this exercise to about 50 per cent of its usual size with most participants originating from and remaining in the province of Alberta,” explained army spokesperson Lt. Col. Doug MacNair. “We will continue to constantly evaluate the risk posed by COVID-19 and to consult our medical partners regularly as planning continues, as the health, safety and wellness of our members, our families, and our communities is paramount.”
MacNair noted that the situation is fluid and the army is prepared to adapt as needed to changing conditions.
The exercise will run from May 1 to May 14.
Exercise Maple Resolve prepares and tests the capabilities of the army’s high-readiness units.
Despite the pandemic, the Canadian government has not scaled back on the responsibilities of the army to be able to respond to international or domestic operations, so some training is required to proceed.
During past Maple Resolve exercises, troops from allied countries such as the U.S., Britain and France have also taken part. At this point, the army is still planning for the involvement of a reduced level of allied participation. Some 45 U.S. and 150 British military personnel are expected to be involved this year. Those personnel will be tested for COVID-19 before arriving in Canada and will quarantine once in Alberta. They will not be allowed to leave the training area.
Last year, the army cancelled Maple Resolve as part of its efforts to keep troops healthy in case they were needed to provide assistance to the government because of the pandemic.
The army resumed both individual and collective training after an initial pause last year because of COVID-19.
MacNair said the army has been training effectively and safely in a COVID-19 environment. Exercises try to adhere to local, provincial, federal and military established protocols and health measures, he added.
But the army says that as much as possible training has been confined to local training areas. Exercises have been cut back in size, as well.
A number of training events are currently underway or planned. An Arctic operations course started in Nunavut in February and wraps up on March 27. That training involves around 40 soldiers who had to complete a 14-day quarantine and be tested for COVID-19 on two occasions before travelling to Resolute Bay.
In some cases, the training required has been out of country.
Members of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry are currently in Fort Polk, La., conducting training for what is known as non-combatant evacuation operations. That training is to assist Global Affairs Canada in the event that Canadians need to be evacuated from a foreign nation in an emergency situation.
The troops in Louisiana were tested for COVID-19 and were required to quarantine before starting the training. They will also quarantine upon returning to Canada, MacNair said. That training runs until March 23.
MacNair said the Canadian Army has postponed or cancelled more than 200 other training events since March 2020. “The decision to postpone or cancel a training event is never taken lightly as there is an impact on the Canadian Army’s readiness to meet assigned tasks, as well as lost opportunities to strengthen interoperability with our allies,” he said.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021