Soldiers swarm St. Albert
Troops hike through town on training march
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 06:00 am
Local joggers got a surprise military escort Friday morning as about a hundred troops hiked through St. Albert.
About 100 members of 1 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry set out from Legion Memorial Park Friday morning at about 8:10 a.m. They were there to march through northeast St. Albert to the Edmonton Garrison as part of a training exercise.
This was the annual Battlefield Fitness Test that every soldier takes at least once a year, said Lt. Richard Desaulniers, speaking on behalf of the troops. In it, troops have to march 13 kilometres in under two hours and 27 minutes while carrying a full load of gear. Afterwards, they have to drag a person 100 metres to simulate pulling a wounded soldier to safety.
The troops usually do this exercise on base or in Edmonton, Desaulniers said, “but it gets kind of boring.” They came to St. Albert this time for a change in scenery.
The troops set off from the baseball diamonds in groups of 25, helmets on and rifles at the ready. (They were not carrying bullets.) From there, these mobs of green camouflage took the footbridge into Oakmont, hung a right on Bellerose, headed down Starkey, took a left onto Sturgeon and hoofed it back to base.
Troops only have to carry about 32.5 pounds (about 15 kilograms) for the march, Desaulniers said, most of which goes in the backpack. Many will bump their loads up to 60 or 80 lbs. with weights or water, though, for added challenge.
Cpl. Matt Charbonneau said he was lugging about 60 lbs. because of his light machine gun.
That’s a far cry from the 85 or more you’d typically carry in the field, he added. “You’ll probably be carrying your personal weapon system, a couple of handheld rockets that are called M-72s, plus grenades and a lot of ammunition.” All this gear will be packed tight or wrapped in tape to keep the noise down.
Proper stretching and weight balancing keeps the troops from breaking their backs carrying their kit, Charbonneau said. “If you need to get to cover fast, you typically have adrenaline with you.”
Still, he said, these marches can be a challenge. The toughest part comes when you look at the next ridge and wonder when the end will be in sight. “It’s all mental.”
Teamwork helps. “I feed off the guys who are suffering a bit more,” Charbonneau said. “If you give them support, it kind of fills you with a little more energy.”
There’s no real trick to this sort of exercise, Desaulniers said — you’ve just got to pace yourself. “The fitter you are, the easier it’s going to be.”