‘If you sweat up there, you die’; Edmonton soldiers participate in dangerous Arctic operation

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Edmonton soldiers participate in dangerous Arctic operation
WATCH ABOVE: Life on the ice. Canada’s military wants a new permanent home in the Arctic. Kent Morrison finds out why – Feb 26, 2016

EDMONTON — Troops from Edmonton recently carried out a military operation in one of the most extreme climates on earth. Exercise Arctic Ram had troops parachute into the Arctic and participate in a ground mission at -50ºC.

READ MORE: Edmonton-based soldiers head north for parachute mission to the Arctic

Global News followed the 3rd Batallion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry during their journey near Resolute Bay, Nunavut in mid-February.

Not only did the soldiers have to deal with extreme cold, but very little daylight as well, with only an hour and a half of sunlight in the area at that time of year.

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Sweat is the enemy during this type of operation. The soldiers were dressed to combat the Arctic cold, but at -50ºC any sort perspiration can put them in serious danger.

“One thing they tell us all the time is, if you sweat up there, you die,” Sgt. Mark Hall said.

“We’re really sensitive to make sure that environmentally we keep that balance, but at the same time we have a job to do. We like to push the limits, but you have to be mindful of it.”

The mission required shelter and security to survive in a frozen desert.

“There are no roads. In the winter time, yes, you can travel across the ice, but that presents its own challenges. It is not a flat surface,” said Lt.-Col. Luc St. Denis, Canadian Armed Forces.

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“You need vehicles, you need fuel. You need to cache and position food along the route. It takes two to three years to plan an activity in the Arctic.”

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The troops rely on locals to teach them about life on the ice. They’re careful to respect the traditions and lifestyles of their teachers.

“We have a very good rapport with the community of Resolute Bay, but we want to spread out and try to build the network,” St. Denis said.

The Nunavut base has been the military’s home for northern exercises for the last three years. It’s also there in case of any disaster or emergency.

“First and foremost, we are a training institution. Our secondary role is to serve as forward base, and most of our mandates so far have been in support of other government departments: RCMP, Coast Guard, Transport Canada, Environment Canada,” St. Denis explained.

Most of the year the base is used for polar research by Natural Resources Canada. The military only occupies it from January to April, but it wants to grow to a year round operation.

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“We could have small unit exchanges with our allies, collaborate with other Arctic training centres elsewhere,”St. Denis said. “For instance, Norway or Alaska, to create this network of training institutions in the high Arctic.”

Preventing sub-zero sweat may be the new norm for Canada’s soldiers now that Russia is expanding its network of Arctic bases.

With files from Global News reporter Kent Morrison 

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WATCH: It’s the most northern operation ever executed by our Canadian military. Edmonton-based Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry played a big role and Kent Morrison got to tag along.

Click to play video: 'Watch: Exercise Arctic Ram'
Watch: Exercise Arctic Ram

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