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Canadian Armed Forces ‘pioneer’ new training with reservists in Nova Scotia

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Soldiers of the Princess Louise Fusiliers in Halifax are some of the first in Canada to undergo new "pioneer" training that's being developed in Nova Scotia for use across the country.

A group of Halifax-area reservists are “pioneering” a new training course for the Canadian Armed Forces.

Soldiers in the Princess Louise Fusiliers are taking part in a new Basic Assault Pioneer Course, which is being developed in Nova Scotia for members of a renewed military trade.

After taking a break, the assault pioneers joined the Canadian Armed Forces again less than three years ago, with the mission of clearing the way for the infantry. Their tasks include disabling booby traps and mines, clearing roadways and keeping transportation smooth over complex terrain.

“We have been given the mission of building a course from the ground up, a very basic course on pioneer training,” said Lt.-Col. Barry Pitcher, commanding officer of the Princess Lousie Fusiliers.

“What the pioneer training is, is an organic engineer capability which enables the infantry to have mobility and counter mobility skills.”

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The assault pioneers are a modern take on ancient soldiers in the Roman Empire, who cleared forests and built roads for their armies.

On Sunday, they built a gin and shear in the decommissioned airfield in Shearwater, N.S. The structure of wooden towers, poles and pulleys is designed to transport heavy materials over obstacles such as a river, or unstable ground.

“It was exciting watching the shear go up,” said Pte. Max Gallant, who participated in the exercise. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to fall at one point, then we managed to pull through, so (it was) satisfying.”

Assault pioneers in the Princess Louise Fusiliers reserve unit erect a gin and shear in a decommissioned air field in Shearwater, N.S. on Nov. 22, 2020.
Assault pioneers in the Princess Louise Fusiliers reserve unit erect a gin and shear in a decommissioned air field in Shearwater, N.S. on Nov. 22, 2020. Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

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“I was confident in the lashings we did so that was pretty cool,” added Pte. June Beals. “It was a great experience. I learned something new.”

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Members of the unit say the skills they learn as assault pioneers are applicable at home as well, including the use of power tools, the ability to tie knots and operate hydraulic equipment.

Beals said the COVID-19 pandemic did not play a major role in how the training event was conducted, other than requiring everyone to wear masks and sanitize regularly.

The Princess Louise Fusiliers are condensing the new training course into evenings and weekends over a three-month period.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 1:16 p.m. AST on Nov. 25 to clarify that the Assault Pioneers were part of the Canadian Armed Forces several years ago.