By Dianne Pinder-Moss
Up to 500 members of the 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2 RHCA) will be deployed to Perth for a few days in October as part of a military exercise.
Exercise “Avenging Gunner,” as it is being called, will commence on Oct. 11 with the main body of the regiment moving from its base in Petawawa to Ottawa and then on to Perth the following day. Support personnel will be setting up at the Perth Fairgrounds in advance to meet the regiment when they arrive.
From Oct. 12-14, the fairgrounds will serve as the base of operations with some members of 2 RCHA going to the Lombardy Fairgrounds and others to Carleton Place. Concurrently, small teams will disperse within Perth, according to the exercise overview.
In a presentation at the Aug. 9 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting of Perth Town Council, Major Chris Sykora stated that the Canadian Army regular unit is currently undergoing various training to become part of the High Readiness Force, which will enable the Canadian government to deploy a unit anywhere in the world.
“We want to make sure we train our soldiers properly before deploying them overseas,” he noted.
Since 2000, 2 RHCA has been deployed five times to Afghanistan and has provided humanitarian relief in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Haiti following natural disasters.
Along with leveraging other training and experience in domestic operations and warfighting, community engagement is an important part of the exercise. Before the start of the meeting, Captain Derrick Mann told Hometown News that previous training in Europe involved maneuvers in which members of 2 RCHA were deployed to small towns. “We’re getting back to that practice of getting out and doing deployments and meeting people,” he stated. “We call that community engagement.”
With that in mind, Sykora indicated that 2 RCHA wants to hold a community engagement day on Oct. 14, in which members of the public could meet the soldiers and view equipment such as light armored vehicles and M777 Howitzer guns. This is still in the planning stages.
While members of the regiment will have weapons during the exercise, he assured members of town council that no ammunition or pyrotechnics will be utilized during their deployment in the area.
“That will be left to when we are back in Petawawa,” he stressed. The exercise will finish off with live fire in a Petawawa training area from Oct. 15-20.
Sykora also stated that 2 RCHA will work to ensure that the military exercise has as little impact as possible on the daily routine of Perth residents. “We want to minimize the impact to the community,” he said.
In addition to 2 RCHA having a connection to the area – Mann is from Carleton Place and he mentioned that operations officer Jeff Brownridge is from the Perth area – the region met the requirements for an exercise like this.“Friendly, accommodating…the terrain is perfect,” Mann said.
While a rental agreement has already been signed for the use of the Perth Fairgrounds, some other aspects of the exercise still need to be finalized. In his presentation, Sykora sought permission from the town to use the property adjacent to the landfill, snow dump property on Industrial Drive, Last Duel Park and Town Hall clock tower for dry artillery deployments. The park would be utilized for small team and mortar deployments while the clock tower would serve as an observation post for four to six soldiers.
Some logistical support will also be required, including bulk water refill for the regiment’s water carriers; permission to landfill mostly food waste; and town staff support “to facilitate access and out-clearance.”
Speaking on behalf of council, Mayor John Fenik extended a warm welcome to 2 RCHR to Perth and stated that the town would provide the regiment with whatever support it needed. With that in mind, a motion was unanimously approved by council directing staff to take action necessary to support the activities of 2 RCHR during the scheduled exercise. The resolution will come before council for final approval at its regular meeting on Aug. 30.
Fenik and other members of council made mention of the last time there was a large military presence in the Perth area – the Ice Storm of 1998. Stating of his pride in seeing the military come down his street to lend assistance, Councillor Jim Boldt said he was “really excited about seeing you guys come to do this exercise.”
Deputy Mayor John Gemmell who chaired the COW meeting felt it was fitting that the exercise would be taking place on the town’s 200th anniversary, given that Perth was a military settlement.
“I think it is absolutely wonderful you are doing this,” he commented.
Photo by Dianne Pinder-Moss: Major Chris Sykora and Captain Derrick Mann of the 2 RCHA appeared as a delegation at Tuesday’s COW meeting to talk about the upcoming military exercise in October.