By Chris Marchand
Canadian Forces Reservists from Kenora’s 116 Independent Field Battery, made a weekend of Dryden’s Winterfest festivities with some onsite winter camping, artillery drills, a recruitment tent and a bit of fun-loving shenanigans.
On display throughout the visit was a C3 105mm Howitzer, a field artillery weapon with a range of up to 18 kilometres. The reservists spent the night in 10-man Arctic tents.
“This is a training weekend where we’re practicing our gunnery skills with the Howitzer that we would have done anyway, we just happen to be doing it in the public eye,” said Battery Commander Major Jon Baker. “We’re making a conscious effort to get out and train in other communities where we have recruits. We do have members of the unit who are from Dryden — one of them just joined the regular force last week. He used our unit in Kenora as a launching board to full-time employment. We still have Bombardier Patrick Wall who’s using this as part-time employment — it’s helping him through university. He drove back from Thunder Bay to train with us this weekend in his hometown.”
With an unlimited supply of firewood and a concession stand selling hot food to supplement their military rations, Baker says winter training weekends don’t get much easier.
“We’ve been very happy with our ability to interact with the public,” said Baker. “There’s a fire here for the guys to warm up at in between deployments. We brought a hockey net and some sticks for after dark tonight and we’ll probably play some ball hockey.”
The unit is training for a live fire exercise next month in Shilo, MB, but here in Dryden they are working hard to tighten up the precision teamwork required to fire their Howitzer quickly and accurately without mistakes.
“This is the normal sort of gateway training that we would do, regardless of the location, before we would fire live to make sure we wouldn’t make any mistakes,” said Baker. “We’re making sure our guys are comfortable with their drills — that they can do them correctly and quickly. Setting up the gun so that they can do everything but actually fire the bullets. We’ve even run them through some simulated fire missions where we’ve pretended to have ammunition, pretended to load it and done everything but pull the lanyard.”