It’s a strange time of day and the wrong time of year to be jumping in the ocean, but considering the leap is from moving boats and hovering helicopters, nothing about this is normal.
It’s especially out of the ordinary for members of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, who hail from landlocked CFB Edmonton, but are using the military’s Albert Head and Rocky Point bases in Metchosin for training exercises.
On this rainy morning, young men and women were practising how to reach shore when they’re unable to land a boat.
“How are they going to get onto land if it’s surrounded by water? If they can’t land on the island itself, they have to insert from the water,” said Capt. Aaron Baker, reconnaissance (recce for short) platoon commander. “It’s probably the first time for a lot of them jumping out of a helicopter into the water.”
“Fast casting” sees soldiers roll off the side of a moving boat, one by one, then swim to the nearby shore. In “helo casting,” soldiers jump from a helicopter into the ocean and make their way to shore.
Each exercise leaves the soldiers shivering but exhilarated. Most of them are paratroopers, however, and are used to jumping out of airplanes, so it’s not too far out of their comfort zone. There is little hesitation at the command to jump.
This week is the last of three devoted to the marine training. Three groups of soldiers have come in for one week each to engage in a wide variety of exercises that involve all three branches of the military.
One of the main events sees one group of soldiers attacking a group of “enemies” from the water at Rocky Point.
It starts with pathfinders and reconnaissance soldiers sneaking into the area to find the opposing force, watch their movements and relay information back to the attacking force. If all goes well, the attacking force uses that knowledge to launch an offensive the next day.
The exercise is made as real-world as possible, with each side doing its best to thwart the other.
“(The enemy) is going to be out there actively doing what’s called cleaning patrols,” said Warrant Officer Todd McKee. “At last light and first light, you’ll send out a clearing patrol to make sure nobody’s sneaking around.”
Once the battle is over, the last exercise for all the soldiers is a hike of the Juan de Fuca trail, considered to be a bit of rest and relaxation.
“It’s low-level, we call it ‘max and relax’ and a chance to enjoy the scenery. Some guys have never been out here before,” McKee said.