Soldiers perform first aid during a rocket attack scenario during Exercise Jimmy West at CFB Esquimalt’s Albert Head and Heals Range in Metchosin on Saturday. (Photo by Leading Seaman David Gariepy, MARPAC Imaging Services)

Soldiers get real-life experience at Albert Head

Seventy-five soliders took part in Exercise Jimmy West competition

On Saturday, Liam Kenney cautiously approached a group of soldiers from the military.

Kenney was walking down from the road with a friend on their way home from a bar, when they were stopped. Some of the soldiers asked them for identification, while others conducted searches and patted them down. Kenney nervously explained they had done nothing wrong.

Shortly after, they were let through the check point and Kenney breathed a sign of relief. But it was all just a training exercise. Kenney, an officer cadet in training to become a member of the military police, was one of several actors who helped create real life scenarios during Exercise Jimmy West at CFB Esquimalt’s Albert Head and Heals Range over the weekend.

As part of the annual competition, 75 reservists and regular force members were tested on their physical, soldiering and communications skills through a variety of challenges, which included firing weapons, setting up a command post and establishing a vehicle check-point.

In the exercise Kenney was a part of, there were various actors who helped recreate three scenarios: one of which included civilians that were belligerent and visibly upset about being stopped at the check point, another with civilians that were nervous and the final scenario, which was a simulated attack where soldiers had to conduct first-aid on victims.

Kenney played the same scenario for three different groups, with soldiers representing the Prairies, Alberta and B.C. While he knew it was an exercise, he admitted it felt as though the tables had been turned.

“It’s an interesting experience. You’re obviously playing a role and you’re not used to it. You know what’s going on and you know what to expect, but it kind of pulls you in and you feel like you’re actually being stopped,” Kenney said. “There’s a huge degree of reality to it … You feel like you’re actually in the scenario and you’re kind of worried that they’re going to overreact and you’re going to do something wrong.”

Capt. Gina Lloyd, who runs 39 Signal Regiment in Victoria that hosted the competition, said the exercise helped bring together troops from across the country to build camaraderie.

“It was a bit of a wet day, but we had a good competition, good team spirit with some really good results,” she said.

“We don’t get to work with each other every day, but when we get into bigger operations, like the operation that happened this summer to help with the wildfires, we bring in members from across Canada, so this allows them to create those relationships with members that don’t necessarily reside in their own area.”

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