Ex­er­cise NIHILO SAPPER

Army en­gi­neers “close the loop” around War­ren Lake dur­ing an­nual train­ing ex­er­cise

The Victoria Standard - - Ready For The Call - CAROLYN BAR­BER

The Cana­dian Armed Forces’ 4 En­gi­neer Sup­port Reg­i­ment (4 ESR) are in their el­e­ment when things do not go ac­cord­ing to plan.

From Nov. 5 to Nov. 20, 4 ESR’S 42nd Hor­i­zon­tal Con­struc­tion Squadron built a 33m sus­pen­sion bridge over a trib­u­tary lo­cated at the west­ern end of War­ren Lake in Cape Bre­ton High­lands Na­tional Park. The build was one of five com­mu­nity projects com­pleted through­out Cape Bre­ton in Novem­ber as part of the reg­i­ment’s an­nual con­struc­tion en­gi­neer­ing ex­er­cise known as Ex Nihilo Sapper. The ob­jec­tive is to meet a com­mu­nity need while pro­vid­ing es­sen­tial on­go­ing train­ing for the reg­i­ment.

Un­der Squadron Com­man­der Ma­jor Heather Reibin’s lead­er­ship, their goal was to “close the loop” on the hik­ing trail around Cape Bre­ton High­lands’ largest lake by Nov. 20. De­spite one ma­jor snag, the deed got done.

“We needed this…but we got this,” said Reibin at the bridge site, us­ing out­stretched arms to il­lus­trate the gap be­tween the ini­tial bridge con­struc­tion plan, and what even­tu­ally un­folded.

Un­der ideal cir­cum­stances, with all ma­te­ri­als on hand, the squadron would have prepped com­po­nents as they built the bridge. How­ever, the bolts needed to se­cure the bridge tower to its foot­ing didn’t ar­rive un­til Nov. 16, com­press­ing con­struc­tion time from ten days to five.

Still, not a mo­ment was wasted. Troops metic­u­lously prepped all ex­ist­ing sup­plies, call­ing in ma­te­rial tech­ni­cians from other 4 ESR squadrons to cus­tom cut ca­bles and mod­ify con­nec­tion points.

“In ev­ery task we do, we are chal­lenged to find so­lu­tions,” said Site Com­man­der and civil en­gi­neer Lt. Wil­liam Du­mais, point­ing out the metic­u­lously pre-as­sem­bled bridge com­po­nents ready to be bolted to­gether.

“Prob­lem-solv­ing is key. Miss­ing bolts meant hav­ing to put ex­tra work into cal­cu­la­tions to make sure the prep was cor­rect,” said Reibin. She added that the set­back al­lowed for cross-train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and knowl­edge-shar­ing be­tween newer and more ex­pe­ri­enced troops.

4 ESR is the Armed Forces’ High Readi­ness Unit. The reg­i­ment has 423 per­son­nel spread across four squadrons. Per­son­nel are de­ployed on short no­tice in re­sponse to crises at home and abroad. Be­yond on­go­ing train­ing, the Ex Nihilo Sapper ex­er­cise serves as a tac­ti­cal ex­er­cise by sim­u­lat­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where there is an en­emy threat. Site en­trances at all projects are guarded by armed troops, light-ar­moured ve­hi­cles and ra­zor wire.

Hik­ers cross­ing the new sus­pen­sion bridge will see lit­tle ev­i­dence (save, boot prints) of the co­op­er­a­tion that put it in place. War­ren Lake will re­turn to still­ness from the con­stant travers­ing of small mil­i­tary trans­port boats car­ry­ing con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als. The Broad Cove Camp­ground will bear no trace of the fully-equipped For­ward Op­er­at­ing Base (FOB) con­structed in 24 hours on Nov. 5 to ac­com­mo­date the troops. The kitchen, com­mand of­fice, ac­com­mo­da­tions, light-ar­moured ve­hi­cles, guns and ra­zor wire perime­ter - all gone.

For 4 ESR, it’s back to Gage­town to de­brief, see fam­ily and friends and be ever-ready for the next de­ploy­ment.

(Top): It took only 24 hours for 4 ESR’S 42 Hor­i­zon­tal Con­struc­tion Squadron to con­struct their For­ward­ing Op­er­at­ing Base (FOB) at Broad Cove Camp­ground out­side In­go­nish. The base was equipped with kitchen, ac­com­mo­da­tions and com­mand of­fice. (Bot­tom, left): Cpl. An­drew Lough­ery, Sapper Drew Parker and Cpl. Nick Mont­gomery guard­ing the FOB en­trance. (Bot­tom, cen­tre): All con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als were trans­ported by boat across War­ren Lake in small pa­trol boats. (Bot­tom, right) Bridge Com­man­der Sgt. Nathan Miller over­sees en­gi­neers test­ing the sag of a bridge ca­ble.

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