June 22nd, 2024

Suffield hosts NATO response exercise

By Jeremy Appel on July 26, 2018.

Gernman and Canadian forces at CFB Suffield participated Wednesday, July 25, 2018 in Exercise Precise Response, which trains NATO forces in decontamination for potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attacks.


Nearly 400 troops from 10 NATO countries have gathered at CFB Suffield for the past few weeks to participate in Exercise Precise Response, a Canadian-led simulation of a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attack.

Maj. Christian Lepage, executive director of the exercise, says while CBRN attacks have been in the news lately, from Syria to the U.K., this exercise has been going on since 2002.

The exercise simulates a contaminated patient going through a stabilizing medical procedure, Lepage explained.

“The Canadian forces offer training grounds for all NATO partners to be able to react to that kind of event,” he said.

The exercise is purely a precautionary measure, similar to the type of training the Canadian government offers for conventional warfare or flooding, he added.

“We train our people to be able to do that kind of job. Preparing against CBRN threats is another aspect.”

This preparation is meant to be transferable to a variety of locations and scenarios across NATO countries.

Suffield is the appropriate venue for this type of training, because of its sheer size and the fact its research centre has been studying CBRN defence capabilities for the past 50 years.

“Obviously, when we look around, there aren’t that many human beings, so when you’re in the middle of the field, for security reasons we need a vast space in order to do business,” Lepage said, adding they need a large buffer zone in case something goes wrong.

“This centre is the only place in Canada that has been mandated … to be able to host live agent training and do that type of research.”

German Col. Hans Holthern, a doctor, says this year’s exercise is based off a concept his team developed last year.

“Together with our Canadian partners, as you can see during the presentation, we performed the decontamination and treatment of the patient,” he said. “It’s a German invention.”

Holthern praised this “crucial” collaboration between NATO allies.

“We are never alone in the missions … We have to train together, as we have to fight together,” he said.

A CBRN scenario is far more complicated than a conventional weapons attack, which is why it requires its own training exercise, said Holthern.

“You don’t just have to take care of the wounds of the patient, but you have to take care (of) the decontamination,” he said.

“If you take a wounded patient who’s contaminated into a medical treatment facility, you will immediately destroy the whole capability of the treatment facility.”

Holthern said his troops enjoy being out in spacious rural Canada — a stark contrast to the atmosphere back home.

“Germany is very crowded,” he said.

Ultimately, these types of multi-nation exercises provide a unique bonding experience for the soldiers involved.

“They talk to the Canadians, talk to the Italians, talk to the Spaniards, Belgians, all nations here, and they really appreciate this international atmosphere,” said Holthern.

“Even those for whom it’s hard to talk because language barriers are sometimes a problem — (during) party time, there’s a different language.”

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