Roughly 2,500 Canadian and some international soldiers are honing their skills at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Wainwright after the massive training exercise was cancelled last year in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada’s largest military training exercise typically hosts between 5,000 and 6,000 soldiers but the size of the operation that began Saturday and runs to May 11 has been scaled back to accommodate COVID-19 physical distancing measures and to cut back on trans-Canada travel, says an April 28 army briefing on the event.
Cancelling for the second year in a row training that’s deemed essential would be a blow to troop readiness in the face of any security challenges here and abroad, continues the statement.
“Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE will continue to ensure that the Army’s high-readiness units are validated in their core warfighting proficiencies, while also safeguarding the Army’s ability to respond to domestic emergencies if required,” it concludes.
This year’s MAPLE RESOLVE numbers of around 2,500 is a 50 per cent reduction from previous years, with most of the soldiers this year Alberta-based and a few coming from south of the border as well as Britain. In other years, international partners from around the world take part in the exercise, hosted at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre at CFB Wainwright.
The exercise, a staple of the Canadian military training calendar, cost around $35 million in 2017.
Not only designed to ready soldiers for combat, it has also been used in past years to help troops learn to interact with “locals,” with hundreds of paid actors helping drive the exercise’s evolving, overarching narrative.
Another big factor is interoperability, or the capability of coalition forces to work together and to understand each other’s nuances in operating procedures; finding the best ways to work together.
The 2020 MAPLE RESOLVE cancellation not only facilitated safety protocols early on in the pandemic, it allowed the army to sequester and isolate personnel in order to fill requests for military assistance, as was the case when the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was deployed into long term care facilities during the first wave.
Daily symptom screening, physical distancing, mask wearing, cohorting, isolation when travel is involved, and COVID-19 testing when appropriate allowed the army to forge ahead with MAPLE RESOLVE this year.