The Canadian military’s winter operation called Operation Nanook-Nunalivut is in full swing along the Beaufort Sea in the Northwest Territories.
For some of the young soldiers, this cold weather operation is their first taste of the Arctic – and they’re learning from the best.
“When you get to my rank you don’t really get the opportunity to do this, to share with young soldiers,” says Chief Warrant Officer Joel Pedersen, who is the only First Nation man to hold that rank in the Canadian Forces.
“Where they are going to be operating is where we slept last night in the -40 with windchill and they might have to get up, put on their snowshoes and be prepared to do their job which is out on the land.”
More than 200 soldiers are in the small Inuvialuit community of Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik participating in the annual exercise known as Operation Nanook.
For two weeks, soldiers will conduct long-range patrols and complex logistical supports to demonstrate their ability to sustain a military presence in the Arctic.
Alongside are military forces from the United States, United Kingdom and France.
The success of the operation is also reliant on joint patrols with the Canadian Rangers.
“They know the skills and the knowledge that’s been passed on the same way through Indigenous culture and land aspects,” says Pedersen who is with the 38 Canadian Brigade Group. “Again if we look at the history, Indigenous people have always helped out our military and they continue to do so.”
Pedersen, who is a member of Fond Du Lac Dene First Nation and Mikisew Cree Nation, says he’s also learning from locals.
“We are going to be going out to do a move so we are going to put our snowshoes on and our rucksacks and we’re going to go for a 10 k walk and put up our tents and we’ve already talked to the Rangers and asked them what’s the best places,” he tells APTN News.
Operation Nanook wraps up Feb. 28.