Reserve soldiers training here this week

  • Jan. 23, 2013 7:00 a.m.

By Jane Wilson–Twenty-four soldiers from Vancouver and Victoria will be learning survival skills such as shelter and fire building, food gathering and signalling from local survival expert William Bradley here on Haida Gwaii this week.The training has been offered for the past six or seven years, but this is the first time it has been taught on island.The soldiers, reservists from 39 Brigade, will spend two days learning survival skills before being sent out to survive in the wilderness with a partner for 72 hours with limited equipment. Capt. Steven Parker, commander of the BC Company of the Fourth Canadian Rangers Patrol Group, chose Haida Gwaii because of our wet coastal conditions. “I chose it specifically to change the element of risk, to mix it up a bit” he said. “I think it will be a much more difficult course for both the staff and the candidates,” he said.William Bradley of Masset has been teaching survival with the Rangers since he left the navy and joined the Rangers 21 years ago. Before joining with the Masset/Port Clements Canadian Ranger patrol, he had taught survival skills at Camosun College and done ground search and rescue at CFS Baldy Hughes. Mr. Bradley also has extensive experience from a childhood spent on a trapline, and many years of outdoors experience.”All my life is outdoors,” he said, “my whole life is outdoors; hunting, fishing, trapping… (he laughed)…fishing, hunting, trapping.” Most of the training he has led in the past has been in cold, dry environments and he said this may prove to be far more challenging for the participants, who will be expected to survive three days with no shelter and limited food.”Here you have rain driven by wind, you can have snow, sleet, all in the same day, it’s much more of a challenge. Fire starting is going to be one of the biggest challenges I believe,” he said. Food gathering will also be more difficult, according to Mr. Bradley, who said berries are unlikely to be found at this time of year and small game difficult to track in this environment. “There’s mosses and lichens, but if you don’t know them…you really have to be careful,” he said.He thinks the limited game for trapping or snaring in an area like North Beach means participants may have to consider mice as a food source.”Mice out there aren’t running through their own garbage the way they do in a house, they’re quite a different animal, they’re actually quite clean. They would have to be cooked well, but other than that, they are a source of food and easy to catch.”Mr. Bradley expects the weather is going to be the main factor in how difficult the training will be. He said the weather we’ve had for the last two weeks has been benign for this time of year, no real high winds, no down pourings of rain, no freezing temperatures.”They get out there for three days, they could get a hurricane force south east wind, or freezing wind-driven snow, sleet. If it stays like this for a week, they’re going to love it, if we start getting some of the storms, the only ones who are going to love it are those who are prepared to deal with that kind of weather, it can be very depressing.”Snow is a bit easier to cope with, he said. “Rain, you get damp right off the bat, even if you have really good clothing. Snow you can brush off before you get into your tent, rain is coming in with you. In that sense, it’s a lot easier to live in a cold, dry environment than a damp, wet environment.””I’ve camped in minus forty and been perfectly comfortable, and I’ve been camping here at three or four degrees and been uncomfortably cold, it’s the dampness I think,” he said.The training will be running until the end of January.