Glen Catarata with the Australian Army’s F88 Austeyr assault rifle.

Glen Catarata with the Australian Army’s F88 Austeyr assault rifle.

Creepy-crawlies welcome Canadian Rangers

PORT HARDY — Glen Catarata did manage to take in a few of the sights on a recent trip to Australia. But the sergeant and patrol commander for Port Hardy’s Canadian Ranger detachment had plenty of reminders that he was part of a military operation.

PORT HARDY — Glen Catarata did manage to take in a few of the sights on a recent trip to Australia. But the sergeant and patrol commander for Port Hardy’s Canadian Ranger detachment had plenty of reminders that he was part of a military operation.

“There was a lot of hurry up and wait,” said Catarata, a 20-year veteran who was invited as part of a select group of Rangers to train with the North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE) infantry regiment in and around Darwin in July and August. “We pretty much did it all. Planes, trains and automobiles.”

Not to mention an eight-hour boat trip in a troop transport craft which took the 15-member Rangers delegation from the main NORFORCE command.

“A lot of the stuff I learned there I’ll bring back to my own patrol — things we can be using.”

Of course, Catarata experienced things on this trip that are unlikely to crop up in a Canadian deployment. Like avoiding crocodiles, snakes, spiders and even a poisonous tree on two-day bivouac in the bush. Or using dried kangaroo and wallaby dung as fire starter. Or dealing with 30-35C temperatures, even in the middle of the Australian winter.

“There were a lot of creepy-crawlies,” said Catarata, who rolled out his light field blanket inside a bug screen each night, whether in the field or in the remote and spare barracks of the Kangaroo Flats training camp.

This summer’s exchange trip by the 15-member Canadian Rangers team will be followed by a visit to Canada by a NORFORCE delegation, likely in the next year to 18 months. The exchange program was initiated by a NORFORCE commander who read about the Canadian Rangers and who was struck by it similarity to his own command, which is part of the Australian Army Reserve tasked with reconnaissance, observation and collection of military intelligence in Australia’s northern territories.

Catarata’s adventure began with two days of preparatory meeting and pre-training in Victoria with six Rangers from B.C., five from Alberta and four from Manitoba. After a bus-and-ferry trip to Vancouver International Airport, the group took a 15-hour flight to Sydney, spent a day to shrug off the jet lag, then flew another five hours to Darwin in the Northern Territories to begin the training.

The Rangers were versed in an introductory safety course, covering first aid, hydration and avoidance/treatment of snake and spider bites. They trained with the Australian Army’s F88 Austeyr assault rifle, spending three days on simply breaking down and re-assembling the weapon before they were allowed even to use it on a computer simulation “firing range”.

“They wanted us to be perfect before we ever got to the range,” Catarata said.

The team also did capsizing drills with a Zodiac inflatable boat, and Catarata said perhaps the greatest challenge he faced was the swimming test that every Ranger had to pass before taking part in the drill.

“It was a 100-metre swim in full combat (gear), except for boots,” he said. “At the end of it we had to tread water for two minutes. That was probably the hardest part for me the whole time.”

Things got interesting when the group shifted to the remote Gove peninsula, in the Nhulunbuy region. At Gulkula, they were treated to an audience at Garma Festival, Australia’s major indigenous cultural exchange event, where they saw  tribal dances and music.

“When they found out we were from Canada, they were especially keen to meet any First Nations in the Rangers,” said Catarata. Only one member of the team, a soldier from Manitoba, was aboriginal. “He was real popular.”

Catarata and his mates then joined NORFORCE recruits for field training, which features many techniques imparted to NORFORCE by aboriginals over the years. These included building spears, collecting water from trees or bare earth by condensation, and starting fires with bow and drill.

They also learned to navigate by sun and stars, which took some adjustment considering the different constellations of the Southern Hemisphere.

“Once you figured out the Southern Cross, it wasn’t too hard,” Catarata said.

Due to the limited time in the field, the group was not required to catch its own “Bush Tucker” — food caught in the wild. But the Rangers still got a taste of Australia’s wild game.

“They came and dumped out a big bag of meat,” Catarata said. “Croc, water buffalo and kangaroo or wallaby, I’m not sure which. They said, ‘Go ahead and eat it.’ It was pretty good.”

Two days in Sydney to “decompress” followed. About the only thing the Rangers did not do during their stay was drive on its left-hand-side roads.

“They wouldn’t even let us rent a car,” he said.

 

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press Media file
Port Hardy RCMP on the hunt for porta-pottie arsonist

The porta-potties were lit on fire early in the morning on June 13

Eke Me-Xi students enjoy a field trip to Malcolm Island. (Submitted photos)
Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre takes field trip to Malcolm Island

Once at Bere Point, students made themselves at home in the day-use area

Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair logo
Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair cancelled again due to COVID-19 restrictions

The 2022 fall fair is still scheduled to take place in Port Hardy

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read