Monday, October 2, 2023

Royal Canadian Air Force holds annual search and rescue training exercise is Lethbridge

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has an extra presence in Lethbridge this week as about 100 people have gathered for annual search and rescue training. Resident could see Air Force planes and helicopters overhead, heading to various scenario locations near Pincher Creek and Cranbrook. 

“Being able to operate out of Lethbridge, we are only a stone’s throw away from the foothills and the Rocky Mountains so it gives us some diverse terrain that we can work in that we could be expected to be deployed to work on an operational callout,” said Captain Jules Pankoski, organizer for the event known as CHINTEX.  

This exercise includes participants from various Royal Canadian Air Force agencies, including support from 17 Wing Winnipeg and 19 Wing Comox. Crews are also participating in combined training with United States Air Force, local Ground Search and Rescue teams and members of the Civilian Air Search and Rescue Association. Personnel from HMCS Tecumseh, the Naval Reserve Division in Calgary, are also taking part. 

“Part of the International SAR mandate requires that nations will help out each other when there is rescue scenarios, folks in distress near borders and in the past we have proved this concept,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Joshua Levesque, commanding officer for 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron. “It is very important to have the events where we can prove our capabilities and how we can work with each other so that when we are called in a real-world environment to affect a rescue, that we have the expertise and we have a good knowledge of what each other brings to the table” with respect to capabilities.” 

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Training scenarios include high angle rescues, water scenarios in collaboration with Navy reserves and assisting a lost aircraft. 

“Although we train almost every day, continually ensuring that our skills are honed and sharpened, we don’t always get to work with all the other agencies that we work with on an actual SAR callout so being able to bring everyone together in one spot and being able to more realistically replicate how we would work together on a callout if really important,” said Pankoski. 

About 100 people are participating in the exercises, which will run until June 11. The exercise is held annually in different cities around the country.

The RCAF says it is working to minimize effects on nearby residents during the training and advises there could be some activity overnight during the week. 

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