BY RICK PUSIAK
A major military exercise is set to start in the Sudbury area Monday. Some 600 soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa will be heading north to participate in a four-day training session that the army has dubbed Thor?s Hammer.
The troops will be camped out at what used to be the headquarters side and operations section of the old radar base near the Sudbury airport.
Petawawa information officer, Lt. Leslie Kerckhoff, said the military picked the location for two main reasons.
The old buildings and surrounding terrain will provide a realistic backdrop for combat drills. The four-hour drive west on Highway 17 will also give army transportation units and mechanics a chance to get some experience when it comes to a long distance deployment.
Kerckhoff said there is no connection between the Sudbury exercise and the looming confrontation with Iraq.
Planning for the large military exercise started some time ago.
The troops coming to town will be mainly from the Royal Canadian Regiment 1st Battalionm but will also include Cameron Highlanders from Ottawa and members of the Algonquin Regiment from North Bay.
About 20 reservists from Sudbury?s military Unit, the 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment of Canada, will take part in the operation and take on the role of attacking enemy forces.
People living near the old radar base will hear simulated artillery, blank small arms fire and some explosives, but the lieutenant said there is absolutely no danger to the public.
It has been almost 20 years since the military has any sort of presence at the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Falconbridge. Construction of the high-tech installation started in the late 1950s. The radar station was part of the Pine Tree Line, a series of stations in relative close proximity to 48th parallel that kept electronic watch for a feared Soviet bomber attack over the North Pole.
The stations were eventually decommissioned. There are still some stations operating much further north, like Canadian Forces Station Alert in the Arctic. Falconbridge closed in 1986 and the property was sold to private interests.
The former military married quarters ? single homes and duplexes ? were turned into rental units. Some operational buildings have long been vacant like the structures on top of a high hill that used to support enormous round radar domes.
When the station was decommissioned the radar equipment was dismantled and sent to another station in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Kerckhoff said in addition to the troops some Griffon helicopters, similar to the Huey?s used during the Vietnam war will also be flying in as part of transport activities.
The military will be doing some public relations during their visit to Sudbury. A brand new Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) 3 will be on display at Cactus Pete?s restaurant on Shaughnessy Street this Tuesday from 1 to 3 pm.