INUVIK, NT, CANADA -- Eighteen Marines with Engineer Company, Detachment Bravo, Marine Wing Support Squadron 473, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, completed engineering projects to increase force protection measures at the Canadian Forces Forward Operating Location Inuvik during their annual training, May 26 to June 9, 2017.
Inuvik is one of several FOL’s maintained by the RCAF in conjunction with North American Aerospace Defense Command. These FOL’s provide the necessary infrastructure and supplies to support the deployment of CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft to remote locations.
The Marines dedicated the most time to reconstructing fencing around the FOL which had deteriorated over time due to seasonal changes in the topmost layer of soil, causing the soil to freeze and thaw annually. This active soil layer also varies in thickness throughout the season and sits above a layer of permafrost. Due to the constant change in soil consistency, large portions of the fence had moved considerably from their original position.
The combat engineer Marines replaced or fixed a total of 2,450 linear feet of fence around the FOL and installed three times as much barbed wire, a project that took almost the full two weeks Marines were there.
There were some challenges. With warmer temperatures and a thawing layer of ground, Marines often found themselves working knee deep in mud. This type of construction engineering was new to several of the Marines who had never installed chain link fencing before.
“We normally work with wire obstacles,” said Sgt. Christopher W. Kaich, a surveyor with MWSS-473, “Chain link fencing was certainly more difficult to deal with than we anticipated, but we worked with it and got better and faster.”
Inuvik is located 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle and currently experiences 24 hours of daylight. It’s not the coldest time of the year in Inuvik but temperatures still dip below freezing at night. Even so, the Marines are eager to return to Inuvik or to test their ability to complete the mission in an even colder climate.
“We learned how to deal with the cold a little more than we’re used to,” said Kaich. “The 24 hours of sunlight messed with us, but we’re ready to test ourselves in even more austere environments.”
Les Klapatiuk works closely with the Royal Canadian Air Force and NORAD in managing FOL Inuvik and played a role in coordinating the Marines’ annual training at FOL Inuvik.
“I really appreciate all the time the Marines took to come up here and all the work that they’ve done,” Klapatiuk said. “I appreciate the leadership, discipline, motivation and work and would love to see them come back.”
Marines were rewarded for their efforts when on June 7 they were visited by several Marine Forces Reserve Leaders including Lt. General Rex C. McMillian, commander, MARFORRES, Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general, 4th MAW and Sgt. Maj. Rodney L. Lane, wing sergeant major, 4th MAW. McMillian spoke to the Marines about training and readiness and the importance of the relationship between Marines and the Canadian Armed Forces.
“We will never go into a fight by ourselves,” McMillian said. “The more time we spend together, the more seamlessly we will operate together. That’s the value of it. We need our partners.”