Above Image: 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, and friends completed Ex Bushman at Base Gagetown. Photos courtesy of Base Gagetown Imagery, New Brunswick.
Exercise Iron Warrior 2020, hosted at CFB Petawawa on September 1 and 2, and Exercise Bushman, hosted at CFB Gagetown on September 3, went forward with additional modifications and protections due to the current COVID-19 Pandemic.
“The reactions to the changes in race format were initially mixed but are trending pretty positively with some negative (it is a 37-year tradition!). Generally speaking, almost everyone liked certain changes and had some recommendations to improve in the future. The one thing that seems to be universal is the openness to some change to make this the best event for 2 CMBG it can be,” said Major (Maj) Garrett Book, 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (2 CER) lead organizer of Ex Iron Warrior 2020.
During Ex Iron Warrior, hosted by 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (2 CMBG), there were a total of 177 registered participants, military and civilian, from the Petawawa area. However, due to COVID-19, participants from outside Ontario were not able to participate.
Planning meetings and competitor briefs were held virtually, and participants were asked to handle their own equipment at all times during the competition.
“Everyone was completely supportive of any and all COVID-19 mitigation measures we put in place to have the race move forward. The buy-in was incredible. We really appreciate how amazing it is to cheer on your team members or be greeted by your family at the finish line, but the empty parking lot showed the acceptance of our’ new normal’. The pipes still sounded as every competitor crossed the finish line, which is a fantastic tradition! Everyone was incredibly happy that we managed to deliver the race in some form this year. It was certainly disappointing for those outside the local area, but they also understood,” said Maj Book.
Volunteers at the water stations and portage station were provided with masks, gloves, face-shields, and disinfectant materials. All common use surfaces, such as tables, were sanitized after every use.
In order to promote physical distancing, there was a staggered start to the event. Participants started in groups of 25, with 20 seconds between each competitor, and a new group starting every 20 minutes. Competitors were also asked to keep a four-metre distance between each other.
There was no awards ceremony, and spectators were not permitted.
“Our Brigade Surgeon and the health service support (HSS) team did an excellent job writing detailed protocols and mitigation measures that we could follow. When it comes to passing, we went to the medical information on how far liquid particles will hang in the air during an event like this. Drafting is something that is commonly used in races but is higher risk in the COVID-19 environment. Participants needed to keep 4 metre distance when behind someone and the 2 metre spacing when they were alongside someone. We received special authority to use bottled water and sports drink at socially distance hydration points, with disinfection between competitors, to ensure they wouldn’t contaminate each other. At the end of the day, we used the most up to date information on COVID-19 and medical advice to ensure that risk was mitigated to a point where the event was safe,” said Maj Book.
Exercise Bushman, an annual physical fitness challenge hosted by 2 Royal Canadian Regiment (2 RCR), was held Thursday, September 3.
Ex Bushman 2020 had 70 participants in 35 teams of 2 members in order to promote physical distancing on a course that included areas in and around CFB Gagetown.
The teams had to train and race with a member of their “COVID-19 Bubble Family.” The start times were staggered by one-minute intervals.
Hydration points were set up along the route. Volunteer personnel were supplied with masks and gloves and handed out only water bottles. In terms of First Aid, in the event of an injury, both the medical personnel and the casualty were required to wear a mask.
This year’s Exercise Mountain Man, initially scheduled for August 27, in Edmonton, was cancelled due to COVID-19. The health and safety of soldiers is a top priority, as well as remaining physically fit and able to respond when Canada needs.
The Canadian Armed Forces must also be responsive to public health orders in the communities in which we serve, in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 for all Canadians. The organizers with 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1 CMBG) determined the logistics of the event, which would have brought together participants from across western Canada, would have put participants at risk. The organizers at 1 CMBG look forward to welcoming everyone back to Exercise Mountain Man in late summer 2021.