Canadian combat engineers make a home for NATO battlegroup in Latvia

Article / June 19, 2017 / Project number: 17-0171

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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Ādaži, Latvia — The Canadian Army (CA) is working with Latvian colleagues to ensure a NATO enhanced Forward Presence multinational battlegroup (BG) in Latvia will have comfortable living conditions when they arrive before year-end.

This work is just one component of Operation REASSURANCE (Op REASSURANCE), Canada’s contribution to ongoing, NATO-led defence and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe.

CA combat engineers, members of New Brunswick-based 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR), arrived in Latvia in April to begin temporary infrastructure projects at Camp Ādaži, which lies northeast of the capital, Riga.

The 50 members on the ground face a considerable challenge in providing shelter and many other necessities for about 1,200 troops from the six allied nations that make up the BG.

In the following interview, Lieutenant-Colonel Hugo Delisle, Commanding Officer of the Canadian Theatre Opening Team, provides an update on what they have accomplished.

Canada is one of four ‘Framework Nations’ in this BG. What does that mean and how does it impact your work on the ground?

The BG will be made up of six nations that will be working as part of a Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade.

The Host Nation (HN) is Latvia, the Framework Nation (FN) is Canada, and the Sending Nations (SNs) are Albania, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain. Each has different responsibilities: Canada as the FN is responsible to work as a conduit for the SNs through which to communicate with the HN. It also is responsible, along with the HN, to ensure all required support is available to the SNs on their arrival. This includes office spaces, accommodations, internet, space management, and financial management. Canada is also assisting the SNs with positioning equipment once it has arrived at Camp Ādaži so the SNs can begin their work as soon as is practical.

How are the tasks involved in preparing the camp split between Canadian and Latvian personnel? 

Latvia has committed to providing the necessary infrastructure to support the vehicles, equipment, personnel, and service needs of the BG. The associated infrastructure demands are significant, requiring multiple purpose-built structures resulting in a significant financial investment and expansion of the base’s footprint. Currently, Latvia is building new access roads and renovating existing ones, as well as accommodations and maintenance facilities. As an interim solution while this initiative is implemented, Canada has agreed to provide temporary facilities for the BG

How close is the camp to completion?

Readying a camp for over 1,000 troops is a complex project and we have worked closely with our Latvian colleagues to ensure it is ready to receive the multinational battlegroup. Design work for temporary infrastructure that will enhance the BG’s capabilities is complete and these projects are currently awaiting construction. Most of the associated construction work will occur in July and August.

Once construction is complete, 4 ESR is also responsible for maintenance of the camp. What does that involve?

4 ESR will maintain the camp until it is handed over to sustainment engineers later in June. This includes maintenance of generators and preventative maintenance of personal hygiene facilities. A technician will be available on call to deal with unforeseen problems as they are reported. This can be anything from responding to a power outage by replacing broken cables to replacing pumps or fittings in the washing facilities.

Aside from basic necessities, what other needs does the camp meet?

We have provided or will provide outdoor gym facilities and a soldier’s social club with pool tables and refreshments. We even show a movie every night and have three barbecues for social events.   

Are there many challenges to working with another military in this way? What are some of the greatest and how are they overcome?

We have great relationships with our allies and we are all working to ensure the BG contingents will have what they need. Working with other nations can be a challenge as policies and standards are different. However, the key to resolution is found through discussion and compromise.

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