Canadian Ranger Master Cpl. Pamela Chookomoolin began her service with the Canadian Armed Forces by doing basic training with the Reserves in Timmins after participating in a military co-op in high school.
“I tried the Reservists portion for a bit but then I came home — the only thing available here was the Canadian Rangers,” Chookomoolin says. “I had finished high school and I did my basic training (in Meaford, Ont.), but I came home in the fall and I’ve been here ever since.”
Chookomoolin says the basic training with the Reserves involved marching, drills, rifle training and other training for about six weeks during the summer months.
“We stayed in green army tents and slept in a cot,” Chookomoolin says. “We used to train with the C7s in the Reservists.”
Chookomoolin says she did the military co-op during her last year in high school.
“They had a new program that year and we signed up for it,” Chookomoolin says. “It was the whole semester so it was pretty good.”
Chookomoolin has since been involved in a few search and rescue missions with the Canadian Rangers after transferring over when she returned home to Peawanuck. The Canadian Rangers and the Reserves are both part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve Force, which also includes the Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service and the Supplementary Reserve.
“I remember one (search and rescue mission) where we had two people that were overdue,” Chookomoolin says. “We had two Hercules (aircraft) fly in, one was from Trenton and when that one went back another one from Winnipeg was sent up.”
Chookomoolin says the two people got lost in a blizzard down river from Peawanuck and became separated.
“One managed to make it to one of the cabins,” Chookomoolin says. “It took longer to find that other person.”
Chookomoolin says they usually have to search for overdue hunters or people travelling on the land by snow machine during the winter.
“They travel quite a bit when the ground is frozen,” Chookomoolin says. “Sometimes they run into trouble, like either they fall in a creek or they break down.”
Chookomoolin says they usually take emergency supplies with them on the search and rescue missions, such as food and extra sleeping bags.
“We’re trained to do first aid,” Chookomoolin says. “We have those ice rescue jumpsuits and we get trained (on) how to keep your calm, catch your breath and get out of the water safely.”
Chookomoolin adds that she has been on a variety of training exercises since joining the Canadian Rangers, including a session on search and rescue, night navigation and first aid with more than 100 other Canadian Rangers near Thunder Bay and a two-week course with the Ontario Provincial Police on ground search and rescue at Canadian Forces Base Borden in southern Ontario.
“We do training on the land, either in the winter by snow machines or in the summer by boats or ATVs,” Chookomoolin says. “A few years back we had a couple of soldiers up here for winter training, to see what it was like to train in the winter. We did a few things like making snow shelters, snaring and butchering wild meat, and sharing wild food with them (during) cookouts. I think they enjoyed the caribou.”
Chookomoolin says they also meet up with Canadian Rangers from other communities during the winter for joint training exercises.
“We usually do target shooting and first aid,” Chookomoolin says. “To get there too you have to plot your trip on the map and how much fuel you need and things like that, or resupplying and refuelling.”