Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence


April 28, 2008 19:43 ET

Commonwealth Crews Test Their Mettle, Train Troops for Afghanistan

COMOX, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - April 28, 2008) - Air Force crews from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand have gathered at 19 Wing Comox to battle for the famed Fincastle trophy, while supporting another training exercise preparing troops for Afghanistan.

19 Wing will host the annual Fincastle competition from April 28 to May 18. The event sees four long-range patrol aircraft crews - among them an Aurora crew from 19 Wing Comox - tackle a series of complex missions over both water and land, while ground crews compete in preparing the airplanes to fly.

The aircrews will compete in their traditional anti-submarine warfare role, flying missions at the Nanoose Bay Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges. They'll test their growing skills in overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance by taking part in Exercise Maple Guardian over Wainwright, Alberta, the final training for Canadian soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.

"This competition is about more than just earning bragging rights," says 19 Wing Commander Col. Fred Bigelow. "All the crews - the Canadians, Brits, Aussies and Kiwis - will be providing the kind of tactical over-watch our troops can expect from coalition aircraft in Afghanistan. So we're not just testing our skills at Fincastle, we're developing and strengthening new ones as well."

Of course, there's time for a little fun as well. This year's competition will see one day devoted to an aircraft charity pull. On Sunday May 11, each country will field a team of 20 to pull a 64,000-pound Aurora as fast as possible over a 10-metre-long course. Money raised from the event will go to the B.C. Lions Club Charity for Children with Disabilities.

"The Fincastle experience has always been a remarkable one for those involved," says Col. Bigelow. "Each crew here has bested their fellow crews at home. They then travel thousands of kilometers to compete in an atmosphere of warmth and comradeship. Representing their country like this is something they'll never forget, personally or professionally."

Canada has won the Fincastle trophy a total of eight times, the last in 1996 in New Zealand.

Note to editors: Members of the media are invited to 19 Wing on Thursday, May 1 at 12:45 p.m. Media can experience the CP-140 Aurora first-hand during a media flight. Opportunities to interview Fincastle crews will also be available.

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