http://www.thedailyobserver.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2185303

Troops at CFB Petawawa are doing a little California dreamin' these days as they prepare for Exercise Maple Guardian.

The exercise, which will involve about 3,700 troops, will begin in early January at Fort Irwin California in the Mojave Desert.

Before those troops arrive, their equipment must be sent and that is precisely what is taking place at Base Petawawa right now.

Over an 11 day period that began on Nov. 16, around 700 military vehicles will be loaded onto rail cars on a Canadian Pacific spur at the base.

A total of four trains will then haul the vehicles approximately 4,800 kilometres to California.

Warrant Officer Sherri Forward of 2 Area Support Group headquarters, said a lot of planning goes into a move of this scale.

"I was called off leave in April and we started planning in May," she said. "This took roughly three months to plan."

A 'rail party' consisting primarily of soldiers from 3 Royal Canadian Regiment will head down to California to take the vehicles back off the rail cars while a maintenance team will head down prior to the exercise to ensure that the vehicles are ready to go.

Lieut. Dennis Power, brigade public affairs officer, said when the troops arrive to begin the exercise all they will have to do is 'turn the key.'

The vehicles being shipped include light-armoured vehicles (LAVs), light-utility vehicles, Bisons, trucks, among others.

The rail party working to load them in Petawawa expected to load about 67 vehicles on Thursday.

Task Force 1-10 stood up in September 2009 and is currently scheduled to deploy in early 2010. Throughout the fall, company-level exercises and low-level training have been held in Petawawa.

The only large-level exercise being conducted for this deployment is the exercise at Fort Irwin.

According to the military, the dessert environment around at Fort Irwin is similar to Afghanistan.

The exercise is expected to last about seven weeks during the months of January and February 2010. Currently it is scheduled for Jan. 4 to Feb. 20. The troops will then return to Petawawa in late February for leave and other additional training prior to the deployment to Afghanistan.

Anthony Dixon is a Daily Observer reporter

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