New Brunswick’s 5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown was opened in 1958 as a training facility. The base boasts a 1,100 square kilometre (km) training area, 1,500 kilometres of roads, 900 km of tracks, and 740 buildings.
The base is New Brunswick’s second largest public sector employer after the provincial government itself, and the third largest employer in the province overall.
Opportunities NB (ONB) is fortunate to have a relationship with a man who knows the base well, one of the top consultants in the country on aerospace and defence matters, retired Lieutenant-General Lou Cuppens.
We spoke to Mr. Cuppens to get his perspective on the province he calls home, and to delve deeper into 5 CDSB Gagetown’s importance to both the defence sector and New Brunswick in general.
ONB: Let’s first get some background on your role with the Canadian military?
Cuppens: I spent 38 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, ten as an artillery officer and thereafter as a pilot. I ended my career as Deputy Commander-in Chief of the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) headquartered in Colorado Springs.
I completed my release process at the end of May 1998 at CFB Gagetown. I am the only retired Lieutenant-General residing in New Brunswick and now spend most of my free time assisting veterans, and doing consulting work for Opportunities NB.
ONB: New Brunswick is uniquely positioned with one of the largest training bases in the Commonwealth. What advantages does this afford us as a strategic location for defence companies?
Cuppens: 5 CDSB is Canada’s second largest military base. It is located about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from New Brunswick’s capital city of Fredericton. The base employs 4,500 military personnel, approximately 1,500 civilian personnel, and up to 5,000 additional personnel during the summer training period.
The base is extensive in size and is an ideal location for testing new equipment of all types; this is significant when you think about what the military is currently doing. The base accommodates the Combat Training Centre, an organization of schools and sub-units that train Canada’s Army.
ONB: 5 CDSB Gagetown has a significant reputation for collaboration and excellence. Tell us about some of the collaborations that have taken place there.
Cuppens: The Combat Training Centre is made up of the schools of Infantry, Armour, Artillery and Engineers. The focus is to train the officers and soldiers of Canada’s Army in the use of their equipment, and tactics. Combined arms training is also conducted at the company command level. The School of Military Engineering collaborates frequently with the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) Engineering Department and officers staged at Gagetown pursue academic upgrading at the University.
ONB: What about the infrastructure in the province? How does that better position New Brunswick for defence work, and provide reasons for defence sector companies to set up shop here?
Cuppens: When the area of 5 CDSB Gagetown was acquired in the early 1950s, it was intended to accommodate combat training at the Division level of warfare — 25,000 army personnel in various units and sub-units. The base was at that time home to the 3rd Infantry Brigade Group. Over the years, as global situations have changed, the base has also changed its roles and missions.
With it being ideally situated near the year-round sea port of Saint John, and well served by road and rail systems, large combat vehicles and out-sized cargo of all types can travel to and from the base.
Within a few kilometres of the base is the Fredericton International Airport (YFC) that can accommodate all airline traffic and military aircraft. The 2 RCR Battalion of Infantry has been frequently airlifted, directly from YFC and by military and civilian transport aircraft, to combat hotspots elsewhere in the world. Often, with the assistance of officers on “exchange” from other armies in the world, combat units from the American, British, French, and Dutch militaries will conduct training exercises in the vast training area that encompasses Gagetown.
With an omnipresent fibre optic system throughout the province, the Combat Training Centre can conduct training with deployed troops anywhere in the world. Such exercises are conducted with the assistance of contractors who have hired releasing officers, and soldiers that have the necessary skills.
ONB: New Brunswick as a whole has quite an innovation vibe occurring. The same can be said about 5 CDSB Gagetown. What can you tell us about the Innovation Centre and the Trials and Evaluation Section?
Cuppens: There is a trials and evaluations organization located at the base that tests concepts and equipment that Canada might consider purchasing for use by the military. The full spectrum of equipment has been tested at the base including explosives, missiles, armoured vehicles, UAVs, trucks, telecommunications systems, power generation systems, and water purification systems to name but a few.
The trials and evaluations organization assesses the utility of combat innovations and modifies existing training procedures to ensure the continued excellence of the Canadian Army.
ONB: This base has a tremendous reputation. We’ve heard you say there isn’t a soldier walking on earth who hasn’t been to Gagetown. Tell us about that.
Cuppens: Each year thousands of army personnel take various forms of training at Gagetown, and many are located there. These personnel live at or near the base and become involved in the communities around it. Their families are part of the economic fabric of the area and many army personnel lend their time and talent to various volunteer organizations around the base for the betterment of all. I contend that there are few soldiers in Canada’s Army who have not trained at 5 CDSB Gagetown.
ONB: What about the local economy? What impact does that have?
Cuppens: The economic footprint of the base is equally immense. The base consumes much in the production of training including petroleum products, food stuffs, repair parts, electricity, communications services, road maintenance, construction and repair, medical and dental supplies, recreational equipment, and stationary products.
Salaries of personnel contribute significantly to the economy of the area in the form of real estate turnover, groceries and other consumables, transportation and education supplies. CFB Gagetown is a jewel in New Brunswick’s crown.
Be sure to check out our New Brunswick Defence industry primer here.
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