Gagetown Gunners Keep Canadians Safe from Avalanches By Captain Nicholas Kaempffer


Rogers Pass, located within the federal land of Glacier National Park in British Columbia, is not just any other road and railway crossing – it is a critical traffic link utilized by over 4000 motor vehicles and 40 trains per day, facilitating billions of dollars of commerce and the movement of thousands of Canadians from the Pacific Coast to the rest of Canada. At 1330 metres above snow level in the Selkirk Mountains, with an annual snowfall accumulation of 12 metres, Rogers Pass is also the most avalanche-prone roadway found in North America, with over 130 avalanche paths that cross the Trans-Canada Highway alone. Every winter, this pass has the potential to pose a drastic threat to the safety and security of Canadians. At least it did, until The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery (RCA), working with Parks Canada, put in place the world’s largest mobile avalanche-control program in more than 50 years. Winter has more than met its match, as Gunners dominate this season with the application of high-explosive projectiles that cause safe, controlled avalanches to keep Canadians safe, through Operation PALACI.

As the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) support to Parks Canada, Operation PALACI is a task force comprised of members of both Regular and Reserve Force Artillery Units, who utilize the application of firepower to neutralize the snow demon at Rogers Pass. During Annual Avalanche Control (AVCON) operations, this task force is directed by Joint Task Force Pacific (JTFP), who are supported by The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery School (RCAS). The RCAS, as the Artillery Centre of Excellence, is responsible for the conduct of the Artillery Fire Effect (AFE) Certification Program, which both certifies new Parks Canada Agency (PCA) staff, and performs refresher training for currently certified PCA members.

With 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA) taking the lead in supplying both Artillerymen and Guns to support Parks Canada for 2017-18 AVCON operations, two Gunners from the RCAS were key components in ensuring the safety of all involved. Captain (Capt) John Knox, an Instructor-in-Gunnery and Warrant Officer (WO) Eric Comeau, an Assistant Instructor-in-Gunnery, were critical members in a joint team of Parks Canada and CAF members who worked in concert to ensure the success of this year’s operations. Both Capt Knox and WO Comeau leveraged their technical excellence to oversee and instruct the AFE Certification Program. Furthermore, they verified the methodology and data correction for the 271 registered targets that are engaged from 17 positions along the Trans-Canada highway. Once they returned from British Columbia, WO Comeau worked tirelessly with Bombardier DeLorenzis to confirm the firing data and crest-clearance for all of the 271 registered targets that fall within 1 kilometre safe areas – a challenging job considering the difficult topography of the Selkirk Mountains! Reflecting on his experience working with both Parks Canada, 1 RCHA, and JTFP for this year’s AVCON operations, WO Comeau stated that “it was awesome to experience the camaraderie between both the CAF and Parks Canada. Moreover, it is a great feeling to know that you’re applying the knowledge you learn as an Assistant Instructor-in-Gunnery into a real time, real world application that keeps fellow Canadians safe!”

With 1 RCHA ready to support Parks Canada with firing data verified by the RCAS, Canadians can rest easy knowing that AVCON operations will ensure safe travels through Rogers Pass. Avalanches may be a great force of nature, but they’ve more than met their match with Gunners!


Photo Credit: Parks Canada






An Assistant Instructor-in-Gunnery oversees a C3 105mm Howitzer Detachment






A C3 105mm Howitzer Detachment in Rogers Pass, British Columbia