Racing the clock and the cold for an OPFOR project at CFB Wainwright

We caught up with Doug Barr, DCC Team Leader, Project Management, at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Wainwright on the day a substantial completion award was being issued to contractors on a major construction project. The two-year project involved renovating five existing facilities and constructing two new buildings to house the Opposing Forces (OPFOR), a sub-unit of the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre.

Crews were putting final touches on the project as we spoke. It was a balmy day in March, a time when average temperatures can trend into negative double-digits. “We had weeks on this project when minus 30 was the high,” said Barr.

But the cold didn’t hinder the team in completing this $15.7-million construction project. The buildings are used by OPFOR—a unit whose major function is to enhance Task Force army training. These exercises can require as many as 300 people to stay on premises for up to two months and the existing OPFOR buildings simply didn’t have the room.

“The OPFOR section was living and working out of an old British facility,” said Barr. “The initial scope was to renovate that building but it became apparent a new building was required.” In the end, the project created an additional 5,048 m2 of space for OPFOR, including a new headquarters, a vehicle shelter for keeping combat vehicles warm in winter, and renovations to the existing buildings, repurposing them for use by the Regimental Quartermaster.

Barr was pleased the project was completed on time and under budget, despite obstacles such as pouring concrete in the winter. “Never a good idea,” said Barr. It helped that local contractor, KellerDenali Construction of Edmonton, Alberta, was accustomed to working in sub-zero temperatures.

When we spoke, the challenges of cold weather were a distant memory to Barr. “I’ve got my clubs packed and am off on vacation to South Carolina tomorrow,” he said.

In our past issues

Digging deep to overcome challenges and build a new home for CFS St. John's

The world was a different place back in the 1950s when the perceived threat of a Soviet nuclear attack over the Arctic weighed heavy on the minds of American and Canadian politicians, the military and Canadians at large. As a result, the Mid-Canada Radar Line (MCRL) was born, a sort of "Plan B" or reinforcement for the primary Distant Early Warning (DEW Line) designed to warn of incoming Soviet threats from the air.