About 80 Canadian soldiers from the Edmonton-based 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group departed on Thursday for deployment in Latvia.

The troops are part of Operation Reassurance, an ongoing mission including soldiers from 10 NATO nations, including Albania, Italy and the Czech Republic. Canada is the largest contributor to the mission, with about 550 soldiers on the ground. 

 “We are the framework nation,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Ramsay, Commanding Officer of the National Support Element. “We are handling a lot of things to help raise the Latvians up to the same standard with NATO. They are expanded exponentially and they’re not equipped to deal with nine other nations being in their country asking for food, for ammo.”

The operation aims to stabilize central and eastern Europe. 

Ramsay said many of the 150 members are being deployed for the first time.

“I think everybody is really excited to be selected and to get to represent Canada on an international stage,” Ramsay said.

The tour is scheduled to last six months.