The Upper Valley base Garrison Petawawa will likely play a key role in the expanded training mission to Syria.

On Monday, the base welcomed the first new pilots to fly the Chinook helicopters.

The decision to move the helicopter squadron to Petawawa is significant for the base, and the surrounding community.

It is the first time these helicopters are being operated in a military capacity in Canada. Before, the closest place to train Canadian airmen was at a facility in the United States, but crews say the technology there is slightly different.

Cpl. Gary Glasius was one of 10 airmen to complete the training on the CH-147F Chinook.

“Every day you fly you’re getting tested…it’s a lot of work and I’m extremely proud to be in this position now,” said Glasius.

Receiving their qualifications does not come easy. These airmen trained for five months doing class work, training using simulation as well as live-fly training.

“We are on stand to respond to any sort of Canadian contingency so like a floor, or a fire, there’s a plan Canada maintain for that and we’re on stand by for conflict quite honestly,” said Lt.-Col. Chris McKenna.

The new training course is not only big for these pilots, but for the base in Petawawa, which received a brand new facility and four simulators.

Next week crews will deploy to the US for an exercise. They will also travel to Alberta in the spring to work with the Army.