Training with an ally
In this 2012 photo, paratroopers with Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment integrated with their American counterparts of 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team to conduct a Joint Operations Access Exercise at Fort Bragg. Over the next two weeks, Petawawa soldiers will once more work with the 82nd Airborne. For more community photos please visit our website photo gallery at www.thedailyobserver.ca.
Aiming to maintain their high state of readiness, Petawawa soldiers are working closely with their U.S. counterparts in two major deployments on both sides of the 49th Parallel.
The Royal Canadian Dragoons have just completed a joint exercise with the U.S. 71st Cavalry at Burwash, Ontario, while the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (3RCR) is travelling to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Joint Operational Access Exercise 13-02 (JOAX) with the 82nd Airborne Division.
“Training exercises like Frozen Dragoon and JOAX 13-02 are excellent opportunities to work and co-operate with our closest ally so that we may enhance our readiness to support continental, NATO and UN-led missions,” said 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Col. Simon Hetherington.
“These exercises serve to strengthen the skills of our soldiers by preparing them to react to a number of realistic scenarios on foreign soil and in diverse conditions, with other soldiers sharing parallel training and experiences.”
The JOAX exercise, which will run until March 4, tests the readiness and validation of the U.S. Army’s Global Response Force. For 3RCR, it’s an opportunity to further develop their airmobile capabilities in a larger scenario than they would be exposed to in Canada.
“We’re sharping our knife’s edge on our airmobile skills in anticipation of the receipt of Canadian Chinook helicopters,” Maj. Mark Sheppard, the battalion’s operations officer, told The Daily Observer from Fort Bragg.
The troops will be ferried around the Fort Bragg training area in CH-47 heavy-lift Chinooks. It is timely training for the battalion, with the new 450th Helicopter Squadron moving into Base Petawawa in 2014.
Fort Bragg will double for a foreign nation in the exercise scenario. The RCRs and 82nd Airborne paratroopers will be assigned to seize an airfield in an environment where the opposition they face might be lightly armed insurgents. Once the airport is secured, transport aircraft will land in order to resupply the force on the ground. As part of the Three-Block War concept, the RCRs will also be tasked to evacuate Canadian nationals.
“Once the airfield is seized, we’re going to springboard into a helicopter-based, non-combatant evacuation operation,” said Sheppard. “Mixing in civilians adds a degree of complexity.”
Supporting the exercise are a C-17 Globemaster and a C-130 Hercules from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The Americans will also be employing A-10 Thunderbolts, Apache gunships and Blackhawk helicopters. Among the 400 personnel from CFB Petawawa will be many new soldiers fresh from the infantry battle school and newly qualified platoon commanders.
“This is a chance for them to get out and, in a big, broader context, practice their skills and test themselves in a way they haven’t had to,” said Sheppard.
After years of deploying to Afghanistan in combat operations, he said they can apply many of the lessons learned in southwest Asia.
“The lessons learned or reinforced from recent operations in Afghanistan are all directly transferable to any deployment that the Government of Canada chooses to send us on,” explained Sheppard. “We’re applying those lessons and our interoperability with our U.S. partners, as a result of being in that coalition environment, certainly facilitates doing a complex training evolution with the 82nd Airborne. We have an understanding of common terminologies and we have partnerships and personal relationships that have developed over multiple deployments.”
Currently, 3 RCR serves as the ‘high readiness task force’ for the Canadian Forces, who could be sent overseas to evacuate Canadians from a dangerous part of the world should they be ordered to do so. Meanwhile, Sheppard said their American hosts are looking after them.
“They’re great to work with. It’s going to be exciting training for the soldiers,” he said. “It’s going to be highly beneficial to increasing the readiness of 3RCR for any task.”
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist