Abbotsford, British columbia — Visitors at the Abbotsford International Air Show in British Columbia got an inside view of the house-clearing procedures practiced by regimental troops as part of urban warfare training.
The Royal Westminster Regiment (R Westmr R) literally knocked down walls at the weekend-long show, giving the crowds a rare look at a Canadian Forces training exercise.
Part of the military display at the air show included four daily demonstrations of a live house-clearing exercise, designed by Sergeant Greg Bell, R Westmr R. “I think the military is a bit of a mystery to most Canadians, as far as what we do,” says Sgt Bell.
The roofless, two-room structure was constructed of plywood and had an exterior and interior door. A 12-foot-long viewing wall of clear plastic gave the crowds an x-ray view of the demonstration.
Crowds waited eagerly outside the demonstration display to watch the six-member team knock down doors and clear the building. Full-time Reservist and rifleman Private Andrew Trafananko, R Westmr R, was unaffected by the assembled masses. “When you’re doing room-clearing, everything is really intense,” he says. “You want to move, shoot and communicate with each other, so the people watching are the last thing on your mind.”
This dynamic exercise requires quick movement and high levels of energy. The team enters the stage with a quick approach on the house. The breacher, whose job is to knock down the doors, is in the lead position with the rest of the team stacked up behind in single file.
Once the exterior door is breached, each member files into the house and clears the room on the opposite side of the soldier in front of him or her. “You have to mainly focus on the corners,” explains Pte Trafananko. “When all the rooms are cleared and all threats have been engaged, the house is considered safe.”
Urban warfare training
Urban terrain can be very complex and house-clearings are an important facet of urban warfare training. These exercises require advanced planning, speed and both verbal and non-verbal communication techniques.
“It’s very labour-intensive, very physically intensive, very challenging and requires a lot of teamwork,” explains Sgt Bell.
A section can normally clear a small house with six rooms. Three-dimensional, scenario-based training like a house-clearing simulates the real stresses of operating in an armed conflict while providing a safe and inexpensive opportunity for troops to practice urban warfare techniques. “These skills kick in when we’re actually going to a theatre of operations like Afghanistan,” says Sgt Bell.
“I like doing this stuff,” says Pte Trafananko. “There’s a very big Canadian Forces presence here. I think it’s really good that the public can see what we’re training to do.”
Article by Lt Susan Magill
Photos by Cpl Shirley Edel, 39 CBG