Fort Pickett, Virginia â€” While many students spent their March Break lying on southern beaches, student soldiers in the Canadian Army Reserves were learning how to storm them.
More than 600 soldiers from 37 Canadian Brigade Group (37 CBG), many of them full-time university students and part-time members of the Reserves, headed south to Fort Pickett, Virginia, in early March to take part in Exercise MARITIME RAIDER.
Soldiers practised battle tasks such as establishing local defence, reacting to direct and indirect fire, establishing roadblocks and checkpoints, searching buildings and coordinating with civil authorities. They also confronted simulated improvised explosive devices and evacuated simulated casualties.
For Corporal Alexandra Ramsay of 721 (Charlottetown) Communication Regiment, it was a chance to see all parts of the brigade come together into a cohesive combat team.
â€śIt was my first time working with headquarters, so it was interesting to see each different component being put into place,â€ť said Cpl Ramsay. â€śIt taught me that no matter what rank you are, we all played an important role in the exercise.â€ť
All units within 37 CBG from New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador took part, including light armour reconnaissance, artillery, light infantry, field engineers, signals and combat service support.
The exercise, 37 CBGâ€™s culminating training event for the 2011 / 2012 training year, was hosted at the Virginia National Guard Manoeuvre Training Center, which houses live-fire ranges, an urban warfare complex, simulated forward operating bases and several training villages.
Members of the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre from Wainwright, Alberta flew in to help coordinate the training and mentor the soldiers, while 120 troops from the U.S. military also took part.
The chance to work and train side-by-side with the Americans was a major reason why Fort Pickett was chosen as the location for the exercise, according to LCol Brennan.
â€śItâ€™s for the experience of working in a multi-national environment,â€ť said LCol Brennan. â€śAny opportunity to have our soldiers train with our coalition partners is a definite force multiplier.â€ť
The combined arms training exercise aims to prepare soldiers for deployments in Canada and around the world.
Article by A/Slt Blake Patterson, Canadian Army.
Photos by WO Jerry Kean, Canadian Army.