On an uncharacteristically clear and sunny September afternoon, 11 Field Squadron of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment departed for CFB Wainwright to begin Exercise BADAJOZ II. Training was focused on section level live-fire ranges and troop level offensive and defensive operations. Months of training put both 1 and 2 Troop in good position to take on the role of a light engineer in a tactical setting.
As a newly-formed light field engineer squadron, 11 Field Squadron is still adapting to its role while working to become an effective asset to the Regiment and the Brigade. As 11 Field Squadron was previously a mechanized field engineer squadron, the mindset of all members in the squadron has needed to shift. Instead of having the luxury of an Engineer Light Armoured Vehicle to move from site to site, light engineers are expected to travel via foot. Although not having to deal with the logistical requirements of vehicles may seem less complex at first it quickly becomes clear that platoon/troop level patrolling necessitates a large amount of external support. No vehicles also mean more exposure, leaving the patrolling troops to rely on quick reaction to fire, well-rehearsed enemy contact drills and fire support for protection. In practical terms, a light engineer troop will patrol by night to their task site while carrying the required engineer stores at a speed of about 1km hour. With loaded rucksacks they arrive on site, complete their engineer task and then patrol once again to establish a new troop patrol base so that they can repeat the process the next day. This requires physically and mentally capable soldiers who can handle the added stresses of patrolling; a different world from that of a mechanized engineer.
A week prior to D-Day, pre-exercise drills began. However, this was not the regular pre-exercise drills of loading troop and section level stores or last minute preparation to head out into the field. Instead it was a week-long exercise in the Edmonton Garrison training area that aimed to cement troop training done in the summer through practical scenarios. Orders were issued the Friday before the exercise to troop commanders, who in turn carried out their battle procedure and planning, so the troops could hit the ground running. On Monday, seventy warrior-spirited sappers in full fighting order and camouflage paint buzzed around the compound preparing the stores and personal equipment required for the probable tasks in their warning order. With this, the ground work was set for D-Day.
During the first two days of the exercise the squadron rotated each troop through SHQ run ranges. Each section in the squadron was able to conduct two serials of live section fire and movement through a trace with undulating terrain. This challenged section commanders to react effectively under pressure and adapt to changing ground. In conjunction with this, the other troop conducted troop and section level training. Primary topics covered were general fieldcraft and use of different types of personal equipment, such as radios and night vision goggles. Moving on from individual skillsets, each troop then began to work out the nuances that confront any inexperienced group. They focused on movement formations, setting up patrol bases and conducting hasty and deliberate attacks. This solidified troop level standard operating procedures.
On D+3, the scenario-based tasks commenced. Each troop was expected to conduct both offensive and defensive engineer tasks. These engineer tasks included breaching and emplacing complex obstacles. At the troop level, command teams planned and sited obstacles to emplace for their task site based on the defensive stores provided by the SHQ. Some of these obstacles included log cribs, log hurdles, wire obstacles (CAT TYPE 1, 2), and minefields (nuisance, tactical). The troop also had the opportunity to conduct a raid followed by a basic munitions disposal. This allowed them to work with every engineer’s favourite item, demolitions.
In the end, Exercise BADAJOZ II was a success in that it has set the conditions to achieve high standards on the fall regimental exercise, Exercise FORLORN HOPE. As a squadron moving in a new direction, this exercise set the tone for how a light engineer squadron operates, and the role it may play at the regimental and brigade level. The soldiers and the troop command teams found challenges throughout all aspects of their operations, but from those challenges came development. As one team, with one mindset, a strong drive to create an effective light engineer squadron has arisen. 11 Field Squadron is bringing a sense of determination to an aspect of field engineering not seen at 1 Combat Engineer Regiment for some time. This exercise was their first step in demonstrating the impact light engineers can have in the battlespace. p;