Airborne Engineers in Poland

RCE jumpers dispatching from a US UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter
Publication Date 
27 Oct 2014

On 14 July 14, eight airborne engineers were called upon for their unique skill set proving once again that sappers are the cutting edge of their country’s sword. With less than two weeks notice following Ex MAPLE RESOLVE 14 in Wainwright AB, these men deployed to Poland as part of Land Task Force ROTO 1 of Op REASSURANCE alongside M Coy, 3 RCR. The opportunity to train with other NATO allies proved to be an invaluable experience. Over a span of two and a half months the section of sappers participated in a variety of training to include unconventional demolitions, joint parachute training, airfield seizure and foreign weapons systems.

The unconventional demolitions range undertaken within the first few weeks of arrival set the tone for significant cross training opportunities throughout the duration of ROTO 1 between allied nations. After initially arriving on the range it was apparent that our procedures for range conduct were different than those of our American counterparts although many of our demolition skills and drills are similar. Further, due to the differences in procedures our sappers were able to put into practice charge preparation that they would not otherwise have had the opportunity to complete back home. Whether it was daisy chaining claymores, prepping improvised bangalores or building improvised breaching charges, our Canadian sappers demonstrated their commitment to excellence and professionalism which resulted in the Americans learning as much as they taught. After two days of constant explosions, amongst flying dirt and wire, the American sappers had only one thing to say “good breach!”

Following unconventional demolitions our engineers began training with the para group to further develop some of their core competencies in marksmanship. There were two competitive small arms ranges on the horizon, a section skilled shoot and an individual unknown distance shoot. Quickly rising to the challenge the section placed third in the company for the skill shoot and had one section member place top overall for the individual light machine gun portion. Overall the ranges provided an excellent opportunity to strengthen and develop working relationships with other arms from allied nations.

With small arms training complete it was time to move onto the first exercise of ROTO 1. The mission was to seize and clear an airfield with a follow on task to raid a prison compound nearby. The initial plan was for the main body of the company to jump in with our engineers arriving via UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to clear the runway once the airfield was secure. However, as the Hercules aircraft passed over the drop zone a call was made to stop the jump due to unsafe weather conditions. As always our engineers stuck to their motto “first in, last out” with an airmobile insertion onto the objective alongside American sappers despite the absence of an initial security force. Once on ground the sappers then moved to clear the runway and establish a defensive position to await follow-on forces.

After the successful exercise it was time to undertake para training with the host Polish airborne force. The drop zone used for training required our sappers to put their flight and landing drills into practice in order to avoid hazards that surrounded the airfield with shouts of “slip away!”, a paratooper warning to other paratroopers of approaching hazards, heard as they drifted towards the ground in Polish parachutes. The Polish – Canadian wing exchange that followed would mark the end of cross training and the beginning of preparation for the main focus of the deployment, Ex SABRE JUNCTION.

Ex SABRE JUNCTION 14 was a U.S. Army led multinational, multiservice exercise involving more than 5,800 personnel from 17 countries in several locations across Europe. As part of the exercise, Land Task Force ROTO 1’s overall mission was to conduct simultaneous airfield seizures in two different countries. Staged out of Germany the Canadian para group conducted sustained parachute training over the course of several days immediately preceding the exercise in preparation to board the planes in Ramstein for a four-hour flight to the drop zone. P Hour, the scheduled time for aircraft exit, arrived over the countryside of Latvia with 650 paratroopers leaving their planes into an enemy contested drop zone.

Our sappers hit the ground in support of the Canadian para group and quickly regrouped to seize an RV by force. Once secure, the paratroopers began their advance to Obj CADMIUM (a nearby enemy compound) with engineers employed as breachers throughout the assault. As our sappers breached doors/windows the infantry closed to destroy the enemy and using overwhelming force seized the obj over the course of only a few hours. After fortifying the seized buildings a plan was created to conduct an air assault raid on an enemy bunker where our sappers were relied upon once again for their unique skill set. During the assault on the secondary objective two of our sappers were the first soldiers into the bunker destroying the enemy inside. Due to heavy casualties taken during the assault these sappers were placed in command upon consolidation and awaited orders for exfiltration, signaling the end of Ex SABRE JUNCTION for our troops.

With Ex SABRE JUNCTION successfully in the books our engineers travelled back to Poland to conduct final training with foreign allies prior to redeployment. Working with the US Army a day of parachuting from UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters was prepared, something previously unfamiliar to the sappers and an excellent way to conclude training in Poland. Soldiers from ROTO 1 also participated in professional development in the upcoming weeks prior to redeployment. Trips to Auschwitz, Warsaw and Torun further reinforced pride and a sense of duty. These trips, in keeping with the theme of the deployment, served as an example of the reasons we train in preparation to aide those who need it most.