By MCpl JJN Pruneau, 3 Sect Comd, 2 Tp, 11 Fd Sqn
Ex RISING THUNDER was a Company level exercise conducted by 571st Sapper Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade (US). The 2 Troop Terrors from 11 Field Squadron, 1 CER were invited to attend the training as the second part of a Reciprocal Unit Exchange conducted with 7th Infantry Division. 571st Sapper Company was beginning their road to a National Training Centre rotation later this summer, which would challenge them in Sapper tasks across the spectrum of conflict. It was a short trip down for 2 Troop, having just completed a bridging exercise in the Fraser Valley to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just outside Seattle, Washington.
The exercise provided and unique opportunity to work with coalition forces and develop new ways of accomplishing tasks integrating our techniques, tactics and procedures. When we first arrived, the Troop was broken down into Teams and Squads and split among the existing 571st Company, to form two international Platoons. The training was broken into two phases: a familiarization phase for both US and Canadian Sappers and a tactical phase to test the newly acquired skills. The troop was anxious to get back into some warfighting skills and gain some valuable experience in light engineer operations.
During the familiarization phase, 2 Troop was trained on some interesting engineer tools that don’t exist in the Canadian system. The Minehound (ground penetrating radar/metal detector), GIZMO (metal detector) and CEIA V2.6 (metal detector with carbon rod) were used during IED lanes/scenarios. In addition to IED lanes, additional mobility tasks were introduced, which included Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC), Anti-personnel Obstacle Breaching System (APOBS) and Banglore torpedos. These systems allow us to clear obstacles and minefields encountered on the battlefield. Following mobility training, 2 Troop observed some of the US counter-mobility tools in a round robin/stand training atmosphere. 571st Sapper Coy demonstrated the use of the VOLCANO (AT minefield system), the Modular Pack Mine System (MOPMS) and prebuilt cratering charges. The final day of the familiarization phase in garrison was a small arms range using the Advance Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) rather than the old ELCAN. The troop was definitely chomping at the bit to get out to the field to employ their newly acquired skills in a tactical setting after the week of good training.
Once the troop hit the field in the Yakima Training Centre, which was about the same distance from Edmonton to Wainwright, but over a mountain pass, 2 Troop left the wet coastal areas for the arid and dry desert. The field saw the troop participate in a demolition range which included 2 inert and 3 live MICLIC charges. The range also included a demonstration of inert VOLCANO and MOPMS. These ranges concluded the familiarization phase and the troop was ready for the tactical tasks the next few days. The tactical phase included route recces, patrolling, some urban operations, mobility, and counter mobility tasks. Each of the tasks involved live demolitions and challenging engineer tasks. These three days were the culmination of the training the Troop received to that point and certainly put the troop through its paces.
As a final wrap up, 2 Troop participated in an old fashioned Sapper Stakes, based on some preparations 571st Sapper Coy was doing for the Best Sapper Competition. Each squad, a mixture of Canadian and US Sappers had their engineer skills tested. The squads had to navigate between events across the garrison, and the events included weapons assembly/disassembly, an obstacle and confidence course, a MEDEVAC scenario, an IED lane and demolition calculations. It was a great gut check and fantastic finish to Ex RISING THUNDER.
Without a doubt everyone enjoyed the experience of the live MICLIC the most. Seeing 2000 pounds of C4 that was rocket propelled clear a lane in the simulated minefield was awesome. It was a pleasure to participate in Ex RISING THUNDER. It provided great training value for the troop and was an excellent opportunity to integrate with US Sappers!