A Squadron on Exercise HADES RAM

By Warrant Officer Laki Christopoulos

With the two week Thanksgiving break over after re-deploying from Exercise (Ex) STEELE SABRE, A Squadron (Sqn) was once again ready to roll to action rumbling tanks all over the Wainwright training area.  After conducting some internal Sqn training, we prepared to link-up with A Company from 1 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.  Our Officer Commanding, Major Eric Angell, and I as the Acting Squadron Sergeant-Major (SSM) (Warrant Officer Marcel Chenier was in Gagetown for his DP 4 SSM Course, which he topped) arrived in Buffalo West.  At the time, we drove up onto what was considered a "modular heaven."  We immediately took advantage of the elaborate set-up in the kitchen tent that was fully stocked with coffee, satellite TV, and the battalion’s great kit shop and canteen, to issue orders.  After orders were issued, all seemed ready to go with A Combat Team, as Major Eric Angell and his counter-part, Major Reginald McMichael of A Company, led the charge.  As the two were candidates together on the Combat Team Commanders Course, they had a mutual understanding of how each other worked.  The combat team was ready for success.

Ex HADES RAM was a combined arms training exercise that enabled squadron soldiers to maintain basic soldier skills and display an awesome show of force.  We faced numerous challenges, and lessons were learned at all levels.  I personally learned a lot from this training exercise.  On a side note, this was the first time in years that Wainwright did not receive snowfall before Halloween!

We escaped October with no snow but on the first day of November, the snow came down hard which was a true test of our morale.  So long as we had an endless supply of beer, we were always good.  The snow also cased havoc with vehicle movement which led to complex vehicle recoveries for the remainder of the exercise.  Corporal Kristopher Shields was thrown into the breech as the Armoured Recovery Vehicle Commander when Corporal Kenneth Wilson left for a course in Borden.  This would be the beginning of fun times ahead for us.  Master-Corporal Timothy Dickey became my best customer with a total of three recoveries.  As bad as he felt, he always got his call-sign up and running with the help of our amazing maintenance team’s efforts.  Lieutenant Joseph Monroe did not avoid doing what almost every new Troop Leader does – throwing his tank track in a glorious fashion during a running replenishment which proved to be a complex recovery.  Sergeant Matthew Williams and I cursed for many hours but were successful in getting his tank unstuck.

“Bad” things always happen in the “Badlands,” as our Squadron Second-in-Command, Captain John Kim, could attest.  Recovering his call-sign turned out to be the most difficult with over 30 hours of work required to remedy the situation.  Sergeant Jim Cooke, Corporal Kristopher Shields, and I had to knock our heads together to try and figure out how to get his tank out of a major sink hole.  It was a good thing we had warmed up while helping recover a B Sqn tank earlier on…. and the three of us continue to wait for our beers from B Squadron!  Special thanks go out to the numerous Armoured Engineer Vehicle Crews from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment.  Without their help, it would not have been possible to recover the multiple vehicles that succumbed to the terrain and weather.

In the end, A Sqn participated in an excellent training exercise that further developed the skills of A Sqn soldiers, especially the vehicle recovery teams!  We overcame a number of challenges, learned a lot, and came through doing an exemplary job as usual.  We never gave up and persevered as we always do.