Exercise RECCE RELOAD 2015:

The Camping Trip the Army Recruiting Centre Always Promised You!

By Major Peter “Minotaur” Beitz

The crisp morning air pinched our cheeks as Recce Squadron vehicles rolled past the north gate at Edmonton Garrison early in the morning of August 30, 2015, en route to Wainwright to commence Exercise RECCE RELOAD.  The aim of this exercise was to “shake-out” the Squadron, roll the vehicles to give us time to identify and fix any major mechanical issues, and to dust off the training cobwebs that may have formed over the summer holidays.  In addition to completing the range portion of the 25mm Gunnery Course, this Squadron training focused on refreshing and refining basic soldier and field-craft skills.

Halfway through the road move, large, billowing clouds of black smoke poured out of Captain Mike “Smoke Screen” Labrecque’s coyote smearing its dark cloak across the Alberta skyline, blacking out the sun.  Coincidently, recent scientific studies have shown that the ozone layer between Edmonton and Wainwright is 50% thinner than in other parts of the country, and global warming estimates have recently risen by two degrees in the province.  Weird.  Passengers behind Captain Labrecque’s coyote were force-fed a year’s supply of second-hand smoke, while RCMP officers raced up the line to put an end to this Smoggie debacle.  When finally pulled over by the RCMP, the police officer asked him how fast he thought he was going.  Capt Labrecque responded, “we don’t have a speedometer in this thing.”  Captain Labrecque and his crew are still waiting to post bail.  

The rest of the Squadron made it safely to the Wainwright training area and setup camp for the night on the backside of Range 16.  Day 1 – just make it there in one piece – was a success, and everyone was looking forward to firing off a lot of ammunition at the ranges on Day 2.

Lieutenant Mike “Nappy Time” Forestell was charged with planning, coordinating, and running the Small Arms range at Range 25.  He and his team put together an extremely effective, round-robin range that granted the majority of Recce Squadron soldiers the ability to fire off the Carl-G (84mm), M-203 Grenade Launcher, the Shotgun, and the C-9 Machine Gun.  The range was an eye-opening sensation for some of the new members within the Squadron who did not have the opportunity to fire these weapons before.  A friendly competition was underway to see who would be the best shot.  Top Prize for the 84mm range went to Trooper Tejpal “Bullseye” Mann who blasted the hard target dead-centre with maximum persecution.  With the M-203 Grenade Launcher, Top Shot, or “closest to the hole” award, went to Trooper Jacob “Happy Gilmore” Thompson who was the only one to hit the target spot-on that day.  Honourable Mentions went out to Trooper Daniel “Popeye” Chookette who, while reloading, managed to rip off the M-203 handle with his massive forearms (from working out at the “gym” so we’re told!), and Trooper Lucas “drop 15 mils” Klettl who was high-fiving himself after taking out all the Figure-11 targets in the low-ground at 20 meters distance opposed to aiming for the hard targets 300 meters away.    

The second training event for Day 2 of the exercise was the C7 Rifle Range run by Lieutenant Stephanie “Ditch Fighter” Clubine and Warrant Officer Martin “Silver Spoon” Levis.  After a few firing serials cycled through the day, the sun began to set so the remaining soldiers got to participate in a “fun” shoot to hone their trigger-happy fingers.  Top Shots for the day went to Sergeant Danny Shah, Master Corporal Terrence MacDonald, and Trooper Ambrose Hartman.  Honourable Mention went out to Corporal Byron Lachapelle who managed to fire all his rifle rounds into the targets of... Sergeant Danny Shah, Master Corporal Terrence MacDonald, and Trooper Ambrose Hartman.

Day 3 of the exercise commenced with theory lectures on map and compass, 9-liners, armoured fighting vehicle recognition, all arms call for fire, and other critical base-line soldier skills.  A 10 km navigation exercise, which included stand-based challenges at each waypoint, dared young Recce Squadron soldiers that afternoon.  Coordinated by Captain Mike “Smoke Screen” Labrecque and his team, this four hour exercise gave Recce Squadron soldiers a first taste of dismounted operations.  Little did these soldiers know, but the MINOTAUR was also on the hunt to get them!  Driven by Master Corporal Izaak “Are you sure this G-Wagon is insured?” Koolman, with Major Peter “Minotaur” Beitz in the passenger seat, the MINOTAUR prowled through the country-side preying on unsuspecting soldiers blindly walking in open country with their reflective maps dancing through the afternoon air.  After a long, hot afternoon, with a few drop-ins to Sergeant Major “Kwick-E-Mart” Baglole’s canteen, the navigation exercise was called to an end and teams were brought back to camp.  Second place finish went to Trooper Seth Martin, Trooper Mark Diebolt, and Trooper Zackary Grant.  First place finish (by only a small margin) went to Trooper Kurtis Wuerch and Master Corporal Jody Hessell.  Honourable mention went out to the Squadron Second-in-Command, Captain Dan “I zero my weapon on full auto like a champ!” Gray, and the Squadron Battle Captain, Captain Gord “I can’t believe the OC let me out of the CP!” Elliott, who were in the running for first place but got disqualified once devoured by the MINOTAUR (and screamed like little girls, by the way).  Search parties are still looking for Corporal David “CADPAT” McNair.

Troops were happy to eat fresh hay-box meals every day, delivered (free of charge) by the Squadron Quartermaster, Warrant Officer Melanie “G.I. Jane” Parent, and her team.  One particular morning, Major Peter “Minotaur” Beitz was waiting at the back of the breakfast feeding line, restlessly peering around his soldiers to get a glimpse at the meal line, hoping to savour some leftover scraps if any remained.  As he neared the front of the line, he noticed Lieutenant Stephanie “Ditch Fighter” Clubine elbows deep in a hay-box, scraping the final few ounces of oatmeal from the bottom of the metallic tray with a plastic spoon and carefully placing the precious oatmeal onto the top of a solitary styrofoam bowl filled to the brim with mouth-watering oatmeal.  Slowly edging through the line, Major Beitz quietly watched Lieutenant Clubine hand-sculpt the oatmeal into a soaring eagle screaming into the infinite blue sky and then sprinkle just the right amount of brown sugar onto its wings before pausing to admire her amazing breakfast creation.  Greeting her with a smile, Major Beitz quickly scooped up the bowl of oatmeal hoping it didn’t taste as bland as yesterdays.  As he turned towards the meal tent to grab a cup of gut-wrenching coffee, a solitary tear slowly departed her hollow eyes, trickled down the curves of her lifeless face, and floated softly into the arms of the lonely plastic spoon lying motionless at the bottom of the cold, metallic, hay-box tray.  The oatmeal never tasted soooo good as it did that morning.

Concurrent to Exercise RECCE RELOAD, the Turret Operators Course, now known as the 25mm Gunnery Course, fired its confirmation shoots at Range 16 in the Wainwright training area, just above where the rest of the Squadron had setup camp.  The course was run by Lieutenant Richard “Vanishing Act” Yang and Warrant Officer Peter “Zen Master” Jones.  Due to the exemplary efforts of all the course staff, who worked evenings and weekends to ensure the course students received the best instruction possible while in Edmonton, 19 candidates successfully passed the classroom and theory portions of the course and were now ready and eager for the live-fire range.  “Thump, thump, thump” echoed day and night while the students honed their gunnery skills, injecting the first dose of “shell-shock” to the new Recce Squadron soldiers trying to sleep in their crew tents down behind the range.  

In the end, the live-fire shoots were successful and Master Corporal Lance “Two Guns” Banman was recognized for his AGGRESSIVE persecution of targets – 25mm rounds were not enough for those wooden targets, so Master Corporal Banman annihilated them completely using both 25mm AND the machine gun at the same time!  The Top Candidate was selected by course staff based on the candidate’s academic results, live-fire shoots, and overall motivation and performance throughout the course.  For this 25mm Gunnery Course serial, the Top Candidate was awarded to Trooper Nathan “Top Gun” Deringer who not only received top marks for academics and his live-fire performance, but he also volunteered his own time during evenings and weekends to assist his course-mates with their work.  His selfless dedication and outstanding performance, a symbol of Perseverance, is a mark of inspiration to the all Armoured Crewman on course and within our Regiment.

The exercise wound down on the evening of Day 4, with Warrant Officer Jason “Don’t Fear the Reaper” Pargeter rolling in with that night’s “party platters.”  Closing remarks were given by the Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM) and the Officer Commanding (OC), who announced all the winners of each training event competition... and then proceeded to “Roast” everyone else.  Final recognition went to a Recce Squadron soldier who was recruited to be the new spokesperson for future dairy commercials, Master Corporal Hugh “Got Milk” Hayes.  In the spirit of eliminating world hunger by never allowing food to go to waste, Master Corporal Hayes personally ensured that all milk products were consumed after each and every meal.  Regardless of the expiry date.

In honouring tradition, Recce Squadron ended Exercise RECCE RELOAD with an award-winning party that will go down in the history books.  After cracking a few beers, the night started off with a friendly game of shuffle board in the meal tent and then escalated to some good-old fashioned Crokinole.  Things started to heat up and get a little crazy when someone busted open a deck of cards and a spontaneous Euchre tournament broke out, followed by a Parcheesi showdown!  Just when you thought things were nearing the brink of insanity, someone fired up a projector and streamed a double-header of Coronation Street!!!  Worried about their future careers in the Armoured Corps because of the madness of this Squadron Smoker, the SSM and OC began to draft their resumes.  To their relief, most of the Recce soldiers called it a night at around 9 PM, exhausted from all the mayhem.

The primary training audience for Exercise RECCE RELOAD was the Master Corporal rank and below with a focus of refreshing and refining basic soldier and field-craft skills in a comfortable, administrative posture conducive to maximising learning.  Overall, the Squadron was able to conduct C7, 84mm, M-203, shotgun, navigation, and detainee handling training, among many others, and this training could not have been possible without the exceptional performance and professionalism of all the junior leaders and instructors.  The most important training that the Squadron accomplished, however, was getting to know one another... fostering team cohesion and Recce esprit-de-corps by developing the essential working relationships with the people we will be training with throughout this year’s Road to High Readiness and getting to know the brethren that, one day, we might get the call to fight alongside in a theatre of operation.  

Exercise RECCE RELOAD was a great start to the Recce Squadron training year... but the best is yet to come!