By Lt Matthew Hoffart

For two weeks in August, 13 Canadian soldiers travelled to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin in order to take part in Exercise RED DRAGON 2014, a US Army Reserve training exercise to develop readiness for any and all Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear (CBRN) threats.  The Strathcona’s were more than adequately represented with Lt Matthew Hoffart and Capt Callum Smith making up two of the 13 participants.  The purpose of this visit for the Canadian contingent was to bring back new ideas and help reinvigorate Canadian CBRN doctrine for the 21st century.  For the Americans we worked with, this was a chance to learn how we do business up North.

The first few days of Exercise RED DRAGON 2014 were slow-paced to allow for all parties to get situated and conduct some pre-training before the exercise officially kicked off.  For the Canadians, this meant several things:  find a suitable replacement for the lack of Tim Horton’s coffee, introduce the 9:30 coffee break into the American battle rhythm, and meet the soldiers of the various American sub-units in which we were to be embedded.  We were split between the Reconnaissance Platoon, Decontamination Platoon, Tactical Operations Center (TOC), and the Observer/Controllers with the goal of gaining a wide range of insight into how the Americans operate in CBRN environments.  

As the exercise kicked off and gained momentum, we found ourselves teaching as often as we were learning, showing the Americans a Canadian approach to certain challenges faced in a CBRN environment.  All parties involved were able to leave a lasting impression upon one another due to the degree of integration of the Canadians into all of the American units.  Perhaps most notable was the sound of Texan accents on the radio finishing off all sentences with “eh?” and pronouncing “about” instead “a-boot.”   
All too soon, Exercise RED DRAGON 2014 was complete, leaving all participants a final few days to swap training plans, ideas, pictures of the exercise, and stories over a cold beer before everyone started travelling to their respective hometowns across North America.  After cancelled flights, hastily re-made travel plans and a number of missed connections, everyone made it home and eager for future opportunities to work with the US Army Reserve again.