Recce Sqn complete deployed to Wainwright on 12 September 2011 as part of the Regimental Fall Exercise, Ex STEELE SABRE.  The exercise was to be a focus on achieving Level 3 live fire by day and night for the Tank and Coyote Troops, level 4 dry training, and the potential for a level 4(+) live fire component at the end.  Within this structure, Squadron’s were given a great deal of flexibility in developing their training plans and objectives.

Recce Sqn was the first to occupy the live fire ranges, commencing with the 25mm Turret Operator Course (TOC) ranges and transitioning into the Sqn’s continuation Gun-Camp. All crews fired by day/night, static and on the move, as well as by Patrol and Troop.  Concurrently,  the Sqn ran a .50 Cal Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) familiarization range, allowing all soldiers and attachments to fire.  The conclusion of the Gun-Camp was marked by a Firepower and Penetration Demonstration, showcasing the capabilities of the C-7, C-9, C-6, 9mm, .50 Cal. HMG, 25mm and the 105mm on different defensive constructs.  It also proved beneficial to understand the ‘stopping’ power of some of the different defences that were built (sandbag wall, cinder-block wall, hesco wall, log crib, etc).  All members of the Sqn were impressed by the results of the demo for sure. 

The transition from ranges to dry training was marked with a Sqn move complete to the Annex (far corner of the Wainwright training area) and the commencement of dismounted stands-based training, giving soldiers the opportunity to try their hand at several stands which incorporated skills not common amongst most of the participants. Day one focussed on the dismounted pairs fire and movement / jungle lane range. Honing their ability to communicate with each other, at the same time as picking out and engaging targets while on the move.  The second range of the day was a ballistic breaching range whereby soldiers used a shotgun to breach doors and gain entry. I do not think anyone can say they did not enjoy blowing door knobs off doors and kicking them in.  However some soldiers seemed to have a better “grip” on the situation than others, as Cpl. Joey “The Fish” Schjins found out. The result being a leopard crawl back to his vehicle, three hundred meters away.  Day two was focussed on fundamental reconnaissance soldier skillsets in the dismounted role.  The round-robin style of stands incorporated three main events.  Stand 1 focussed on the sighting and construction of dismounted mud observation posts.  Although most of the Squadron have already had many opportunities to spend cold, sleepless nights in an OP, it gave soldiers a chance to learn new ways of concealing themselves from the enemy while still getting eyes on their target.  Stand 2 was an improvised river crossing, whereby soldiers had to establish near-bank security, utilize their Bivy-bag to store their rucksack and other equipment, then ultimately use it as a floatation device while they tactically swam the water obstacle with weapon.  Although there was plenty of talk about hypothermia, and lifeless bodies floating down stream, every soldier manned-up and got into the water without hesitation. The water turned out to be quite refreshing for most, minus a few of the weaker swimmers who were pushed to their limits, but still managed to complete the crossing.  Once in the water, that fear quickly turned into acceptance and enjoyment, knowing that we had managed to successfully pass and conquer that obstacle.  Stand 3 was the Stalking stand.  Not focussed on the role of a sniper stalking in on his target, the stand used that scenario as a tactical situation, however, the focus was on teaching the soldiers the fundamentals of camouflage and concealment, why things are seen, tactical movement, and patience.  During the stalking exercise soldiers challenged themselves physically and mentally, having to move tactically up to 500m across open terrain in order to get within only a few meters of their target unseen.

Stands training concluded with the Coyote Tps being sent out to establish individual Tp Patrol Bases / Hides, work on local defences, and engage the other Troops with offensive dismounted patrols.  Challenge procedures tested, low-level battle procedure implemented at the patrol level, opportunities for detainee handling provided, the night was a buzz with activity. 

The next morning kicked off with Recce soldiers returning to their roots with conventional mounted recce drills. Troops broke away from the Sqn and began Route Recce’s, Bridge drills, Laterals, and Zone Recce tasks.  The Regiment was fortunate enough to secure a FOO/FAC team as well an ALPHA jet, so 41 was provided with an opportunity to train with real Emergency Close Air Support (ECAS), having two young soldiers talk the aircraft onto designated targets.

The Sqn conducted a level 4 dry Zone Recce that transitioned into a Screen along the Battle River.  NAI’s and TAIs were covered by a mixture of mounted, sensor, and dismounted Ops.  The Coyote Tps were provided with a real OPFOR as both C/S 44 and the A1 Ech executed tasks within the NAI’s and attempted to cross the River along the TAIs.  The training for the Sqn concluded when we transitioned into support for the Tank Sqn’s level 4(+) live fire.  After all Battle procedure was done and all vehicles were prepped to go, Recce launched to lead the tanks in their search for the enemy. With careful movement and the eagle eyes of Recce troops, the enemies advanced recce was detected and quickly neutralized.  Once the squadron defined the enemy position it was decided that due to the enemy composition, tanks needed to be called forward. Once RV’s were marked, firebases set and LOD’s in place the tanks began their roll up. Once in place, the tanks hammered the enemy from the fire base. Shortly thereafter the attack force started their move, rolling towards the enemy engaging targets as they went. All said and done if not for the support of Recce Sqn, who knows where the tanks would have ended up!

All in all it was a very busy two and a half week exercise, one that most won’t forget for a very long time.