A Strange Squadron in a Strange Land
By Cpl Ed Morley
20 June 2007
As if being a multi-regimented squadron wasn’t enough, the very thought of a predominantly English speaking unit being attached to French speaking brigade sends heads spinning with bewilderment. Luckily C squadron, which comprises armoured soldiers from LdSH(RC), 12 RBC, RCD, BCR, BCD, and KOCR, has a small contingent of translators within our midst. Moreover, each soldier makes an effort to bridge the gap by using “merci”, “bonjour”, and so on during meals (not to mention trying to decipher the all French menus). These small efforts from speakers of both our official languages helped to make things go smoothly.
Thanks to these efforts when EX MAPLE GUARDIAN 0701 stepped off it was less of a culture shock than our first meeting in New Mexico. Of course not everything was perfect. This was best illustrated during the “telephone” conversations between the tank commanders and the section commanders of the R22R infantry. Even though both commanders were quite willing to relearn tank and infantry tactics, which were thought to be obsolete years ago, the language barrier certainly added to the frustration and confusion. Nevertheless, with practice, things started running quite well.
As for the camp, I believe I speak for the Squadron when I thank the NSE/ESN for having “KAF”, aka Airfield 21, built well before we arrived in Wainwright. This made the transition almost seamless, plus having access to showers on an almost daily basis was a nice plus. As soon as we were finished setting up our bed spaces, and the camp briefs, and the CMTC briefs, and last minute maintenance issues, we were finally ready to start our CMTC training.
Our training ran the gamut of military activity, ranging from presence patrolling up to level 5 live attacks. Our adventures started slowly with some Troop level training, primarily focused on IEDs and recovery. Then we linked up with the Infantry companies and the fun began! Our Squadron did anything and everything we could possibly be called on for. For all of us it was an eye-opening experience as we were faced with the myriad of possibilities the modern battlefield offers. One of the best examples of these challenges was when 31B wandered a little too close to a minefield. The all-knowing WES simulator system determined that Sgt Scott “Blitzkrieg” Schall and his crew were seriously injured and his driver Tpr Pete Dixon was instantly “killed”. The Troop had to react, providing first aid (TREATMENT APPLIED!) and coming up with a plan to extract the vehicle. Despite the valiant efforts of the crew Tpr Ryan Sebo “died” of his wounds while waiting for us to plow our way to their tank. Yet truly the most awful wound was Cpl Nick “Is there a jump tonight?” Acorn’s blown off leg, simulated dramatically by his hopping around on the other foot. Cpl Ed Morley comforted the poor man by telling him that, “it’ll grow back” and, “having two legs wasn’t challenging enough anyway!” Some time later the helicopter came to extract our wounded and take them back to KAF, a first experience for many Troop members. It was only when we watched the chopper shrink into the distance that Lt Matt “Razorwire” Johns was heard saying, “I don’t think he’s coming back.” That left us a tank with no crew commander, which we promptly towed back to KAF. That six-hour operation taught us many lessons and opened our eyes to the fact that mine strikes could happen anytime and to always be vigilant, valuable training indeed.
Even though there was not a day that went by without maintenance, there were always issues with the thirty-year-old tanks. Who could forget 31A (or should I say, 31 “Smoke Machine”) smoking out everything from FOB to tank park. In fact, you could see 31A before you heard it, which any tanker will tell you is hard to imagine. In fact, it was rumoured that WO Rob “Chaos” Clarke took great pride in the size of the “Black Column of Death” as days wore on. We were sorry to see it go after the pack was replaced…for the fifth time.
These were simply some of the many interesting moments of the exercise. Other notable events included an out of control Badger backing into 31A, 31 collecting a FOB’s worth of razor wire, the “mud” walls and houses catching fire on the range, and the brigade-sized parade with French drill commands. MWO Geoffrey Bamford had a constantly amused look on his face watching the English speaking members of the squadron trying to copy their french neighbour’s drill, since listening to words of command was useless.
Yet through all the obstacles and barriers we faced, we carried on and learned from our mistakes, forming us into a flexible and prepared squadron, capable of handling any crisis. Next stop…Germany!!