B Squadron - Ex STEELE SABRE 2012
By Capt Dave Cronk
On 6 September, B Squadron deployed to CFB Wainwright for Exercise STEELE SABRE 2012, setting in motion a very busy fall with the Squadron starting in earnest down the path to High Readiness training with 2nd Battalion Royal 22e Regiment Battle Group (2 R22eR BG) at the end of November.
For Ex STEELE SABRE, the end state was to deliver B Squadron to the 2 R22R BG validated at Squadron Live Fire. To reach this, soldiers first had to complete conversion training on the Leopard 2. So for the first few days, we converged on Range 25 and under a joint A Squadron and RHQ led range, drivers, gunners, loaders and commanders were put through their paces qualifying on without a doubt the best recent acquisition by the Canadian Forces. It must be highlighted that B Squadron’s very own Sgt Mike “High and Right” Craig was the first commander to fire a Leopard 2 in Wainwright.
At the conclusion of the Leopard 2 conversion range, the Squadron quickly transitioned into its own Leopard C2 range where the troops focused on static day and night shoots, culminating with troop battle runs again both by day and night. Fresh off the Combat Team Commander’s Course this spring, it was apparent that there was very little rust on the troop’s sabres and they all executed very impressive and aggressive battle runs, completely tearing up the range. Throughout the ranges, the Squadron Gunnery Warrant Officer and Battle Captain, Sgt Chuck McDougall and Capt Tim Day, were relentless in keeping to the timetable and organised and executed an outstanding range seeing the squadron pounding rounds down range at the crack of dawn each morning. Though, some of the credit for this aggression must be attributed to Cpls Brad Priddle and Mike Partington, whose constant pushing of cured meats from the canteen ensured that testosterone and energy levels remained high.
Troop live fire complete, the Squadron next took two days to shake out with troop and squadron level dry training. Day one saw the troops fine tune troop movement and hide routine before moving into a very aggressive night time trace. Having conducted numerous night manoeuvres over the past year, the Battle Captain developed a devious plan to have the Squadron conduct a black-out drive advance to contact. It was definitely a confidence boosting experience for all crews and it demonstrated that B Squadron is just as good manoeuvring in the dark as they are in the light of day. Though MCpl Anthony Lister may disagree after waiting for recovery until the wee hours of the night when he managed to find the lone swamp along the axis of advance. On the second day, Maj Vince Kirstein was as giddy as a school boy as he finally had his first opportunity, since taking command of the squadron in July, to conduct squadron manoeuvres. After destroying countless platoons west of the Battle River, B Squadron redeployed to Peregrine 9 for some much needed maintenance and battle procedure for the Squadron’s live fire attack. Moving back into the Peregrine also gave the Squadron a chance to enjoy the ability to crack a cold one after MCpl Brady Walker, whose name is currently being submitted for every meritorious service award in the CF, asked LCol Paul Peyton the most important question of the exercise “Why can’t we have beer in the canteen in Wainwright, when they can have beer in Gagetown”.
Next up, the Squadron prepared and planned for the squadron live fire attack. After a day of battle procedure, the squadron deployed just south of Tower Hill for a day of safety briefs, rehearsals and final tank zeroing under the watchful eye of the Regimental 2IC, Maj Hogg McKenzie. It was during the zeroing portion that WO Steve “C/S 23 Accuracy” Churchill nearly depleted the Squadron’s full allotment of sabot ammo attempting to zero his tank. The day of the big attack started off with a bang and a rousing motivational speech by Maj Kirstein and SSM Bill Irving, with a soundtrack provided by the death metal band VOLBEAT. Once mounted up, the Squadron departed the assembly area to lay a beat down on the pesky West Isle forces standing between themselves and validation. After a quick move to both the firebase and attack position, the squadron was set and not so patiently waited for h-hour. In a quick twenty minutes B Squadron surged forward and, by squadron accounts, decimated the enemy position in front of them. Overseeing the attack, Commander 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Col Dave Anderson, was duly impressed by the squadron’s abilities and at the conclusion of the attack confirmed that B Squadron was more than ready to represent the “Army of the West” and join the 2 R22eR BG.
Even though the squadron live fire was complete, time on the ranges was not over. The last days of the exercise saw soldiers completing small arms ranges in order to satisfy Individual Battle Tasks Standards (IBTS). For three days, B Squadron threw grenades, qualified commanders and drivers on the 9mm pistol and completed up to personal weapons test level 3 with the C8 carbine. A definite highlight of the ranges was as the Squadron waited for darkness to complete the night shoot with the C8, Cpls Priddle and Partington fired up the BBQ and with a soundtrack provided by Cpl Francis Graham’s IPOD created a party atmosphere that was reminiscent of a redneck trance rave.
On 24 September, Ex STEELE SABRE was complete and in record speed the Squadron tore down the camp, washed and parked the vehicles on base and hopped aboard the “freedom” bus for redeployment to Edmonton for a short two weeks at home with their families before returning to Wainwright in October for Ex MAPLE RESOLVE.