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AAR- Ex Maple Guardian/CMTC


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OK where do I begin...

I had the opportunity to conduct Pre Deployment training at CMTC Wainwright from 23 April till 17 May.

This is a list of observations both good and bad and areas I as a Rifle Company Cpl see could be improved. I will say right now one of the largest problems was the use of MILES and not the WES and that is not the fault of anyone at CMTC staff.

Training area was well laid out with many mock villages strewn about the the maneuver box. However the lack of constant villagers presence was for many soldiers a dis heartening experience. Yes I understand not every patrol will encounter enemy presence but if we send out a patrol to a villiage it would be nice to have people there. About 90% of the Patrols I personally did was devoid of any contact both enemy and friendly. Troops need the interaction at all levels just to rehearse the skills they have learned from the TMST training they did back at their home unit, the lack of contact was indeed indicative as I myself now feel I have suffered skill fade in areas I believe crucial.

Excises scope seemed to be largely based on manoeuvring sub units about aimlessly, yes I know that is not so but when you have WO and many officers referring to your excises as a large scale JANUS Ex with live troops and no actual use for them then I think that's a problem. Yes I understand C/S 0 needs to be practiced and I believe it is a necessity but that is why we have JANUS for 99% of the Ex most soldiers feel they were not needed and also felt (myself included) that it was a pointless exercises at the Coy to BG Level, right or wrong that feeling cause a bad taste in a soldiers mouth and it effects all levels of training.

Contact with the enemy was shall I say frustrating at the least infuriating at the most, When the Oct's use themselves as cover to infiltrate enemy forces for a contact that's just wrong, If they can't find a way past the LAV and other surveillance systems here they wont be able to do it overseas either. I want to clarify however that was an enemy attack on a static FOB, many of the Ambush scenarios were well done in fact my C/S was ambushed and it was both well laid out and quickly done with the En-For players hitting us with RPG and small arms fire then running away so quickly as to totally making our counter attack useful in the slightest.

Oct's were for the most part not seen or heard from other then to do their job which is the way it is supposed to be however a select few need to re evaluate how they do business. Case in point during one AAR after an attack at a FOB it was brought up that a LAV had seen the En-For move into the contact area long before that C/S was killed the Crew Commander brought up that when it was obvious that vehicle and personell were Enemy he had "notionally" fired his 25mm and Coax to destroy that target, That OCT NCO then said what did you kill them with I did't hear any firing. That's right you did't cause we don't have 25mm blank and Coax will not fire the blanks for the 7.62 as if will not feed through the chutes properly. A point to improve on their is that NCO needed to learn how the system he was judging worked, it was all many of us could do just to not explode on that individual for not having a clue as to what would have happened had we had away to simulate that, I also understand that it will be rectified with the WES system but I still believe it is a large indicator of how that person and some of the other Oct's thought.

Live Fire portion of the Exercise was disappointing with at times more safety staff then people firing and constriction on the range for safety making it so tight that entire sections never fired a round. I understand that in actual Operations and in many fire fights overseas people wont fire their weapon, but this is training everyone should have be utilised from the C7 to the 84mm, not a single support weapon was used other then Coax by any Coy that I know of because restrictions for firing the weapon made their use next to useless IE: no spec fire, no firing into buildings to cover troop movement etc etc.

If I could give an overall feeling for my time spent at CMTC Wainwright and Ex Maple Guardian I will say it was a large waste of time, I firmly believe that the training I did at my home base and unit was far superior to anything I did in Wainwright and I was highly disappointed in what I did do on Ex Maple Guardian, I also know that I am not alone in this feeling from the newest soldier to some of the higher ups also feel this way. I think CMTC has a long way to go before that feeling will change and I hope that the points I brought up as observations from my Level will be seen as constructive and perhaps actioned. I know some members of CMTC personaly and they know me and I hope they see what my comments are and will work to at least add some of my thoughts to their planning for future Ex's they will conduct.

Should you feel you want more in depth information I will be happy to answer as best I can both publicly and in PM


First off your post was well written.  You bring up allot of valid points.  I was op for so I offer a different perspective.  I am surprised that you found any of those villages empty.  With the exception of Spin Boldak (which was populated late in the exercise as per scenario) all three villages were occupied for the whole exercise.  I know that the village I hung out at was only visited twice by BLUEFOR prior to the DA at the end.

As far as OCTs using themselves as cover to infiltrate op for that is not cool.  Op for was not directed by the OCTs however there were only 3 OCTs that belonged to OPFOR.  It is my opinion that the root of the problem is the use of augmentees as OCTs.  To have a objective and professional OCT the need to be developed and trained in house and monitored for quality control.  The first thing you hear before an AAR is there is no fingerpointing but The OCT is often the worst offender.  This goes for op for as well.  Op for needs to be trained to fulfill the needs of the target audience and be professional about it.  Giving a 19 year old kid a ANP uniform and telling him to act like an idiot serves no purpose either.

I do believe that the training conducted in March was more effective for the troops on the pointy end and the rest could have been conducted with JANUS.  CMTC does have good training aids such as the vipers and ied sims but that's just bells and whistles.  BTW we have been using COAX blank in the 25mm turret for years.  It works like a charm.  I will admit that the chutes aren't the best but that goes for live just the same.  It needs to be clear of the gunners 9 o'clock episcope cover and even then it can be a pain.

Any ways I hope that some of these CMTC  types read your post and things can improve for future serials.

Sprink Bok I have seriously yet to see a Coax work with blank, normaly we get a short burst then stoppage even after changing the gas setting.

I'm no LAV expert by any means in fact I have 0 qualifications in it but I have observed and been told about this problem by people who are indeed much more qualified then I.
Do I understand this to say that a lot of stuff done oversea's isn't covered in training and a lot of stuff done in training isn't required for overseas?
Well yes and no.

Much of the training covered before heading to CMTC was mission specific and of great help. I however saw none of it at CMTC and I wonder now where the disconect is in the training system.
The WES system was un available for use at the time do to what I believe was a contract dispute or some such needless to say using the MILES v1 system was a pain, mostly because it didn't work and when it did it went off randomly at such times as when taking it off back in base camp or when say rain hit it etc etc
I was also on this ex and I must say it was a huge disapointment. CMTC needs to sort a lot of things out because this just ins't good enough for what our troops need for afghanistan. I talked to a lot of the guys that were on it and they all feel the same as i do. The potential is there for it to be a great learning experience, but I hope they put things together better for the next battle group that gets filtered through there next year.
I'm glad to see all these comments regarding MG 0601.  I do hope more will come out.  For those who don't know me, I am a Permanent Staff Infantry OCT at CMTC.  I'll will not stand here and defend CMTC, because yes, we have a long way to go before everything runs smoothly.  We just had some staff from JRTC come up and visit, and they tell us it took them a few years to get it right.  I will comment on a few things:


It was unfortunate that we didnt have enought WES gear for the BattleGroup.  That was the issue,  not enough equipment (man-worn and vehicle kits).  The "one time use" solution was to use MILES, but their kits were old and their vehicle kits were not compatible with our LAVs, etc.  I know many engagements would have been shorter if the LAVs could fire both main armament and coax.  I'm not sure who said "well I couldnt here it.."  that definitely is not a valid excuse.  WES has a speaker on the vehs that will let everyone know that it is firing.  As mentionned, the  ejection shoots in the LAVs are not compatible with blanks.  Will that be solved..  probably not.  WES will be used for the reserve serial this summer and for MG 0602 (1 R22er BG).  IT still will not solve everything.. LASERs still can't shoot through walls, and I'm sure there will still be "cheat kill"  bugs that won't have sorted out after SAT 2.

Full Spectrum Ops vs Mission Rehearsal Exercise

Three years ago, JRTC switched from FSO to MREs in order to prepare units for Ops on OIF and OEF.  They will be going back to conducting FSOs very soon.  I believe the intent of CMTC is to conduct MREs.  We try to replicate the environment as best we can, and introduce scenarios that the units will most likely be tasked with or be exposed to.    Did we do this?  Not very effectively.  We had a plan that was a month old.  We tried to adapt, with the use of Coy FOBs (as opposed to everyone working out of FOB Main), and many of the tasks were very similar to day to day tasks in Kandahar and surrounding areas.  What did we miss?  The OPFOR tasked as civilians were not very good civilians.  They did not sleep in their villages (they had "safe tents"), and did not react very well to how the average afghani would react. Most didnt know "who they were and where they come from" very well. How do we solve this?  By not tasking on OPFOR guy with 3 different roles, and by hiring civilian actors to come live in the villages.  So now we have to improve our villages so they can be "lived in"  permanently.
Our intent is to send OCT teams (and our planners of course) to visit the Battle Group once they are settled in.  This will allow us to get the latest info from out there..  as well, we need to have good comms with the guys we just put through to get their feedback and with ALLC.  I think there's a guy posted in this summer who will be our LO to the ALLC. 
The last issue I will comment on, before I head to lunch has to do with the ANA.  I dont think we had enough of them to really be effective.  They are being used everywhere the BG goes, to have an Aghan Face to the Op.  They also man the outer perimeter of the FOBs.  So therefore they would be the ones exposed to many of the Front gate occurences that went on during the Ex..  (suicide bombers/broken down vehs/guys looking fow work).  This wasnt well recreated. 

So thats enough for now.  I strongly believe that the ex was successful, and that the majority of the players took back some good lessons learned, even though they might not admit it.

We do have a long way to go.

Most of the rest of my comments would be nit picking all small stuff that really nothing changes. The biggest point I had wanted to get across was that many troops went backwards in a training level, we were doing live fire training at a much more advanced (lvl 5-6 was already complete apon arival in Wainwright thanks to Thundering Bear 2) level back in petawawa but the range set up was so poor IMO that it was a useless training event for that.

coupled the overall feeling of a Janus EX with live troops has most (in fact any soldier I have talked to from Pte to Wo) feel like MG was a complete waste of time and they only reason we went was because the money was already spent so we had to attend. Right or wrong that the feeling myself included, it was IMO 5 weeks spent away from home for little to no training value and a large waste of tax payers money that could have been spent on live fires here in Petawawa to get the troops even more in depth with their respective weapon systems.

Just so you know, CMTC will be the ONLY place that Lvl 5 live fire ranges will take place from now on.  This came down from the CLS after his visit here.  While I know that the range you conducted in Petawawa was much more challenging/rewarding, wouldnt you have rather had more time training lvls 2-4. 
Honestly no lvl 2 thru 4 should be the basic lvls for all infantry and cbt arms and we spent plenty of time on them.... I think if your going to be the sole place this occurs then your going to need to rethink your range layouts and why they need to be done. Every weapon should fire not 1 weapon in a section or one LAV in a Pl and support weapons need a role.

Brutally Honest Chags that was the worst run, thought out, planned range I have ever done. not only was it not challenging but the safety crap was ridiculous, were going to a WAR ZONE not to some kiddy camp treat it like such.
Safety is always a concern..  and it is been looked at (ie conduct 2 x day ranges.  1 with safety staff, the next without)  That is one step.  As for how many weapons are fired, that is/was up to your chain of command.. not limited by the range staff.  Future ranges here will have requirements for sp weapons (84mm, C6 etc).

That being said, Urban Ops instinctive shooting involves identifying the tgt and taking aimed shots, in a built-up area with a number of civilians.  That is what you will encounter in Afghanistan..  for the most part. 

I strongly suggested to my chain that there is a requirement for counter ambush ranges, and "better" vehicle convoy ranges..  we'll see what happens. 

*** I'd like to argue, speaking with lots of your peers (and mine), that you did not conduct enough lvl 2-4, that Brigade dictated most of your training schedule, not bn.
Understood sir but I would argue that the range limitations placed on us such as no covering fire for advancing troops and no spec fire precluded the use of the dismount C6 ( I was weap det comd I was un happy )is why that range should not have been set up the way it was in my mind, but perhaps like you said in 2 stages one full on combat operations with no civilian in battle space drill and then a second more raid style range on the next day.
Sending seacans full of tampons and soup ladels instead of rations and other urgently needed supplies didn't help either. It did provide some entertainment value though.
Looking forward to hearing how MG0603 & 0604 go.
I'm behind the issue counter for these serials
Kinda interested in the customer feedback.

:-[ Don't remember crates of 'em