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Colonel Commandant's Report On Visit to F Battery

Old Sweat

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Task Force Afghanistan
Gunner SITREP from Colonel Commandant – 29 December 2008

As Colonel Commandant I had the great pleasure of visiting many of the Gunners in TF Afghanistan over the period 19 to 24 December. Major Dan LeBlanc, SO DArty accompanied me. We got to visit two of the troops of “F” (The Fighting Fox) Battery, 2 RCHA (Major Stu Taylor and BSM Rolly Smith). Went to F Troop in Sperwin Gar and E Troop in FOB Wilson. We went to the PRT in Kandahar and FOB Ma San Gar. Also met up with some of the FOO Parties - 31, 32, 33. Missed 34 in Frontenac and 35. Got to visit our HALO and LCMR dets in the field and also our SUAV and TUAV Gunners and those doing airspace coord. We went to the PRT in Kandahar and met with some of our Gunners there and spoke to some of the Gunner CIMIC folks. CWO Lizotte took us on a tour of the OMLT, working with the Afghan Army – where he specializes in teaching/mentoring on the Russian 122mm D30, and Maj Brian Bedard briefed on OMLT. We also have Gunners in Regional Command South, the Task Force Ops Centre and the Battle Group FSCC. And, there are Gunners in many other jobs – from Visits to Policing, to Targeting, Fires Coord,  Airspace Coord, to Admin and Support, and whatever. We are, literally, everywhere. But the core of our contribution is “F” Battery, 2RCHA – the Fighting Fox, and 4th AD Regt is the next most significant contributor to TFA. Our Artillery Reserve component is significant – and impressive. My deepest thanks to the Regiments of Ontario especially, but there are Gunner Reservists from all across Canada contributing to TFA. And, their contribution is visible (but invisible/ indistinguishable, if you know what I mean), significant and absolutely crucial to maintaining the momentum. The Artillery Reserve is critical to maintaining the momentum, given that we are essentially on a mobilization footing – and their contribution to the fight is noteworthy.

Morale is very high, no matter the function each individual happens to be fulfilling and in spite of the casualties we have been taking. Each and every Gunner is contributing to the fight, and the achievement of security, law and order, good governance and political/economic stability. And, each Gunner feels that they are making a positive contribution. When it comes to dealing with those who would do us and the Afghan population harm, our troops are contributing to the counter-insurgency fight in a manner proportionally much greater than our numbers might indicate. When the bad guys are ID’d and fixed, they are dealt with aggressively, expeditiously and with the appropriate means available, and with great care to prevent collateral damage or damage to the greater objectives. Guns, mortars, other strike means, STA, airspace coord, arty int, targeting, fire coordination and networking are applied judiciously but with purpose – and to great effect. I heard nothing but great praise for our M777 howitzer (frequently described as “awesome” – at over 29K it can consistently hit the target without adjustment, and can be called in as close as 100M (or less if necessary) to our own troops. The Gunners, along with their Infantry, Armoured and other arms and services counterparts, and air and other assets are taking the fight to the bad guys with great effect. We are being assertive, imposing our will on the bad guys.

Our greatest asset is our people – and the Gunners over there are smart, sharp, fit, dedicated, professional, tough, rugged and focused. The hardships are being shared with our other arms and the accounts of enemy action have been incredible. We can be proud of what our Gunners are achieving, and I can assure you that they face the same exposure and threats as their infantry, armoured and engineer counterparts – or their logisticians on road movements. I heard many hair-raising stories for Brian Reid’s book, “With a Few Guns” - many stories of professionalism, dedication, fighting spirit, bravery, camaraderie and sheer guts. Our Gunners stand out as professionals and great soldiers – fit, smart, tough, focused and determined. Colonel Commandant coins were presented to a number of deserving folks, whose names I’ll mention in the Quadrant.

I can report that the all arms coordination and cooperation is at a level I have not seen since the sixties. The Third Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment and “F” Battery (++) are in this together and the soldiers are fighting as a cohesive team. Calls for fire are frequently originated by platoons or sections, or Recce, or Snipers. All locating, fixing and tracking resources are applied and the insurgents are identified, fixed and dealt with. The “Royals” are making the best possible use of their Gunner resources to locate, fix, neutralize and destroy or otherwise deal with the bad guys. The Battle Group is extremely agile, determined, assertive and professional – a great team. My visit happened to be in sync with that of General Walt Holmes, Colonel of the Regiment of The RCR (celebrating their 125th Anniversary) – which highlighted the comradeship and solidarity of the all-arms team.

To conclude, our Gunners are very competent and confident. They are assertively taking the fight to insurgents and enemy fighters. They are contributing greatly in achieving the security aspects of the whole of government campaign in Afghanistan. They are proud of what they bring to the fight, and are respected for what they can achieve. In fact, they are an integral and vital (if not central) component of the Army, Joint, Coalition and whole of government campaign. They have consistently demonstrated their adaptability and professionalism, and their fighting spirit.

In the past decade we have seen the Royal Regiment go from the precipice of extinction to an incredibly high state of capability and professionalism. We are contributing to the fight to an extent that far exceeds our numerical representation on the ground. We can no doubt do more, and are poised to do so. Our young men and women (and sometimes not so young – I saw many old friends over there) are representing us well in the legacy and tradition of which we Gunners are so proud. We have one Royal Regiment, and our Gunners in Afghanistan know that they can count on their home Regiments (Regular Force and Reserve), their School, the Home Station, the staffs in NDHQ (esp DLR and ADM Mat), the various HQs and Bases, and the Regimental Family to support them, and respond to their needs. To our Gunners in theatre, I wish you continued “Good Shooting,” and to all Gunners “Everywhere,” thanks for your great support – direct, indirect, reinforcing and whatever.

To Gunners everywhere, on behalf of all members of the Royal Regiment, my congratulations on an impressive and successful year in the service of Canada. We shall remember our fallen and injured, and carry on with the dedication, determination and professionalism for which we are renowned. May our troops in action be safe through 2009, and they can count on all Gunners to support them in executing operations and maintaining their fighting spirit, esprit de corps and morale. God Bless, and Good Shooting.

Ubique

Ernie

Ernest B. Beno, OMM, CD
Brigadier-General, Retired
Colonel Commandant
The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery
 
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