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Maple Defender

a_majoor

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From the Sudbury Star:

http://www.thesudburystar.com/webapp/sitepages/content.asp?contentid=667450&catname=Local+News&classif=

ACCENT: Kandahar comes to Alberta; CFB Wainwright has been transformed into a full-scale replica of the Afghan terrain where our soldiers fight the Taliban, writes Trevor Stewart
Local News - Saturday, August 25, 2007 Updated @ 12:19:55 PM

A bright afternoon sun burns into a halted Canadian forces convoy on a road a few hundred metres from Belanday village.

A group of Canadian soldiers moves toward the village carrying aid boxes, while a dozen troops stealthily patrol the long line of trucks at the road. They move deliberately, pause and lay flat against the ground with rifles fixed on the distance. They glare at the countryside's small hills for any sign of Taliban insurgents.

Back at the village, across the road lined with green military vehicles, Belanday is in the midst of a religious celebration. Villagers can be seen together, playing and laughing, while local leaders and Canadian soldiers negotiate over the delivery of aid.

Suddenly, a man who looks like nothing more than a neighbour steps into the gathering and detonates his improvised explosive device, causing mass casualties among the stunned villagers. Back at the road, the soldiers protecting the parked convoy spot two insurgents, more would-be suicide bombers, moving toward the vehicles.

Soldiers shout "Stop!" Then "Stop him!"

The men continue to advance. One moves his hand toward his chest. Someone yells "Shoot him!" And the Canadian soldiers open fire.

While it's a tragic scenario Canadian forces witness often in Afghanistan, this drama unfolded Sunday at CFB Wainwright, Alta., during Exercise Maple Defender.

Everything here is staged - insurgents are actually Canadian soldiers dressed for the part, villages are populated by actors and soldiers fire blanks with results that register on the intricate Weapons Effect Simulation (WES) system.

Though death means nothing more than a six-hour break in "the morgue," for the 1,200 primary reserve soldiers from Ontario, including a handful from Sudbury's 2nd Battalion, Irish Regiment, this is deadly serious.

Everything at CFB Wainwright is meant to simulate Afghanistan, because here Canadian soldiers prepare for war.

"This is what the guys who have gone to Afghanistan say is the worst part - the immobilization, like in the city, sitting in traffic," said Sgt. Orson Edwards, a relatively soft-spoken veteran of a dozen years in the 7th Toronto Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery.

He and I, as an embedded journalist, sat in an idling supply truck as part of the halted convoy near the mock village. We also scoured the terrain around us, waiting for something to happen. We were talking about the realities of Afghanistan - a place he hasn't volunteered to go, yet - when "shit hits the fan," as soldiers often put it.

I was one of 19 Ontario journalists invited to Wainwright to observe the large-scale training exercise for Ontario reservists, which usually takes place at CFB Petawawa. Edwards was to drop me off, along with his supply load, so I could spend a couple of days embedded with troops.

The Canadian army has transformed 640 square kilometers of the base (roughly the size of Elliot Lake's city limits) into a simulation of Kandahar Province. They've renamed roads and rivers, constructed a replicate Kandahar Air Field in the north and scattered small villages throughout.

Even Wainwright's yellow-green prairie fields on the foothills of the Rockies make a suitable replacement for the dry, hilly terrain of the southern Afghan province. A free-thinking Taliban opposition force moves about the province and tests Canadian troops, not only in combat but in spotting signs of potential dangers.

The experience is so detailed, many reservists call the base 'Wainwrightistan.'

Soldiering is only a part-time job for reservists, who also live, work or are students in the civilian world. They train a few times a month with their local reserve units.

In the past couple of decades, the reserves have taken on a much more important role, however. The army is now more reliant on reservists for overseas missions with "the (increased) tempo of activity that the government of Canada has chosen for military operations," said Col. Gerry Mann, commander of one of three reserve brigade groups in Ontario.

"Wisely, the army has found a way of using the reservists to stretch out what we're capable of doing."

Reservists aren't ordered on overseas missions, but some choose to volunteer to join the regular forces, with the top soldiers selected to fill out a task force based on their abilities and military trades.
Mann said there are 200 reserve soldiers currently in Afghanistan. When Ontario's Land Force Central Area takes over the second rotation in 2008, it plans to triple that number, putting 600 reserves among the 2,500 Canadian troops in the country.

That's why the Ontario reserves' two-week summer exercise moved from Petawawa to Wainwright this year, to give the soldiers a more accurate level of training specific to the Afghan mission.

Exercise Maple Defender is a condensed version of Exercise Maple Guardian, the 39-day training all soldiers receive before deployment to Afghanistan.

"The last thing a solider sees when they leave for Afghanistan is Wainwright in their rearview mirror," said Capt. Tom St. Denis. St. Denis is the public affairs officer for the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre (CMTC) - the official name for the portion of the base that has become Kandahar.

Lt. Ken McClure, a company commander with Sudbury's 2nd Battalion, Irish Regiment has submitted his name for deployment to Afghanistan. He and the other 2nd Irish troops in Alberta spent the exercise as part of Charlie infantry company.

McClure's first stint in the reserves was from 1985-1991. He returned again in October 2001, motivated by the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In a March 2006 interview with The Sudbury Star, McClure said his age (he was 38 at the time) meant he wasn't likely to volunteer for active duty. He has changed his tune since.

"I've sent young men off enough times already, so it's my turn," he said. "We (the 2nd Irish) have 10 guys on training for the next mission and still two more streams to go."

McClure, a financial planner with Dundee Wealth Management in Sudbury, said the mission in Afghanistan also holds an array of possibilities for him. The NATO force is not only there to fight the Taliban, but to help rebuild the nation - get relief and aid to Afghans, train a national army and police force, and foster stability.

"If I get elected (to the mission), I would depart to Afghanistan in July or August 2008. I'll be 40 at that time, and leading the fight is a young man's game," he said. "I'm a trained financial planner with degrees, and they might be able to use that as an asset. I might do more that way than as a 40-year-old platoon commander."

Compared to regular force soldiers who have chosen the army as a career, reservists have different considerations before volunteering a year of their lives to a mission - six months in work-up training and six months deployment.

Employers in Canada aren't legislated to grant a reserve soldier a year away for a mission like they are in the United States. McClure said he's fortunate his company is supportive, and his job would be secure if he's chosen.

Reservists walk on a teeter-totter. On one end is their desire to serve their country and put their training to use. The other is the need to move forward with their domestic lives. Like nearly every young reservist I encountered at CFB Wainwright, Cpl. Don Genoe, 23, and Pte. Alex Gavin, 22, of the 2nd Irish are trying to find that balance.

Both are students at Laurentian University. Genoe is moving onto the second phase of a concurrent bachelor of education after completing his BA, while Gavin is going into his first year of law.

"My education is my priority at this point," Genoe said.

"Likewise, I'm going to be in school for the next couple of years," Gavin said. "So, it probably won't be Afghanistan for me. But whatever comes after Afghanistan, for sure."

Belief in the mission in Afghanistan runs deep throughout Exercise Maple Defender, and it isn't lessened by the fact the majority of people on base aren't full-time soldiers.

The reserves are a desirable option for many, who want to fight for their country. Another 2nd Irish boy, Pte. Charles Michael, 23, began his military career in the regular forces, but after eight months opted to go to school. He came back to join the reserves slightly less than a year ago.

"I actually like the reserves more because you get to do the army stuff and the civilian-world stuff," he said. "You can get a job and have a social life at home."

But it hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for overseas missions.

"I just need more training, because I don't want to go there underprepared," he said. "If Canada does decide to keep troops there, I'd be there for sure. Reserves are getting in there a lot and I hope that keeps up."

McClure, Genoe, Gavin and Michael, along with the rest of Charlie company, were to get Monday night to rest and regroup after four straight days "outside the wire" of the main base. Tuesday morning, they were back in the field.

The opposition forces at Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre plot operations to coincide with Canadian forces movements to create the most havoc. They conduct ambushes, bomb attacks and military manoeuvres as the Taliban would, based on intelligence that comes back from Afghanistan.

Crucial elements of the NATO mission beyond the battlefront are recreated at Wainwright. Soldiers search villages for weapons caches, deliver aid, set up vehicle checkpoints and identify threats within the population or corruption among local officials. Actors and military personnel also play the parts of local leaders, representatives from NGOs and even journalists from Canadian media, CNN and Al-Jazeera. Soldiers have to interact with the players in the game, including communicating with Afghan villagers who only speak Farsi.

In the Belanday scenario, the suicide bomber was equipped with a blast of talcum powder that sprayed anyone within the scope of the bomb blast. The village's actors went into motion.

One of them was David Heacock from Edmonton, a 36-year-old professional actor employed by the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre. His face had been mostly hidden by a scarf until the bomber stepped near him and detonated. The right side of Heacock's face, transformed by special effects makeup, was revealed to be bloody and shredded.

"As the wounds get worse, we have the acting training to pull off the actual physical feeling," Heacock said. "I acted disoriented because I can't see out of one eye, and I was bleeding out, so I began to lose consciousness."

It's all to test how quickly the soldiers react to help the villagers, Heacock said. "So, the more believable you are, the more it helps them when they attend to you.

"It's the most realistic thing I've ever been in and it's an honour to do it."

It was the second straight day insurgent attacks had foiled the Canadian army's attempt to deliver aid to Belanday. Sgt. Edwards' plan to get supplies to his artillery troops who were stationed just a few kilometers north of the village was also disrupted. Our convoy was forced to turn around and head back to base under the threat of further attacks by opposition forces.

My mission was to get into the field and talk to Sudbury's reservists amid their 24-7 submersion in this war exercise.

But, like any military manoeuvre, logistics can be a battle of their own, even if it involves putting a journalist alongside the troops. My second attempt to make it into the field that night was also in vain when Bravo company left me and three other Ontario journalists behind on a midnight march, deciding the realism of the battle effort was more important than ensuring the safety of four embedded journalists.

The only option for operation commanders was to break the rules of the battle and ruin the cover of a number of soldiers in order to bring us back in.

My third attempt to get into the field Monday was scheduled for the end of a difficult attack on a mock cave complex. Success for the Canadian forces didn't come as easily as they had hoped. They ran into more opposition soldiers than expected, and we were sent back to base once again.

Only that night did Charlie company return to the base and I was able to talk with McClure, Genoe, Michael and Gavin.

Turns out, the Sudbury men were integral in retaking a bridge from Taliban insurgents two days earlier.

Because of the WES gear, the attack was a lesson in "identifying how you have to change your tactics," Genoe said.

When the section commander went down with a severe injury, Pte. Gavin was the first to administer medical aid, which can be done through the computer indicators in the Weapon Effects Simulation (WES) vests.

"I kept him alive for more than an hour," Gavin said. "But he died before the medivac helicopter arrived."

In the meantime, Genoe assumed command of the section.

"I was the next person in line, so I conducted the assault," he said. "So you can see how injury takes away manpower and even leadership, and you have to adapt."

Charlie company seized the bridge successfully.

"In the after-action review with leadership, they showed a visual with satellite imagery from the WES of us," Genoe said. "It could identify the people moving on the ground and show our tactics. We were very successful."

Genoe, a member of the 2nd Irish since 2001, saw some big differences between the exercises in Petawawa and Wainwright.

"It's helpful to train in a different environment, and we're using the same tactics that are being leached from lessons learned in Afghanistan," he said.

For the majority of Ontario reservists, the northern Alberta weather proved to be one of their biggest adversaries.

"It's almost been four seasons in one day," Genoe said. "(Sunday) we were worried about overheating and dehydration, and (Monday) we were more worried about hypothermia."

In fact, a number of troops from Charlie company were treated for hypothermia as a cold rain pounded down on the marching troops from midnight to noon on Monday. Some mentioned seeing snow.

"The weather was pretty miserable," Michael said. "It was kind of demoralizing, really, but we got through it. Because that's what we do."

McClure was one of the most experienced soldiers among his platoon "by two decades in most cases," he said. He was impressed, however, with how his youthful troops were able to identify a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) and work around the situation in the early days of the exercise.

IEDs are the biggest threat to the lives of Canadian troops in Afghanistan. In the last week, three Canadian soldiers have been killed by roadside IED attacks.

Hence, the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre stressed this element of training, something new for the reservists from Ontario.

"When we conducted the operation last year (at CFB Petawawa), I can't recall that we did any IED," Col. Mann said. "Out here, every day the soldiers go out, there is that IED threat. Every day we have eight to 12 IED threats that they could run across."

In the early days of the two-week exercise, the Canadian units suffered heavy casualties due to IEDs.

"Now the drills are becoming smoother, more routine and according to our doctrine," Mann said on Monday night, four days before the end of the exercise.

With reservists becoming a bigger part of Canada's force in Afghanistan, Mann believes the kind of training Maple Defender provides is essential to the development of Ontario's reservists.

"Any chance we can get our soldiers exposed to what they may see and feel in their involvement in a mission is going to increase their survivability," he said. "I'm convinced the WES system will help save soldiers' lives, especially after seeing what I have over the past week with our reservists."

As Sgt. Edwards and I rumbled back to Kandahar Air Field in the middle of the rebuffed convoy, his WES indicator began to beep.

He looked down to read 'near miss.'

"We're under attack," Edwards said.

Looking out the window, it was impossible to see where the attack was coming from and I couldn't help but wonder how troops in Afghanistan feel under this kind of stress, dealing with an enemy that doesn't stand and fight, but lies in wait, and the challenge they face if they weren't ready.

Accent runs every Saturday in The Sudbury Star.

more details

Exercise Maple Defender

When: Aug. 11-24

Where: Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre, CFB Wainwright, Alta.

Who: 1,200 reservists from Ontario, including a handful from Sudbury-based 2nd Battalion, Irish Regiment.

What: Soldiers immersed 24 hours a day in exercises designed to replicate the Canadian forces mission to Afghanistan, including force-on-force combat, cordon and search exercises, improvised explosive device detection and humanitarian aid delivery.

Budget: $5.9 million

photos by trevor stewart/the sudbury star
 

Loachman

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I'm still awaiting reviews of this ex from those that participated.

I was stuck on the night-shift casevac standby and have never felt so left-out and mushroom-like in any ex that I've ever been on in thirty-four years. We got no calls for our services, which was obviously good from the NODUF aspect, and were restricted to no more than about forty-five minutes of flying time in order to preserve our ability to get to one of the hospitals in Edmonton. I got far more flying time on my way out there than I did in location.

Yes, somebody had to do it - it can be somebody else next time, though.
 

Spanky

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Being attached to OPFOR for this ex, I too felt out of the loop.  It was the first ex ever where I was not in one of the recce troops.  The troop my guys were a part of were extremly busy doing convoy escort duty.  It seems that the three troops did not rotate tasks as was the plan.  One troop did convoy escorts, another did O.P.s etc.
 

Armynewsguy

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Here is a link to a print story that we produced on the Exercise.

print story  http://www.armee.forces.gc.ca/lf/English/6_1_1.asp?id=2220

video story to follow.

Armynewsguy
 

brihard

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It was a very interesting ex for those of us who'd not been to CMTC before (read, most of us).

I was there as a section commander for Charlie coy. The exercise was characterized throughout by lack of junior leadership; My company had 2 Capt, 2 Lts, a 2Lt, an MWO, a Sgt, 3 MCpl, andmyself as a PLQ qualified corporal for leadership. My platoon had an Lt, a MCpl as acting WO, and myself and two junior corporals as section commanders.

The term 'Gong Show' applies.

That said, I think it was a valuable ex. In the week we were conducting force on force, my boys did a recce patrol/OP, participated in a company deliberate attack, formed the assault/search team for a company cordon and search, and then conducted another company deliberate attack, as well as doing some FOB routine, gate guard/tower duty, and occupying a defensive position, complete with shellscrapes, pouring rain, and getting bumped in the morning. A rather busy seven days.

Battle procedure was fast and loose, and it was clear that a lot of the leadership were out of their depth; but theymanaged anyway. A company cordon and search on the vertical village was pulled off with literally an hour from orders to stepping off, having lost nearly a dozen guys to hypothermia that night/morning and with the rest of us pretty out of 'er. Guys with two and a half years in the 'mo were leading sections decently, if not expertly.

Were there problems? Of course there were. Some guys didn't realize how cold Alberta got and thus didn't have quite warm enough kit- our failure as leaders, if anything. The field kitchens made us rather few hot meals, instead preferring to simply start big boil pots going so we could heat our own IMPs. At least they were hot though, I suppose. The medics did a hell of a job dealing with no duffs. The engineers acctached to my coy fought as hard as any of the others on the attack; all in all a lot of people stepping up when needed. We did have some other assets- Loachman's comments notwithstanding, we got a couple of pretty cool helicopter rides out to our hit on the bridge, and the griffons were always there for PRI 1 (exercise) CASEVAC when we'd consolidated at the end of an op.

Maybe it wasn't as good an ex for other arms as it was for the infantry, and maybe amongst the infantry it was more enjoyed by junior leadership than by the troops, but I think it was a pretty decent experience, especially by reserves standards. We saw things we haven't experienced much before; convoys, suicide/IED thread, realistic CASEVAC, and we got some good reinforcement of the fundamentals.

I'd do it again.
 

brihard

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Haggis said:
Although I wasn't there, that is a most telling commentary on ANY exercise.

Heh, ask around my unit for a 'keener, and sucker for punishemnt' and my name will probably come up top of the list.  ;D

A lot of the troops thought it sucked- but then, they probably haven't pepperpotted or dug a shellscrape since their DP1 and thought they were done with such nonsense...
 

Loachman

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Thank-you for the first  review form the PTA perspective. I hope that many more follow.

Brihard said:
It was a very interesting ex for those of us who'd not been to CMTC before (read, most of us).

Good. As I sat through all of the planning conferences and saw the effort put into it, I am glad to hear that.

Brihard said:
I was there as a section commander for Charlie coy. The exercise was characterized throughout by lack of junior leadership; My company had 2 Capt, 2 Lts, a 2Lt, an MWO, a Sgt, 3 MCpl, andmyself as a PLQ qualified corporal for leadership. My platoon had an Lt, a MCpl as acting WO, and myself and two junior corporals as section commanders.

The first time that I actually led a platoon in the field, in 4 RCR on Milcon 1976, I was the only one in the platoon HQ. All of my soldiers, including the two section commanders, were privates fresh off of their basic summer course, whatever it was called back then. I picked the two that I thought would do the best from natural ability. Everybody else was off doing Olympic security in Montreal.

Brihard said:
Battle procedure was fast and loose,

It wasn't supposed to be that way.

Brihard said:
...it was clear that a lot of the leadership were out of their depth; but theymanaged anyway...Guys with two and a half years in the 'mo were leading sections decently, if not expertly.

I'm not surprised to hear this. Almost like a real war of old, with people being pushed due to rapid expansion and sustained losses yet still managing.

Brihard said:
Were there problems? Of course there were. Some guys didn't realize how cold Alberta got and thus didn't have quite warm enough kit- our failure as leaders, if anything.

The leaders probably didn't realize that, either. They were probably smart enough to bring what they were told to bring, though.

Brihard said:
The field kitchens made us rather few hot meals, instead preferring to simply start big boil pots going so we could heat our own IMPs. At least they were hot though, I suppose.

Shortage of cooks is a general problem on milcons, and always a topic of discussion at the planning conferences. That would have been the reason for this.

Brihard said:
We did have some other assets- Loachman's comments notwithstanding,

I was only b!tching about my personal situation.

Brihard said:
we got a couple of pretty cool helicopter rides out to our hit on the bridge,

That was 427 Squadron, who jumped in late in the game when 400 Squadron was mostly pulled off of the exercise for two other higher-priority ops.

Brihard said:
the griffons were always there for PRI 1 (exercise) CASEVAC when we'd consolidated at the end of an op.

That was the day shift, also a 400 Squadron crew with a Flight Nurse and Med Tech attached. All of the night cas were snatched by ambulance, even when we asked to be called no matter how minor.

Brihard said:
I think it was a pretty decent experience, especially by reserves standards. We saw things we haven't experienced much before; convoys, suicide/IED thread, realistic CASEVAC, and we got some good reinforcement of the fundamentals.

And that was the whole point, and I'm glad that at least one person saw it that way.

Brihard said:
I'd do it again.

So would I, but not on the night casevac shift.
 

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In my definition, a great exercise is one you curse constantly while it's happening, and that you can't stop talking about afterwards.  They usually involve being cold and hungry (at times).

A lousy exercise usually involves too much comfort and too much downtime... go figure...


A question to everyone who participated in Maple Defender:  What are the three most important points you will take away from the exercise?


 

brihard

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dapaterson said:
A question to everyone who participated in Maple Defender:  What are the three most important points you will take away from the exercise?

1) Learn the job two people up, and be prepared to assume instant command. Similarly, make it bloody clear to your troops what your subordinate chain of command is and pick people ready to take command as your 2ic, rank and qualification notwithstanding.

2) Constant vigilance. Most reserve exercises, we know when we are and aren't 'tatical' or at risk of enemy threat. On this ex we had convoys getting bumped left right and centre, and a 'smart', relatively free range enemy force.

3) Command and control. Our platoon went to hell in a hurry as soon as we took fire from the flank and killed the flank section commander without anyknoe knowing he was dead due to the ravine he was in. Keep your friends close, and your platoon reserve closer. You can never have too many radios, and you can never make your comms plan clear enough. Know who's to do what in what circumstances, and don't for a second let your section have any inkling that you aren't 100% confident of what's going on- give 'em an axis of advance, call 'team, team team', and they'll work for you til you yank the reins on consolidation.



Other minor notes:

Beg/Borrow/Steal/ADREP as many IMP heater bags as humanly possible. Fill out every IMP feedback form requesting that heater bags be included in them in future. Mail them en masse. That is my crusade. By 2010, IMPs will have heater bags in them.

Bivvy Bags are the second greatest piece of kit known to man.

Dress in accordance with the dress regs. Pack for when they go out the window on day two. On that note, stealth suit jackets are the greatest piece of kit known to man.

You can never have too much ammo.

Let a corporal navigate. It's nice that you have a GPS sir, but so do I, and I actually know what UTM and WGS84 are. On that note, don't forget to change your declination from Petawawa to Wainwright. Trust your map, compass, gut feeling, and the guys behind you who are shaking their heads because you're going the wrong way.

SOPs, SOPs, SOPs.

Airport security will confiscate a botle of water, but the lone blank round you forget at the bottom of your carryon baggage small pack will go unnoticed (no, this wasn't me).
 

Fishbone Jones

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How about some feedback on the WES system. Was it worth it? Enough equipment? Enough training on it? How about CMTC mobile equipment? These points are all part and parcel as to why Wainwright was chosen for the ex in the first place.
 

Pikache

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recceguy said:
How about some feedback on the WES system. Was it worth it? Enough equipment? Enough training on it? How about CMTC mobile equipment? These points are all part and parcel as to why Wainwright was chosen for the ex in the first place.
I can see the potential of WES, but it does not effectively simulate small arms well enough to be anything close to the actual thing. (IE lack of tracers for gunners to 'walk in' the rounds on target. Not to mention WES can't pass through blades of grass.

Spent at least 5 times a day ensuring that the helmet halo was properly connected to the WES vest so that I don't become a 'Cheat Kill'.

A lot of OPFOR cheated and weren't wearing WES gear, so it was just like every other OPFOR on Res exercises. Pointless and takes away training value that can potentially save lives in combat for the sake of personal fun. Many guys in my platoon found this way the hard way after wasting tons of ammo on OPFOR, only to find out that they weren't dying because they had no WES on.

 

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One of the side effects of being tasked to the Visits cell was that I got to roam the training area with impunity, watch all the battles on the big God screen back at EXCON, and sit in on the AARs is the "crying room" behind the one-way glass in the theatre.

After having seen all the activity, warts and all, I think this ex was worth every single tear shed during planning and execution based on one simple fact - the battle group HQ was "inside the box" and so were EXERCISED instead of being semi-DS.

For once, Callsign Zero was required to do battle procedure, submit reports and returns, push out consolidated SITREPS, and do all the tasks required of a formation HQ.

Hearing the battle group ask EXCON to be able to DS something along and be told NO was absolutely priceless.

I have a certain level of sympathy for subunits thrown together at the last minute and forced to work together for the first time in such a demanding environment, especially one that drives home the importance of practicing basic soldiering skills like digging in, fire and movement, and (especially) navigation. But even so, from where I sat, two of the three companies actually did pretty well, and there was marked improvement on the second iteration of the attacks, particularly the attacks on the bridges. There were some impressed people amongst the brass, especially given the ad hoc nature of the formations.

From my outside view, I thought a lot of very important lessons were taught, and most of them didn't have anything to do with "winning" or "losing". If the success of an exercise can be defined as number of lessons learned per capita, this was probably the best exercise ever.

DG
 

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HighlandFusilier said:
I can see the potential of WES, but it does not effectively simulate small arms well enough to be anything close to the actual thing. (IE lack of tracers for gunners to 'walk in' the rounds on target. Not to mention WES can't pass through blades of grass.

Spent at least 5 times a day ensuring that the helmet halo was properly connected to the WES vest so that I don't become a 'Cheat Kill'.
We (OPFOR) had a lot of cheat kills as well.  Apparently CUBIC received a whole whack of batteries that were not up to standard and that was the cause of that malfunction. 
A lot of OPFOR cheated and weren't wearing WES gear, so it was just like every other OPFOR on Res exercises. Pointless and takes away training value that can potentially save lives in combat for the sake of personal fun. Many guys in my platoon found this way the hard way after wasting tons of ammo on OPFOR, only to find out that they weren't dying because they had no WES on.
All of the OPFOR I was associated with had their WES gear on at all times.  If there were some observed elsewhere not playing fair... well that's what the OCTs were for.


edit: fixed for correct quoting
 

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WES was finnicky and frustrating. I was taking aimed headshots at about 30M distance, with my sight clearly between the two forehead receptors, and ot getting hits. Perhaps my WES needed realignment; I'm not sure- but many others reported the same thing. Our firebase for  MacDonald Bridge was on a hilltop about a klick away; 5 C^s on SF kits. They hit the objective on rapid for two minutes and didn't get any hits. Some of the WES grenades didn't chirp after being thrown- good luck finding 'em. WES worked decently enough; beter than MILES I suppose, but it was a real pain in the ass from time to time. The extra pouches on the back made it difficult and uncomfortable to carry a ruck or small pack. With our guys loaded down with C6 ammo, that's very inconvenient; A number of us had lowe back pain from it.

WES has potential, but it needs refinement. It should be doing a better job of registering aimed shots... I don't know enough about the technicalities of how it works to say much beyond that.

The dynamic AARs were neat. I couldn't help but hear the Benny Hill music in my head while watching my company navigate to the first bridge attack. Seeing just how the platoons moved on the assaults was interesting too. The OCTs constantly following with video cameras was slightly Orwellian, but I saw how it came in useful.

Overall, lots of potential, some of which still needs to be refined and realized.
 

Spanky

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The lack of hits from your fire base, may have been the result of the 20m "protection zone".  From what I heard on the OPFOR net, a person, while in the 20m zone would have been protected from small arms fire.  This was to factor in the protection afforded a defender who was dug in.  This was heard on the net during the second battle of McDonald Bridge.  You're right about the lower back pain.  Some of my guys were complaining of pain around the kidney areas while driving with the vests on.  Maybe the armoured recce guys can comment.
 

Love793

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Spank, although I was with 9er Tac and not the tps, I still spent a fair time mounted. As for the boys doing escorts all the time, I think it just became a matter of high ops tempo throwing off the plan.  I have to agree that the WES Vest did take some getting used to, especially with wearing cambelbacks and such.  I didn't notice too much lower back discomfort, except with the patrol pack on.  However, this system is still much better than the "MILES experiments" we've dealt with in the past.  As for the guys with no vest on.  The only ones I saw like that where CMTC staff and not opfor. 
 

brihard

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I'm wondering if maybe the system couldn't be improved by moving a couple of the electronics to the side of the vest rather than the small of the back? Witness the CPgear Berry pouch, for instance- tucked in between the velcro panel and the C9/canteen pouch. I imagine that the battery pack and GPS unit could probably both be reloacted pretty easily, and perhaps the transmitter as well, with just the antenna routed up through the vest to the shoulder. There's gotta be some way it could be made to work... If a couple of the components were combined into one, that would probably gain some net size reduction. Alternatively, since we can't use the bayonet anyway because of the player unit, maybe a second component could also be centralized in the vest. Just a thought.

The system still needs some refinement, and if part of that was to make the vests more backpack friendly, that would be a significant improvement.
 

TN2IC

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HighlandFusilier said:
A lot of OPFOR cheated and weren't wearing WES gear, so it was just like every other OPFOR on Res exercises. Pointless and takes away training value that can potentially save lives in combat for the sake of personal fun. Many guys in my platoon found this way the hard way after wasting tons of ammo on OPFOR, only to find out that they weren't dying because they had no WES on.

Should of piped up to the CMTC referee! Rules state that the person not wearing the gear is automatically dead. I"ve seen a 50 cal. nest get taken out over this issue.
 

brihard

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Only one I generally saw was OPFOR with the headset taped to their shoulders due to ethnic headdress.
 
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