Vanguard Magazine

Feb/Mar 2015

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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Page 23 of 47

W WINTeR WaRfaRe 24 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015 A test on the road to high readiness rafale BlancHe S ince Canadian soldiers fi rst de- ployed to Eastern Europe in early May as part of Operation Reassur- ance, the Canadian contribution to NATO assurance measures in the region, they have worked with new and familiar al- lies in a range of exercises. Many of those have been Polish-led opera- tions to enhance infantry skills, parachute insertion, close-quarters battle training in urban settings, and command and control. For two weeks in January and early Feb- ruary, approximately 2,800 soldiers from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG) based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier returned the favour, leading sol- diers from the Polish 6th Airborne Brigade and a platoon from the French Army's 4e Régiment de chasseurs in Exercise Rafale Blanche, an intense Brigade-level exercise to sharpen soldiers for the entire spectrum of military operations – from conventional warfare to asymmetric confl icts – under austere, winter conditions. Polish soldiers were on the ground with the 1 Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment and also jumped from a CC-130J Hercules with the paratroopers of the 3 Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment. The French platoon was in- tegrated into the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada. The exercise involved more than 800 ve- hicles – LAV III, Coyote, BV-206 and MSVS – and troops on the ground used snowmo- biles, snowshoes and skis to move between objectives. The Royal Canadian Air Force provided Grif- fon and Chinook helicopters to move both troops and equipment around the simulated area of operation (AO). They provided CF-18s and Alpha Jet fi ghter aircraft to simulate airstrikes. The Chinook crews also worked closely with the 5e Régiment d'artillerie lé- gère du Canada moving their M777 howit- zers around the AO. Ground manoeuvers by infantrymen were supported by artillery and armoured regiments, reinforcing a key lesson from Af- ghanistan about the importance of coopera- tion between different regiments and trades to achieve mission success. Exercises such as Rafale Blanche have become paramount to strengthening that interoperability. While the weather was lenient on certain days, it also went down to around -35 Celsius, a true test for international partners. The tem- perature can be one of the worst enemies for a Canadian soldier working outside, but winter warfare exercises constantly provide oppor- tunities for soldiers to learn how to cope and keep doing their jobs. 5 CMBG will be responsible for proving two high readiness task forces by July 2015 and Exercise Rafale Blanche was essential to that preparation, training the soldiers and the chain of command in tactical and operation manoeuvers while challenging communica- tion levels across the brigade. The exercise was deemed a success and 5 CMBG is now ready to face winter warfare operations and will soon be ready to deploy anywhere in the world. Jonathan Wade is a retired combat veteran of Afghanistan. A er serving for 14 years as an infantryman with the Royal 22nd Regiment, he is now working toward becoming a military aff airs specialist.

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