Page 22 - The Chapka 2016
P. 22

A Brit abroad – On Exchange to the Strathconas
 After a busy campaign season on the Prairie with the OPFOR Battlegroup, staying in Canada until 2017 had not been one of my priorities as we flew home for some leave in August 2016. However, in September, I found myself flying back to Canada, not to BATUS but to a Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton to join the Recce Squadron of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (RC), our affiliated Canadian Army Regiment. Whilst the trip was un- der the guise of Exercise Long Look (the Overseas Army Ex- change programme), the Regiment and the LdSH have a long exchange programme that goes back until the 1970s – in the 1980s and 90s, a Captain would go to the LdSH on a two year posting and vice-versa. Iraq and Afghanistan meant that the ex- changes stopped but now, given our (notionally) less busy lives, the exchange has restarted.
The LdSH are an Armoured Regiment of the Canadian Army, equipped with the Leopold 2 Main Battle Tank, the Light Ar- moured Vehicle (LAV III and 6) and the Coyote Armoured Re- connaissance Vehicle. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, they have been deployed in all the major Canadian Army deployments since the Second World War, including the Balkans and Afghan- istan where they deployed with Leopold 2. Currently, RHQ and a Squadron are undergoing PDT for deployment to the Ukraine and a Reconnaissance Troop (+) is preparing to deploy to Latvia to provide deterrence on the Russian/Latvia border.
Arriving a week before the entire Regiment deployed on a six week exercise, my first week was dominated by the Canadian Army’s quickest Zero to Hero Troop Leader’s Course. Whilst the job is broadly similar, the details were different. My troop consisted of six-eight LAVs (know as Coyotes), an eight wheeled vehicle with a 25mm gun and 4 crew (the usual three plus one in the back, affectionately known as the GIB or ‘Guy in Back’) and is divided into three two-car patrols and a troop leader’s pair. The three Patrols conduct most of what we do as Troops such as zone reconnaissance and screen tasks whereas the Troop Lead- er’s pair act more as the link between the three patrols and SHQ, sitting a tactical bound behind the patrols themselves and acting as a reserve. As a wheeled troop, we conducted a day-long route reconnaissance through towns and along the Highway from CFB Edmonton to the Training Area at CFB Wainwright, a distance of 200km. It was certainly different to getting on a coach and then spending a day or two sorting out vehicles before deploy- ing. Rather, when we got to the training area, we received our next set of Orders and carried on with the Exercise. In the first three weeks, the Squadron completed a Gunnery Camp (BATUS style and where I put my newly learnt 25mm drills to practice), some dismounted ranges and then CT1 & 2. We were also joined by a platoon from US 4/3rd Cavalry to practice joint operations – truly a NATO exercise. The Americans were also keen to visit us so this could well be a future relationship opportunity.
Midway through the exercise, the Regiment took three days back in Camp to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving where some of the Officers kindly hosted me and the other Mess ‘orphans’ before redeploying for a COIN exercise. This was perhaps the highlight of my trip. This exercise consisted of deploying the Squadron into a relatively rural but wholly civilian area away from the training area, setting up a PB in a small village (es- sentially a field by a village hall but with formal sangers, barbed wire and the like) and acting as if we had recently deployed into the area prior to the rest of the Brigade deploying. Initially this involved route reconnaissance and PB security tasks but, with the addition of a live enemy (no rounds were actually used due to the constraints of operating in the civilian environment but we deployed with all weapons as did the enemy), we arranged and
A muddle of NATO Lieutenants: a Lord Strathcona’s, a US 4/3 Armoured Cavalry and a Royal Lancer.
conducted Key leader engagements with local Mayors and town councils, conducted numerous cordon operations and VCPs, set up a contact point that local civilians could report the pres- ence of the ‘Enemy’ and a myriad of other tasks – apart from being fire-bombed, it was the Armoured Cavalry equivalent of Exercise Broadsword. It was both tactically different and intel- lectually challenging for all, but particularly for the Officers and NCOs. One interesting aspect is that their major training areas have a professional and permanent Enemy company – it is a two year posting and contains troops from the combat and combat support trades who adapt their posture according to the unit’s training – they were particularly impressive to fight against and much more dynamic than we are used to on Salisbury Plain, Wessex Storm aside.
You will be pleased to know that I upheld the highest stand- ards of dress – Army Dress Regulation No.22214 - Edmonton Dress - was a firm favourite and drew admiring glances. Like- wise, I conducted many instances of Defence Engagement, both in Camp and in Edmonton itself, by day and by night. These ranged from hosting the British Liaison to the Canadian Army, a Rifles Lieutenant Colonel, to booking a room at the Cavalry and Guards Club for my Canadian Divisional Commander after dis- cussing good and bad London hotels with him at a Mess Dinner. I also managed to adventure outside Edmonton; I spent several days in Banff and then took Christmas in Vancouver. I also at- tempted Ice Hockey – having never skated before, I am not an elegant practitioner of the game and most of the time struggle to stop; despite this I managed to play in the Officers vs Sergeants and get an assist!
In history, attitude and ethos, we share a very close bond with the LdSH (RC). Both Regiments deeply value their history and their sense of being the next generation proudly representing their forebears. They welcomed me as one of their own despite my long (ish) hair, questionable adherence to dress regulations and dislike of that Canadian institution, Tim Hortons. I was not simply welcomed into their working environment; every week- end was filled with offers of entertainment, hospitality and activ- ities. I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality and was both deeply humbled and deeply proud of being accepted into the Strathcona brotherhood. Whilst Canadian exchanges are not exclusive to the Royal Lancers, our particular link is unique and should be supported at every level. In short, it was a fascinat- ing and rare opportunity to work in depth with one of the UK’s foremost allies and what is certainly the Regiment’s strongest overseas ally.
Perseverance. DJC

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