C Squadron Winter Warfare
by MCpl MacDonald, 2 Troop Sgt
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On February13th, between 0330 and 0400, the phones started ringing. It wasn’t prank calls but a squadron bug out in preparation for winter warfare. Under the guise of an IRU call out to assist local Emergency Services to locate a downed aircraft in the training area and its lost pilot; Mr. Osmond, C Squadron recalled on the coldest day of the year so far to deploy to the field in response. More of a demonstration to our younger soldiers about deployability and flexibility in planning and execution, we made our way into the training area for the week.
With our Squadron Patrol Base set and camp brief from the Ops WO, WO Corbett complete, we were dispatched to begin troop level training. As many of our young Troopers and Corporals were preparing to go on PLQ, this training event served as a fine opportunity to let them do some cross country navigation and lead small party tasks. 2 Troop was split into two tent groups which saw 32 navigate down to Swan Lake for an ice fishing demonstration put on by 1 Troop’s leadership. Sgt Langdon and MCpl Chaytor displayed several winter angling techniques, both old fashioned and using modern gear, in an attempt to get a few beer out of our OC, who had bet any troop that could catch a fish out of Swan Lake a case of beer. Unfortunately the fish were having none of it and the OC’s pocket book was safe. Even though the winds were making it feel like -35 on the wide open lake, it was a great opening day.
Although we awoke on the second day to a still bitter cold morning, temperatures increased steadily with the sun, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person losing layers throughout the day. While 2 Troop had to set up a jungle lanes range, the remainder of the Squadron participated in a navigation exercise organized by MCpl Robinson which not only tested our ability to navigate but also our Regimental history and AFV recognition skills. Again our young PLQ candidates were put in the hot seat, given a map and compass and told to “Take me here!” At last count, we left no one in the woods, and our young leaders impressed us all with their solid navigation skills. Along the way and a little closer to camp, the troops even had some high hopes as they set out some rabbit snares, and spent the early evening experimenting with some survival techniques to include fire starting methods and improvised shelters.
Day three saw several of the Squadron members emerge from their improvised shelters and the Squadron deploy to Close Quarters Battle Lane # 4, where 2 Troop had set up our jungle lane range. The range consisted of a stationary C9 light machine gun shoot, pairs fire and movement with C7, followed by a stationary pairs shotgun shoot, all against bobbing static infantry electronic targets. Another opportunity for the young up and comers to show off, we challenged them to control the fire and movement of the team and effectively communicate, while they blasted those little plastic men who never stood a chance. After the range, 1 Troop gave an excellent demonstration on skinning rabbits and preparing them over the fire, while I demonstrated the nutritional value of the raw kidneys, which I immediately regretted. 1 Troop even had a great canteen set up for us, with un-frozen Gatorade and some Deer Meat samplers provided by MCpl Chaytor. To clarify, no deer were injured or taken during the conduct of this exercise. We were lucky to catch a few rabbits.
The last day started as the rest, for about 15 minutes only. All tent group commanders were called up to the CP, where WO Corbett had another surprise. After a quick Frag O, detailing where we were to find our downed pilot from day one, we were given “Race Instructions”. Here is what the race entailed. From our established camp sites, we were to tear down, pack up, ensure our fire pits were buried and sites cleaned of all garbage. When we were at the MSVS time would stop. At that time the Ops WO took us on an inspection of the sites with each piece of garbage found counting against overall times as a penalty. This was extremely detailed as all tent group commanders were inspecting their competition. After the garbage was counted up, the tent groups were given a couple of minutes to get our kit arranged and ready for the real race! With ruck sacks, toboggans and most chose to use snowshoes, even though they proved to be more hindrance than help, the Squadron was off in a cross country race through the snow to a site approximately 2 kms away. 2 Troop without the snowshoes was off to a commanding lead right off the start, but time would tell if the snowshoes would be necessary to navigate the deeper snow on Swan Lake. After pulling away from the Squadron both tent groups from 2 Troop were making good time on the lake, luckily a recent snowmobile had packed a trail. As we got in and started setting up our tents, teamwork continued to be crucial. We had our tent up first with the stove on and a hot drink and ration for the poor downed pilot, who was also apparently picky when it came to his lifesaving shelter. As accusations of log abatis being put on the trail behind us were thrown around, the Squadron pulled pole and loaded its kit on the MSVSs and prepared to redeploy. The points and penalties were tallied, and times added up by the race organizer and judge WO Corbett as we cleaned kit and hung tents to dry. The overall race results were announced over pizza and a beer per person. MCpl Chaytor’s tent group was crowned victorious with Sgt Langdon’s tent group in a very close second place. 2 Troop lost points questionably over not having our snowshoes and the wild, unfounded accusations of us setting up log abatis in our wake apparently negating our massive time lead. I guess Mr. Osmond wanted snowshoes more than a hot meal, drink and tent to warm up in.
Overall the week was a resounding success thanks to the efforts of WO Corbett, the Troop leadership for their demonstrations and mentorship and our young soldiers taking charge and showing what they can do when given the chance. This race portion of this exercise was truly outstanding, building team cohesion, pushing many of us to the limit all in the interests of racing to win. That said, C Squadron equally demonstrated its ability to thrive in these austere winter conditions and remain ready and focused if required to race to save a life.