Exercise WALKING DRAGOON 2018
Corporal T. Kim, 60 Troop
As the autumn wind blows upon the trees, gold and red leaves leap off the branches and dance their way down to the ground. Summer has ended and the arrival of autumn is announced by the crunch of those leaves underfoot. For The Royal Canadian Dragoons in Petawawa, it signals the beginning of something more than a new season, for it is this time of the year that we prepare for Exercise WALKING DRAGOON. This important regimental exercise marks the beginning of a series of Regimental exercises and is the first step in the busy Fall schedule.
Like any military exercise, Exercise WALKING DRAGOON is vital to maintaining the strength and proficiency of The Regiment. Of course, any time to further perfect our craft in the field is always welcome. For those in 60 Tp, Exercise WALKING DRAGOON was very different from previous iterations we had been a part of, as this year’s exercise was experienced within the privilege of participating as a member of D Squadron’s 60 Troop, The Regiment’s close reconnaissance specialists.
The most obvious difference occurred right away during the first few days of the exercise. We traded the armour and mobility of our vehicles for heavy rucksacks. Dropped off into the training area by a Medium Support Vehicle System, 60 Troop headed off on foot with our fighting order and everything we needed on our backs in order to establish a patrol base. A patrol base can best be described as a temporary camp of sorts made of individual “lean-to” shelters in the shape of an arrowhead, or a triangle. The whole process of setting-up and tearing-down, is covered by security measures and tactics such as machine guns placed at cardinal points of the patrol base, a very strict track plan within the camp including ingress and egress routes and a listening post to act as a screen at night. Once settled within the patrol base, 60 Troop practiced navigating the surrounding area using only the traditional map and compass, revisiting basics while learning how to read both the map and the terrain. The practice allowed troops to get more experience and was great for building confidence, especially for the newer members of the troop.
After the dismounted portion there was a return to both armoured vehicles and mounted tactics as 60 Troop boarded the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles (TAPV) and set out once again. Aside from the drivers, this was the first exercise on a TAPV for most of us in 60 Troop, although many of us were qualified on the gunnery system. The majority had spent their career using the Light Armoured Vehicle family of vehicles and due to our inexperience with the TAPV, we were all very interested in how it would perform; there is always fun in new equipment after all. After linking up with the rest of D Squadron in an established squadron leaguer, 60 Troop set off with a certain degree of autonomy to conduct troop level training, something that is quite rare, but nonetheless much needed and welcomed by the troops. Taking full advantage of the time we had, 60 Troop enjoyed lessons and professional development on various topics, including but not limited to: mounted tactics and drills such as clearing laterals and gaps; convoy escorts; reacting to IEDs; and even Urban Observation Posts were explored. If it couldn’t be practiced because of time constraints, it was thoroughly covered in a lesson or explained in great detail.
Everyone, from driver to crew commander, learned tasks and responsibilities above their immediate position: drivers learned about taking traces (something that gunners and crew-commander usually do), gunners learned to issue warning orders and became familiar with the crew commander responsibilities and considerations, while junior crew commanders learned the job of the patrol commander. Everyone learned about Battle Procedure and the thinking that went into orders for the Troop Leader and Troop Warrant. People started asking more questions and participated more often, especially amongst the newer troopers. Things were making more and more sense, and everyone was more engaged. This proved to be contagious as it promoted creativity and innovation. For example, MCpl Guzman made an early warning device out of glowsticks and fishing wire. The glowsticks, lightly buried were tied to fishing line and set about in a way so as to create a perimeter of trip wires. When triggered, it silently raised the glowstick which alerted the sentries without alerting those who trigged the device. It offered some the advantages of a trip-flare, but was subtler and didn’t betray our presence as easily.
The run of good fortune would last until the end of the exercise when Call/Sign 60G was treated to a very up-close gun show as 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2 RCHA) had an exercise of their own in a clearing right next to 60G’s Observation Post. Remaining undetected by members of the 2 RCHA who were only a dozen feet away, they witnessed the ammunition for the howitzers being flown in by a CH-147F Chinook and watched the pounding of guns all day and night until they packed up and closed down the OP. Another bonus was to work with D Squadron’s Raven Troop. Seeing them work with their Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and having them explain their methods and capabilities was nothing short of excellent.
As the exercise came to an end, in the minds of many in 60 Troop, this Exercise WALKING DRAGOON will be the standard with which they will compare all future iterations. Not only because it was unique for many compared to previous years’ or because it was the most educative or fun, but rather because of the bonds that were built and further solidified during this exercise. There are few experiences as excellent or as impressive as seeing the teamwork and comradery of an extended family whose lives depend on each other. We will always move forward, and we will do it together.
Bold and Swift.