Canadian Patrol Concentration 2016
Cpl By Caroline Balogh, RHLI
The Canadian Patrol Concentration is an annual test of patrolling and soldiering skills held in Wainwright Alberta. It comprises of a long range patrol in which different tasks and objectives must be completed included partisan link-ups, obstacle and water crossings, close target recces, and casualty care, amongst others. This year the team from 31 Canadian Brigade Group (CBG) was made up of members from the Essex and Kent Scottish, Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, 4th Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment and The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.
We began training at the end of August during EX Stalwart Guardian in Petawawa. There we had the opportunity to train not only with the two other reserve teams from Ontario but with and under the mentorship of the 3 RCR Recce Platoon. The two weeks of training that we had with the Reg force was an invaluable experience and a lot was learned. After returning to our home units, we were able to train together on two other weekends in the months leading up to the patrol in order to refresh and maintain the skills we learned on Stalwart Guardian. We also trained very hard on our own time, going for long ruck marches, studying standard operating procedures (SOPs), Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) recognition, radio procedure and first aid.
In the week preceding the concentration the makeup of our team was finalized and consisted of: Cpl Mitchell (RHLI) – lead nav, Cpl Dubue (RHFC) - Bravo team C9 gunner, MCpl Nowikie (4RCR) – patrol commander, Cpl Keane (E&K Scots) – Signaler, Cpl MacPhee (RHFC) – first aider, Cpl Ross (E&K Scots) – alternate nav, Cpl Balogh (RHLI) - Delta team C9 gunner, and MCpl Currie (4RCR) – 2IC.
Our team arrived in Wainwright in the evening of the 17 November. We were issued our kit, assigned the call sign 61B and deployed to a rear camp later that night.
The next morning we began battle procedure and shot a live fire section attack range which culminated in our section being outnumbered and us withdrawing back to an area of cover. In the afternoon our patrol commander, 2IC and lead nav received orders while the rest of the team continued with battle prep. Throughout the afternoon and evening we built the map model, and prepared for orders. We received orders from 2115 until about 2200. We then conducted rehearsal of SOPs and completed battle prep. We were able to get a few hours of sleep before being transported out to the staging area where our kit was inspected for contraband such as GPS devices. We were issued our ammunition and we were instructed on boarding and exiting the CH-146 Griffon helicopter.
We inserted into our area of operations (AO) at 0820 on the 19 November. This was my first time ever flying in a helicopter so it was a very exciting experience even though I did start to feel a bit of motion sickness halfway through the flight. Since we inserted while it was daylight we were able to take a look at the terrain we would be dealing with and also get to see a lot of the wildlife that lives in Wainwright. We saw moose, a wolf, and several deer from the air during the flight.
After inserting we patrolled about six kilometres to our first objective which was a partisan link up and water crossing. This went very well as we were able to gather information about the enemy from the partisan and were able to cross the river without any troubles. We continued on our way but soon ran into visual contact with the enemy who drove around in pickup trucks painted with brown and green camouflage patterns. We had to slightly divert our route when we were spotted by one of these trucks, however we were able move away without incident. We continued patrolling towards our next objective about 18 km away.
The terrain was very tough; it was extremely hilly and when it wasn’t hilly it was swampy. Eventually there were even swamps on the hills! After going about 16 km through this difficult terrain we had to stop as members of our patrol were getting injured. At this point we had to MEDEVAC three members for cold and knee injuries. This took about two and a half hours which cut into our window of time in which we had to observe the main objective.
Once our casualties were taken care of and safely evacuated, kit redistributed and socks changed we continued on to the main objective. By the time we set up the vantage point on the OBJ and Alfa team began their clover leaf we only had about 25 minutes until the end of our window. However even this small amount of time was cut short when an enemy clearance patrol started making their way toward our position, and we had to withdraw back to our ORV. At this point we disseminated the little information that we had gathered and continued on our way.
Unfortunately at this point our patrol took another casualty. After he was taken care of the remaining four of us continued on the patrol. However, by now I think everyone was very confused and geographically disoriented and so we ended up going in the complete opposite direction of where we were supposed to go. After walking for a few hours and being unsuccessful in trying to find the next objective and our patrol commander in need of a medevac due to a leg injury we radioed 0 for assistance.
As it turned out we were almost 10km away from where we were supposed to be. At this point we lost two team members including our patrol commander leaving only myself and MCpl Currie to finish the patrol.
The two of us stepped off from this position at about 0750 on the 20 November toward the next objective which was another partisan link up. We walked south to the edge of the base and then traveled east along the fence and fireguard until we reached the intersection near the link-up point. This portion of the patrol almost felt easy after the terrain we had travelled over the day before. It was relatively flat and on the other side of the fence were farmer’s fields with herds of cows which provided some amusement and company. At one point a farmer even pulled up in his truck and let his dogs out for a run which provided us with a much needed boost in morale.
We finally reached the link-up point, performed the far signal for the partisan, were met with a link man and were brought up to a friendly forces camp. There we met with a partisan who provided us with information on enemy location and activity and also gave us soup, coffee and a water resup. After departing the friendly camp we continued east deeper into enemy territory. After a few hours we saw 61C, the team made up of members from the Maritime provinces, get ambushed by enemy riding pickups and ATVs. We continued on our way even though we knew we were walking closer and closer to enemy forces.
It was about 18 km from second partisan link up to the link up with the OMLT team for extraction. This walk probably the hardest thing I have ever done in the army. Both of us were so cold hungry and tired by this point that we barely spoke and we were constantly slipping on the icy ground. I think we just shut our brains off and just focused on moving forward with the sole goal of making it to the extraction point.
We finally made it to the main road and only had to travel a few hundred metres south before we linked up with the OMLT team. We thought the patrol was over, but it was not! The OMLT team linked us up with other friendly forces but before we could follow them to the extraction point one of them stepped on a mine and so we had to deal with the casualty. The friendly forces provided security while MCpl Currie performed the first aid on the casualty while I called up the 9-liner and MIST. We marked the pick-up zone with an IR glow-stick and guided in the ambulance and milcot.
Finally, we were extracted and the patrol was over. Despite all the setbacks we faced during the patrol we managed to make up a lot of time and were only about an hour and a half late for the designated extraction time. After driving back up top, we turned in all our ammo; every time we took a casualty we had to take their ammo with us so we ended up with a lot of ammo between the two of us by the end!
We had about an hour and a half to prepare and then present the patrol debrief. After that we turned in our weapons and other mission essential kit such as stano and radios and were able to change and take showers. We even got some pizza thanks to the team from 32 CBG who arrived back before us!
The next morning was the awards parade, the teams from 32 CBG and 36/37 CBG who were patrolling around the same time as us were awarded a bronze standing. After that we out-cleared and traveled to the Edmonton airport. We arrived back and Hamilton around 2200 on 21 November.
Overall I had a really good time preparing for and conducting the patrol. Although our mission was unsuccessful I still learned a lot about patrolling and soldiering over the past few months and had many experiences and training opportunities I would never get to have otherwise. I also learned a lot not only about only how far I can push myself and how I can work under pressure but how important it is to have the support of team members and how important it is for everyone in a patrol to trust each other and to be thinking and active contributors to the patrol. These are experiences and lessons learned I can take back to the RHLI and employ in future unit exercises. So, in that sense the CPC was a success.
I want to thank and give recognition to everyone who helped in the preparation for the CPC including the 3 RCR Recce platoon especially Sgt Oakley, WO McGlynn and MCpl Johnson for all their help in training us on EX SG, Sgt Manser for spending so much time with myself and Cpl Mitchell in preparation and for helping to organise the team so we could actually participate in the patrol, and our chain of command at the RHLI.
Finally I want to say ‘Good job’ to all the members of the 31CBG team itself for all their hard work and efforts in the work up and conduct of the patrol! Hopefully we can train together again sometime in the future.
The terrain encountered by the soldiers during the patrol competition was rugged, varied and cold!
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