136 Canadian Rangers from Patrols in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba recently participated in a Brigade-level exercise, called Exercise Phoenix Ram, at the CFB Wainwright training area in Alberta. The exercise was the largest of its kind in Canada since 1992 and was designed to train Canadian forces for upcoming deployments to Afghanistan.
The training took place over a two-month period beginning in early September and ending in late October. 5000 soldiers, mainly from 1 and 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Groups, as well as elements of the Canadian Air Force and support groups from across Canada, participated in training for what is called the Three-Block-War.
What has changed in today?s areas of conflict, in terms of military tactics, is a greater departure from the older, more conventional types of operations to one that has a much broader focus. The overall direction in this type of operation is to deliver peace support and humanitarian aid, yet still be prepared to combat insurgents of collapsed regimes that threaten re-stabilization efforts. The Three Block War therefore requires soldiers to not only be trained in combat tactics in both a field and urban environment, but also be able to provide for civilians at the same time.
To train for such a deployment, one of the key ingredients of this type of operation requires individual soldiers and units as a whole to be very knowledgeable and very adaptable. The prime objective in Afghanistan is to help stabilize troubled areas and assist developing government institutions to rebuild the infrastructure needed to provide for the lives of the civilian population, and ultimately help the country to stand on its own.
The job of the Canadian Rangers involved in this exercise was to help provide the realism required to get as close to what deployment would be like in the theater of operations. The exercise was elaborately scripted and required Canadian Rangers to play the part of civilians occupying three towns and thirteen farms. Troops entering these areas were confronted with a broad array of scenarios that ranged from ethnic quarrels and language barriers to civilian atrocities and seemingly everything in between.
As seen by day, Leopard tanks, mobile missile defense systems, armored support vehicles, trucks and personnel carriers churned up the training area. Billowing clouds of brown dust followed in their wake and helicopters flew overhead. Insurgent units staged operations in and around the towns and farms and each of the 136 Canadian Rangers involved had a specific role to play, all of which was designed to challenge the capabilities of the many troops involved. At times it was mayhem, when troops entered a village ravaged by fleeing enemy forces, while at other times everything was dead calm and every corner was suspect. In the distance F-18 aircraft dropped their ordnance on suspected enemy positions, the bright orange flashes could be seen before the muffled explosions reached your ears. It all felt very real and the importance of the task this training was designed for was only accentuated by the Canadian Ranger units portraying the civilians caught up in such a conflict.
That the Canadian Rangers managed to carry out their role with such authenticity is in part due to their involvement with CMIC (Civilian, Military, Cooperation) units who have been deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan in the past. The commendation given to the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group by Brigadier-General T.J. Grand said in part, ?The Rangers provided assistance and tutored many of the other civilian role players who had limited experience in austere living. During the exercise, they spent many nights in the field in makeshift, often austere accommodation. They remained in character 24 hours a day adding the realism required to make the training and videos believable for the Primary Training Audience. The realistic training will definitely help all of the participants prepare for operations in Afghanistan. Throughout Brigade Training Event 2005, 4 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group demonstrated a combination of professional skills, innovation, dedication and cooperation that brought great credit to their unit and Land Force Western Area.?
For their efforts, Rangers should be justly proud of their contribution to this very important and highly successful training exercise.