The Town of Drumheller and Starland County provided the setting for an Army Reserve training exercise during the weekend of March 19-21.
The main purpose of the exercise was to build and enhance soldier skills such as patrolling and reconnaissance.
During their 36 hour long exercise, reservists set up camp at the Drumheller Municipal Airport, where their communication centre was established, covering an area from Horsethief Canyon to Wayne.
In this exercise scenario, troops were in a foreign country trying to interrupt supply lines going to insurgents in another part of the country. Drumheller was one of the transfer points, and a presence needed to be established to disrupt the supply line.
The first stage of the exercise was to do a full reconnaissance of the area, which was done on the ground and with the use of helicopters, as well as setting up good communication lines. Reservists would find out information about activity in the area by observing and talking to civilians, and then relay the information to the communication centre.
Information was gathered and consolidated to make a picture until the end of the exercise when the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Coates of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment was to be briefed and would check how consistent the information was in terms of what was observed on the ground.
“This will show how robust our information passage is. This is an important skill set for us to have for overseas places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, or any future places the government chooses to send us, and then of course if we are dealing with a domestic crisis, unarmed domestic responses,” explained Lt. Col. Coates.
The landscape of the area enabled Army Reservists from 41 Canadian Brigade Group (Alberta’s Army Reserve Formation) the type of training they need to be able to work in complex environments they may encounter during future overseas missions or domestic emergency.
“This terrain does pose challenges, especially for communications and that’s where the signalers get their practice, trying to establish communication out of radio over an area with lots of gullies. For instance, the gully going to Wayne with the eleven bridges is a difficult piece of ground to try and get radio into. From the signalers’ stand point, this is an exercise for them because they have to try and provide that umbrella of radio coverage over the area, so a nice, complex piece of terrain like this helps them practice their skills,” said Lt. Colonel Coates.
Their presence in Drumheller was very well received by residents, “It was frequently a situation where people would come up to our soldiers and started to offer up information. Residents were extremely helpful and friendly,” Lt. Col. Coates told The Mail after completion of the exercise.
This exercise took about six months to prepare, and the Army Reserve worked closely with the Town of Drumheller and Starland County to ensure a smooth operation.
“Drumheller and the County of Starland have been incredibly receptive, we are very thankful to them. It is remarkable how few problems we have had. A lot of it was due to the work of town council and administration,” explained Lt. Col. Coates.
From a temporary District Coordination Centre, set up near the World’s Largest Dinosaur, reservists were on hand to answer questions and provide information to the public.
Reservists are Canadian citizens who train part-time and provide soldiers to the regular forces. Upon joining, Reservists will take part in two months of basic training and physical activities, such as learning how to operate and communicate with a radio, and will develop further skills. Reservists only serve in overseas operations, such as Afghanistan and Bosnia, on a volunteer basis.
“Join if you want something challenging and new, something that is going to test yourself and your own skills and what you think you can’t and can achieve...For me it is a very altruistic reason, I very much appreciate having this opportunity to serve the country and I feel really deeply and strongly about that. The opportunities you get from doing this, even on a part-time basis, are huge. I have done a lot of personal development myself in terms of leadership skills, communication skills and a lot of the skills I have learned here apply readily to that job,” explained Lt. Col. Coates who works as a geologist.
The exercise finished on Sunday, when soldiers went to Horsethief Canyon to seize a drop made there by the insurgents.
“It was fantastic. The town was great, the environment was great, everyone learned something. That is a real key take away…you want to be progressing and that was certainly achieved so I think we had a great exercise on so many different fronts,” concluded Lt. Col. Coates.
Log on to www.drumhellermail.com to see a video of the helicopters from the 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron taking off on a mission on Saturday, March 20 from Drumheller Municipal Airport.