A Sqn in the weeds – SALTY!
By Lt Leonard
8 January 2007
With B Squadron finally out the door, the Regiment embarked this past September to stand up A Squadron as a tank squadron. In order to accomplish this, the Squadron had to train up a number of its soldiers in the fine art of Leopard gunnery and then set sail for six weeks in sunny Wainwright for Exercise STEELE REIGN and the Canadian Manouvre Training Centre (CMTC) 0603 Serial, otherwise known as Exercise MAPLE GUARDIAN. A long six weeks to be sure, and cold, but a raucous, heartening and satisfying experience as well.
The deployment started with the Squadron Gun Camp, where new gunners qualified and the Troops worked up to Level 3 live fire by night in very short order. That is not to say, however, that the experience was particularly smooth or lacking in its share of disaster. Just ask Lieutenant “Where’s the road?” Leonard who, when visibility was less than ideal, managed to direct his driver at a 45 degree angle off the road, in the process running over not one, but two large piles of targetry that had been designated for later training. Let us also not forget Lieutenant “danger radius be damned” Reiten, and his gunner, Cpl “how do I switch the coax on?” Lamothe, as they engaged and destroyed targets at 25 metres with Sabot. New to the Regiment, Second Lieutenant “Tp formation? What’s a Troop formation?” Beitz, had a little trouble reading the ground and took off guiding his tank straight over a mover berm.
The Squadron training wrapped up towards the end of October and after one day of rest back in Edmonton, the troops were lucky enough to show up for work at 0245 for a 0530 departure to Wainwright. Upon arrival at Wainwright, A Squadron settled into its new digs at “Kandahar Airfield” as a sub-unit of the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment (2 RCR) Battle Group. First up for the Squadron was the live fire portion of CMTC 0603, where the troops got a chance to shake out with a rifle company. Indeed, things were moving smoothly with 1st Troop paired with I Company 2 RCR and 2nd Tp with C Company 3 PPCLI. It wasn’t until 3rd Troop started in with H Company that things took a turn, or should I say, a dip as Master Corporal “Oh, you mean anti-tank ditch” Connauton buried the barrel of his tank trying to cross an obstacle designed to inflict that very damage.
Maintenance, always an issue for our Squadron, became an even greater issue as the dry training portion of CMTC kicked off. The troops were convinced that there would be little work to do once they had carved all the cement out of their barrels, but they were wrong. Indeed, the Squadron was a formidable force – just ask Warrant Officer Pudar who spent the entire exercise in a back-decked tank. In fact, during the final attack, every tank in the firebase was back-decked and, because all those hydraulics systems were down, gunners had to manually traverse and engage targets – now that’s good training! Or the BC, Captain “LUVW? - this is a tank!” Angell who was forced to spend the waning days of CMTC in a fearsome Mercedes LUVW (it didn’t even have a turret!). Still, the troops worked extremely hard, and many late nights, to get as many tanks up and running as possible on very short notice, and it is only as a result of their work, and that of our ever faithful, if somewhat detached, maintenance crew under Sgt Crawford that we were able to work at all.
The Squadron redeployed back to Edmonton on 24 November after a few days of Deployment Level of Operation Capability (DLOC) training in Wainwright and, after just one more day of work to start handing over tanks to C Squadron, settled in to a much deserved long weekend. In six weeks the Squadron came a long way – new teams came together, new crews were trained and, despite a few setbacks, A Squadron came out of the weeds a salty, weathered and tight fighting tank Squadron.