KAPYONG MACE, it's going to move you
By: Tpr Tom Lauterbacher
After almost two years of waiting, this September I was finally in a position to put all the skills and training which I had received into action. Ex KAPYONG-MACE 15 was the first time that many of our new tank crews had worked together, both as individual crews and as a Sqn. It would prove to be a learning experience for some, a test of knowledge for others and an overall great showing for A Squadron.
As a new driver on my first official exercise as a tanker, one could guess that nerves were high. The thought of not screwing up (please don't throw track), remembering training and jamming as much new information and skills as I could into an already over-loaded mind was enough to worry about, not to mention trying to impress the new crew I was working with. As day one of training commenced, getting used to a new tank didn't seem as daunting a task as I first imagined. Thinking to myself "Drives great, sounds great. Hey look, soft sand! I should make an underpowered turn in that." Looking back now I see why the combat lock was installed. It was to protect new drivers from a crew commander, after you throw track within the first two hours of your exercise. After learning experience number one was in the books, number two became apparent when fluid started spurting out of the track tensioner. Maintenance was going to be a big part of my exercise, and thus 11B took up a defensive position in the maintenance yard.
The exercise carried on, battle runs commenced and my first experience with a 120mm firing over my head found me eating my episcopes. This was no doubt retribution for the scratches some rough driving left on the forehead of my gunner (apologies to Cpl Lukas "My Poison Ivy Burns" McKenzie). With the Troop working together, tanks jockeying, and 120mm rounds destroying target after target, I was finally starting to find my place at in my new home. The crew seemed to be working great. The tracks were staying on, the targets were getting hit, and we set our standards high for the rest of the exercise. I guess you could say we were "shooting for the moon" (inspired by Cpl Kelton "Load Position" Watson).
With both our first day and night shoots over, all seemed to be going well. Now, "Keep a grip on your kit" is a phrase that will resonate with me forever, something drilled into our heads during basic training. That includes turret bags, or so I thought. As all of us shuddered at the thought that we may have lost our crew commander's turret bag, he stormed about the leaguer beyond ticked looking in every spot where it could be. No doubt we were the inevitable target for the building storm. Oh wait, it was in the van where he left it! Yo, Whoops (You weren't getting away that easy Sgt Colin "One man, one kit" Davidson).
Crisis averted and maintenance days ensuing, it would prove too much for some. With all that morale in a bottle, Tpr Mathieu "Rubber band" Ouellet proved that the front of a tank could be used as a wonderful spot to rack out. However, time was used well overall. Tanks were getting back up and running and troops were preparing for our part of the exercise. We were now to show our infantry brethren the importance of tanks in the battlespace.
After waiting for our turn to join the rest of the Battle Group, our time had come to show off for the enhanced Level 3 live range. 1st Tp complete did run after run, always keeping the pressure on and pushing forward together. With these short days, training had taken a jump. No doubt all of A Sqn looked great on the field, but our Troop Leader (Lt Sean "Suit up" Coughlan) would get the opportunity to brandish the skills of his Troop. He was tasked with commanding our final run, stepping up to the plate, and none of us would let him down. The run went smooth, we did our part completing the fastest and most effective run of the exercise, once again showing the importance of tanks in the battlespace. With the final objective complete, we moved out for our after action review. I will never forget 11's return in majestic glory, raising high a Mad Max hand signal, invoking all to "witness me!"
The exercise was wrapping up, with the final days left us with dry Combat Team attacks. The entire Sqn and supporting elements on the battlefield together was an impressive thing to witness as a new Trooper. "This is our job" had been repeated to me several times, a phrase which was followed with nothing but excitement. All seemed well, and the battle in my eyes was running smoothly. Just as so much seemed to be working right, some of my fellow Troopers decided that I shouldn't be the only one popping track this exercise (thanks boys for not letting me be the only one!). Listening to the radio and hearing the ARV get called for one of our Troop's tanks immediately reinforced the importance of track maintenance. Hearing the ARV get called for two of our Troop's tanks gives the notion that the ever elusive words of "End Ex" are not as close as one hoped. Typical Troopers, always trying to one-up each other! First day, my track half off, last day, another tank has one track half off and the second tank decides that is not enough, both tracks needed to be rubber banded back on! It is a learning experience, better now in training than when it really counts. A great lesson learned is that you must always keep your head in the game, right up to the very end.
My first exercise as a new Trooper to the Regiment was one of learning, excitement, and owing many beers. Working together in crews, Troops, and the Squadron, was in my humble opinion, a great success, and sure to carry on into future exercises. After seeing all the tanks working together in the field, there is one quotation in particular that I keep in mind: "If tanks succeed, then victory follows" -Heinz Guderian.