Ex Virtual Dragoon 2017
“Recce Squadron will SCREEN within boundaries from BLAZERS to ROCKETS no later than 19 1200 Feb 17 in order to facilitate destruction of F Bde defensive positions by follow-on forces.”
So read the orders for a joint training exercise on the weekend of 17-19 February 2017 by soldiers of 39 Brigade’s two armoured reconnaissance regiments, the Okanagan’s British Columbia Dragoons (BCDs) and Vancouver’s British Columbia Regiment (BCRs). Orders continued with the OC’s intent, Maj. Wade Peters of the BCDs having designed a scenario that would see four troops deployed in a mounted zone reconnaissance, their task being to locate and define enemy positions, engaging contacts of Section (-) strength and handing others over to follow-on forces. With four troops deployed across a 50-km frontage, the scenario held that fictional WIDF forces were establishing themselves in the vicinity of CFB Wainwright, their intent being to disrupt traffic along the routes to Edmonton, including Highways 13, 14, and 41. A mid-winter zone reconnaissance on the frozen prairies of Alberta, and yet, according to the METREP, “Current forecasts indicate room temperature, with no detrimental weather impacts of 39 CBG operations.” No fleece or Arctic tents required! For Exercise VIRTUAL CREWMAN 2017, the scenario was to be played out using 3rd Canadian Division’s Virtual Battlefield Simulator (VBS) system, which was moved from Edmonton to Vernon via transport truck for use by British Columbia’s two armoured reconnaissance regiments.
“The value of a virtual training exercise like this one,” according to BCD LCol Mike McGinty, “is that state-of-the-art computer simulation equipment is being made available to BC armoured regiments, allowing our soldiers to maintain their skills as armoured crewmen during the winter months.” In the real-time, real-weather world, he added, “transportation to and from a major training centre like Wainwright would be cost prohibitive for BC regiments and, with flights involved, too prone to being disrupted by inclement weather. Use of this system allows us to carry-out a Squadron-level exercise without burning any fuel, without burning up our budget, and yet still fulfilling our mandate of producing trained reconnaissance soldiers.”
While using the VBS system, each soldier views the screen of a computer terminal displaying his view as the driver, gunner, or crew commander of an armoured vehicle. Three computer terminals linked together form a vehicle, or call sign, which are then grouped into the four troops of a combined BCD/BCR Recce Squadron. During the exercise, soldiers at the computer terminals are able to view terrain that is a virtual replica of the terrain at CFB Gagetown and encounter electronic “enemy” forces that actually shoot back. The scenario is then played out in real-time, with enemy contacts of varying levels of complexity all controlled by the directing staff for the exercise and 3 Div’s full-time VBS operators.
This year’s Ex VIRTUAL CREWMAN was the fourth occasion in recent years when 3 Div’s VBS equipment has been moved to British Columbia for use by 39 CBG reservists. Typically alternating venues between Vernon and the Lower Mainland, this year’s mid-winter VBS exercise in the Okanagan was a resounding success, offering crews a chance to practice crew commands, radio voice procedure, target indication, and a whole range of valuable skills. A good ex was had by all, and the orders were correct that the “Wainwright” weather proved unusually balmy this year, hovering at an even 21° C at all hours of the day and not a drop of rain or sleet to be found.
Written by Lt. J Wood
Click here to view Ex Virtual Dragoon 2017 Pictures