Exercise Champion Dragoon 2016

Champion Dragoon 2016 was the BCD’s most recent annual winter focused weekend exercise that combines both area and zone recce tasks with confirmation of individual soldier skills.  Champion Dragoon 2016 took place in the beautiful tree covered mountains of Ross Moore Lake just outside Kamloops, BC. It featured an operating environment of tight winding roads, thick forest, varying elevation, and intermittent contact with the local civilian populace.  With that in mind, vehicle crews were faced with unique challenges having to complete area and zone reconnaissance. Depending on the degree of search, conducting recces in enclosed terrain as small as a two square kilometre could take well over 24 hours.  The sheer amount of manpower and time needed for that type of operation creates a challenging environment before you add in enemy forces.

So what does this mean for a recce exercise in Ross Moore Lake, where as mentioned before, your approaches to areas of interest are linear and your ability to quickly traverse terrain is undermined by the never ending variety of laterals, tree-lines, and gaps?  I personally believe that it’s a fundamental lesson of reality, and a perfect example of where the all too common phrase “situation dictates” can be most adeptly applied.  Not everywhere the Canadian Forces operates is going to be as open and easy to traverse as Wainwright or Gagetown. Being forced to really assess how much speed you’re going to sacrifice for security is a lesson that can only be taught through experience.  When you have tight deadlines and a time constraints, it becomes to difficult to do it all. With a specific number of areas of interest that have to be observed before the end of the day, dismounting crew-members so they can scout out gaps may be limited by the scenario on the ground.  Furthermore, in this years case, inclement weather conditions also forced vehicle crews to re-evaluate routes that offered the best option for mobility.  Familiarization with the G-Wagon’s unique capabilities was instrumental on the snow covered blacktracks and backroads of Ross Moore lake, and alternative approaches to balancing security with speed were also quickly made a necessity.

But vehicles are only half the battle.  While in Armoured Recce we may brag about how our kit carries us instead of us carrying it, sometimes that kit will breakdown and some places we won’t be able to bring it with us.  The final assault on the enemy encampment on the edge of Ross Moore Lake itself reminded us that at our most core function, we are soldiers.  After a brief shake out and some rehearsal we conducted a dismounted section attack.  Emerging from the treeline and pinning the enemy against the shore of the lake, our section plus (intimidatingly equipped with two C6 General Purpose Machine Guns rather than C9 Light Machine Guns) advanced down the embankment while G-Wagon’s set up a fire base and supported from an adjacent shoreline.  Clearing through the camp, we pushed back and defeated the opposing force, set up security, obtained critical intelligence, and successfully managed to shut down enemy operations in the area.  When all was said and done, it illustrated limitations in combat situations (both training and real-world).

As Recce Crewman, it’s not often we get these opportunities to practice dismounted soldier skills, and it’s easy for us to forget that as members of a combat arms trade we have a responsibility to maintain a basic level of competency with them.  Just because we drive doesn’t mean we don’t need to be fit, and just because our weapons system is mounted on the roof doesn’t mean we can forget the principles of a section attack.  All in all, we need to strive to maintain a functional balance between our trade tasks and core responsibilities as soldiers.  Exercises like Champion Dragoon are a perfect way for us to identify and correct our misconceptions or misunderstandings in either of those two camps.  I personally found immense value in my participation both as a driver having to negotiate steep snow covered embankments, and C6 gunner acting in the section attack.  I look forward to future exercises that allow us to broaden our scope of prescribed operational tasks, and I hope that all members of our trade get similar opportunities through taskings or weekend exercises to do the same.

Submitted by Tpr. D. Younger

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