Written by Warrant Officer Brent Mcnair, CSM “A” Company
The Friday night of an exercise seldom changes; brisk movements and methodical packing of equipment is all part of the symphony of activities while deploying on a weekend exercise. With the right amount of “motivation” and “hustle” the coordinated activities are best described as controlled chaos. This Friday night was no different as the RMR marshalled vehicles and waited for buses to begin the move to CFB Valcartier.
This weekend marked the second of four “GPE” exercises for the 2015/2016 training year. As Company Sergeant Major of C Company I packed my things and checked my lists. Charlie Company is comprised of the RMR, the CGG and the Black Watch. On this particular weekend, C Company was 124 on strength. Of the 124 on strength, 58 were soldiers, NCOs and Officer’s of the RMR. Slightly less than 50% of the Company was RMR, the RMR’s attendance was again something to be proud about.
C Company was in the defensive, again. This year’s focus on the defensive is a welcomed challenge and it’s about time we got back to basics! This time we would be occupying pre-dug positions that the engineers had so graciously spent Friday digging for us. Occupying pre-dug positions would allow the soldiers of C Company to focus on building a complex obstacle plan, set up field phones, and dig trenches to stage 4 & 5 before the sun went down Saturday evening.
Although my tenure as Company Sergeant Major of the operational company has only just begun, I have picked a few things up along the way. The most notable; it takes a really long time to do anything. This could not be more evident when trying to occupy a defensive position. A small navigational error or a platoon running into difficult terrain can easily result in the company’s timings being pushed to right: the Sergeant Major’s nightmare. When training at the section or platoon level, missed timings have obvious negative consequences, however at the Company level; everything is tenfold. Transport, equipment, rations and fuel is all organized at the company level and meticulously planned so the scarce resources can support the 124 strong Company. When timings start to slip, it’s difficult to recover.
Lucky for Charlie Company, the troops had occupied the position with only a small delay. Soon after platoons began their tasks, the work was methodical conducted whilst keeping a keen eye for a well-trained and elusive enemy.
As the sun went down, the field phones were tested and the obstacle belts completed. Not long after the mandatory dusk stand to Charlie Company’s defences were tested. The machine guns wailed and the platoon’s commander’s shouted orders, it wasn’t long before the Company Command trenches’ field phones began to buzz. Contact reports and situations reports flowed as the Company Commander coordinated the defence from his battle position.
As night fell, the fighting subsided; it seemed just too cold for fighting. Charlie Company went down to 25 percent as the General Purpose machine guns kept watch for the night.
First light again saw an attack on the defensive position however this time was different, the enemy concentrated it force on the front left battle positions and soon broke through despite a valiant fight from the undermanned Black Watch Platoon. The Black Watch Platoon was quickly order to withdrawal while the company reserve positioned to take back the recently lost trenches. It was not long before the company reserve took back the front left battle position, a combination of shock action and coordinated fire beat back the enemy.
Despite winning back the ground C Company did not get a chance to celebrate the victory as word soon came down that the company would be withdrawing. Methodically and as rehearsed the platoons pulled off the battle position and made their way along the track plan to the Company check point. The count was good; all soldiers from Charlie Company were accounted for.
As “END EX” rang out through the frost covered woods the platoons second in command got to work. Equipment and ammunition was returned and the platoons began to get ready to move. A short 3km forced march back to the buses and this one was in the books. The exercise ends as quickly as it began. The exercise has provided an excellent opportunity to re-learn and hone our skills in the defensive. Although it may take a really long time to accomplish anything, these experiences will only help things go smoother on GPE 3.