Article written by Sergeant Juan Nino, Reconnaissance Detachment Commander / RMR
Westmount, Quebec – 18 January 2016: “I’ll do it.” I said to Sergeant Brian Hill, the 34th Brigade Reconnaissance Platoon second-in-command. It was early September 2016 and the 34th Brigade had been mandated to form an 8-man team to participate in the grueling Canadian Patrolling Concentration (CPC) in November. The CPC is an international military competition based out of CFB Wainwright and orchestrated by the CMTC.
With little time to prepare, ten soldiers were immediately selected from the Platoon to prepare for and participate in the arduous task. The ten men were a diverse group; Different regiments, ethnicities, native languages and professional backgrounds. This challenge of diversity added yet another facet to our operations, one not found in the Regular forces teams whom, in some instances, had been preparing for the same event for over 6 months. As I read over the warning order, I realized that this was not a just a reconnaissance patrol but was full spectrum operations, and this by far the most complex task I had ever been assigned. I immediately began to plan in my head, but I had little idea of the challenges ahead.
My biggest challenge by far was the time limitation. Upon reading the Warning Order, I realized the gap between what we knew and what we needed to know was enormous. The Platoon Commander, Captain J. Hinkson, supported my requests to the best of his abilities, but despite our best efforts, acquiring specialized equipment ideal for training remained a most difficult undertaking. Many of the team members had less than 24 months in the CAF Primary reserve. Some, had never worked with Night Observation Devices (NODs) beyond the ten minute “familiarization” lecture during their respective DP1 Infantry course. Not only did we not have the equipment required, preparation was to last for 10 short weeks (part-time). While not enough time, the pace of training was aggressive and posed a major problem to all team members, many of whom had full-time civilian occupations and others attended post-secondary education on a full-time basis. We trained Tuesdays and Thursday nights as well as one day of the weekend. Much of the time, many team members, including myself, volunteered time outside of work to prepare. Time management was a challenging, however, our absolute determination and tremendous dedication to succeed never faltered and through long hours and original adaptive training strategies, we were able to address most of these difficulties.
The most important aspect of our success was our flexibility. Flexibility, in my opinion, one of the most important principles of war, was undoubtedly the foundation of our mindset and our innovative training style. I began by teaching the team members all 16 steps of the Battle Procedure, and the first time we trained together, they were thrown into the fray as I ran what became a single weekend Primary Leadership Qualification “crash course”. With this new understanding, the members had a far deeper understanding of the Commander’s intent which allowed a very quick comprehension when plans and situations shifted to adapt to the situation. As this skillset developed further, each member of the team could contribute in new ways and with such a diverse team, we could harness every person’s capacity to its fullest and maximize team performance.
The CPC 2016 was easily the most complex exercise I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. It was well organized and they had many resources at their disposal that allowed for a highly realistic patrolling experience. When Major Gauthier of the CMTC debriefed us immediately upon our return to base, he let us know that we had achieved 4th place during Battle procedure and dissemination of orders. To me, that is a testament of successful training methods and the utmost importance of disseminating information clearly to the lowest levels and ensuring a strong understanding of both the commander’s intent and the mission by all soldiers on the battlefield. A fundamental lesson that worked exceedingly well at Vimy Ridge and continues to fuel success today.