Exercise prepares soldiers for upcoming Latvia deployment

A military vehicle with a soldier looking out the top hatch emerges from the bushes.
More than 400 members of the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery deployed to Wasaga Beach, Stayner, and Meaford, Ont., for Exercise AVENGING GUNNER, an annual reconnaissance and artillery exercise. Photo: Corporal Nicholson, 2 Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery

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By Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post

Exercise AVENGING GUNNER, which ran from October 10 to 20, prepared a contingent of 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2 RCHA) soldiers for an upcoming deployment to Latvia.

About 125 members of 2 RCHA will participate in a multinational battle group under Operation REASSURANCE, the Canadian Armed Forces’ support to NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe. The battle group is demonstrating NATO’s resolve for security in Europe.

In preparation, soldiers have been training in Meaford, Borden, Wasaga Beach, and Stayner, Ont., in areas with built-up civilian populations, to better mimic the environment they will most likely encounter while overseas.

“I wanted to get our regiment outside of Petawawa, which is our comfort zone and an area we know really well,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Geoff Hampton, 2 RCHA Commanding Officer. “I wanted them to operate among a civilian population which they hadn’t come in contact with before. That’s why we took the regiment on the road.”

A lot of preparation and public announcements were required to ensure that nobody would panic at the sight of fully decked out soldiers, light armoured vehicles (LAVs) and M777 Howitzers. Though some were still surprised to see a soldiers in their backyards and on suburban streets, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

“Our soldiers are very well-trained and prepared for operations,” said LCol Hampton. “So they conducted themselves very well among the communities and we’ve gotten nothing but positive return from the mayors.”

He does admit there were a few challenges navigating LAVs and trucks on tight town streets, but it was good practice for similar roads in other parts of the world.

“It reflects, again, about why we have to train so hard, so long and so often in so many different scenarios,” said LCol Hampton.

The soldiers finished up in Petawawa with earth shattering, rolling thunder live-fire exercises.

“The troops’ morale is very high,” said Regimental Sergeant Major Chief Warrant Officer Rodney Gallant. “They are motivated, and for the past five years we’ve been training for high-readiness with no deployments. Now with the deployments coming to 2 Brigade and 2 RCHA, they are motivated.”

2 RCHA is a close support artillery regiment attached to 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (2 CMBG). They provide indirect fire support to 2 CMBG on operations and also detect enemies using radar. Basically, if the Army needs a lot of firepower, they are called in to help.

The type of training 2 RCHA undertook with Ex AVENGING GUNNER is necessary to ensure the safety of the Canadian troops and their allies.

“Nothing overseas do we want to see for the first time,” said Captain Shayne Salovaara. “We want to see vehicles get struck, beak down, comms fail, get attacked here so when [these things] happen overseas, we can easily solve the problem.”

Soldiers have had as many different types of training scenarios as possible to ensure they are ready for any eventuality in future missions.

“At the end of the day, we want to do our jobs to the best of our abilities,” said Master Bombardier Ryland Davis during a brief moment of silence between the M777 live firing.

“During last year’s Road to High Readiness, the focus of training was on what we needed to do to be able to operate as a warfighting brigade with excellent battle groups,” explained the Commander of 2 CMBG, Colonel Michael Wright. “With the brigade now in the high readiness phase, we need to maintain our skills as a formation and ensure that all of our units remain agile and responsive to constantly evolving current missions, as well as being able to immediately respond to new missions.”

“2 RCHA’s Exercise AVENGING GUNNER is the type of continuation training that will ensure that we remain poised to force generate scalable, agile and responsive land forces,” Said Col Wright. “After seeing 2 RCHA in action during the exercise, I am confident in the leadership and proud of the hard work, dedication, and warrior spirit that I see in our gunners.”

Image gallery

  • Soldiers are gathered around a large gun which is set up on a muddy road.
  • A large group of soldiers set up a camouflage tent and a large gun.
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