Army represents global Canadian expertise at Exercise VIKING 18
Major Barry Pitcher, PLF (The Princess Louise Fusiliers)
Major Blaise Lapointe, 4 ESR (4 Engineer Support Regiment)
What is like to work in a high tempo exercise with global partners at an exotic location?
From April 13 to 22, 2018, we were the 5th Canadian Division team that joined military and police officers from 50 countries to participate in Exercise VIKING 18 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Exercise VIKING is a United States and Swedish Armed Forces exercise held in Sweden every four years, with remote sites in other countries. This year, Brasilia was selected as the remote site. We contributed a Canadian perspective on planning, and in turn, gained perspective on the deployment of a Peacekeeping Operations Force under a United Nations mandate.
The exercise concept was based on state and non-state actors crossing international borders, causing effects similar to the 2014 Ukraine crisis. The mission mandate therefore included the protection of civilians. The exercise leveraged military, police and civilian personnel based on a Chapter VII United Nations multinational peacekeeping operation concept. More than 60 civilian organizations were in support, simulating what happens in real life.
Once operations were underway, we were embedded with officers from Brazil, Peru, Sweden, United States, Germany, France and Colombia, to name a few. With so many countries engaged, briefings would shift rapidly from Portuguese to Spanish, and then to English. Failure due to the language barrier was not an option, and partner nations found common ground in presentation formats within the Operational Planning Process.
There were significant challenges in partner countries’ view of civilians in the battle space. It was here that the Canadian perspective proved most useful, particularly from an operational, civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) and humanitarian angle. That might explain why many times, there were last minute calls for “the Canadians” to attend key meetings. As a result, we always had the commander’s ear. A historically proven track record with global partners has assured Canada credibility, which was quite obvious during this exercise.
The typical battle rhythm hours ran from 0500 hrs to 1800 hrs each day. While there was one day allotted for us to see the beautiful sights of Brasilia, the tempo was such that typically, it was dark when participants left their quarters before first light, and darker still when they retired for the night.
The training value, however, was second to none, and the hospitality of the Brazilian Army was outstanding. At the end of the exercise, Major Pitcher received a Commander’s award from the Brazilian Army Commander, General Eduardo Dias da Costa Villas Bôas. We also attended the International Cyber Threat Conference during our stay.
The Canadian Ambassador to Brazil, Mr. Riccardo Savone, joined VIPs on the last day to observe operations in real-time. The Canadian Embassy staff in Brasilia also took time off their personal schedules to show us the spectacular sights of the city.
At the end, we were very appreciative of this unique opportunity to represent the Mighty Maroon Machine and the Canadian Army as a whole at such an important and challenging international exercise.
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