2 RCHA Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Geoff Hampton (right) and Regimental Sergeant Major Chief Warrant Officer Rodney Gallant (left) present Clearview Township Mayor Christopher Vanderkruyz (centre) with a commemorative plaque marking a Ceremonial Flag Raising event on 12 Oct. (Photo by Bdr Aaron Nicholson, Regimental Photographer)
Approximately 400 members of the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery deployed to Wasaga Beach, Stayner, and Meaford for Exercise AVENGING GUNNER, an annual reconnaissance and artillery exercise, from 10-16 October, 2017. (Photo by Bdr Aaron Nicholson, Regimental Photographer)
Local residents in Wasaga Beach were treated to a unique opportunity to get up close to soldiers and their equipment during the event. (Photo by Bdr Aaron Nicholson, Regimental Photographer)
Exercise AVENGING GUNNER
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, November 2, 2017
Exercise AVENGING GUNNER, which ran from 10 to 20 October, 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 battle group is demonstrating NATO’s resolve for security in Europe.
To prepare, these soldiers have been training in Meaford, Borden, Wasaga Beach, and Stayner, Ont. in areas with built up civilian populations.
This is 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 2 RCHA Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel (Lt.-Col.) Geoff Hampton. “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.”
It did require a lot of preparation and public announcement 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 soldiers in their backyards and on suburban streets, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“Our soldiers are very well trained and very well prepared for operations,” said Lt.-Col. 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 Lt.-Col. Hampton.
Their professionalism has earned the Regiment a warm welcome and they were even invited to raise their Regimental flag at Wasaga Beach. They also presented the town with a plaque to officially thank them for the courtesy the unit was shown throughout the exercise.
“It was a great day,” noted Lt.-Col. Hampton, pointing out it was the first time the Regiment has had sustained contact with the town.
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 very 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 very 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.
The type of training 2 RCHA undertook with Exercise AVENGING GUNNER is necessary to ensure the safety of 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 stuck, break down, comms fail ... so when they happen overseas, we can easily solve the problem.”
They 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. 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.”