Army Reservists Train in the St. Thomas and Wallacetown Areas

Article / April 23, 2014 / Project number: 31cbg-0423

Exercise ROYAL HUNTER took place over the April 11-13 weekend in the areas of St. Thomas and Wallacetown, Ontario. Soldiers from 4th Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, 31 Combat Engineer Regiment, The Essex and Kent Scottish, and 31 Signal Regiment took part in amphibious and airmobile operations with tactical airlift provided by 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron.

The units came together on Friday April 11th to form a Company Group at the St. Thomas Armoury. During the evening of April 11th, a 13 man reconnaissance team was inserted by helicopter into the area of John E. Pearce Provincial Park, located near Wallacetown, Ontario. The reconnaissance element located, marked, and secured locations from which the main body could mount a company level raid, and a boat landing site. Prior to the main body’s arrival, the reconnaissance element secured the beach for the main body’s landing. Concurrent to all their other tasks, the reconnaissance element maintained “eyes on” the objective serving to better define it for the company group’s attack.

While the reconnaissance element was conducting their tasks, the remaining soldiers completed battle procedure at the St. Thomas Armoury and made final preparations for the attack. On Saturday afternoon, after an aerial reconnaissance, the company group moved in military vehicles to a boat launch point with tactical overwatch provided by Griffon helicopters from 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron. Once there, they embarked on Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), often referred to as assault boats, and conducted a 5 kilometre trip along the Lake Erie shoreline to the boat landing point. The water temperature for Lake Erie at the time was 1 degree Celsius and there was still some ice in the Lake. After scaling a steep ravine on the shores of Lake Erie, the company group moved to a rendezvous point just short of their objective, and at 10:00 PM began their attack on an enemy communications site. As the attack was underway, a severe lighting storm with hail set in, which increased the level of challenge for the soldiers and increased the difficulty of the assault. Once the attack was complete, the company group divided into its separate platoons for assigned tasks. Two of the platoons established hasty ambushes on likely approaches for the enemy quick reaction force, while the third platoon moved off the objective and secured a helicopter landing zone to facilitate the removal of prisoners and wounded. After this was completed, the company group came back together and completed a march to a boat launch point. At 7:00 AM on Sunday April 13th, the Company Group re-boarded the RHIBs and made an 8 km return journey on Lake Erie before loading up in trucks and returning to the St. Thomas Armoury.

This exercise would not have been possible without the generous support of the land owners in the area and the Ministry of Natural Resources who allowed Exercise ROYAL HUNTER to take place on their land. Training in the local area is very advantageous for members of the Army Reserve as it cuts down on time otherwise spent commuting to Canadian Armed Forces training areas as well as exposes soldiers to terrain they are unfamiliar with. Additionally, training in local areas significantly increases public exposure to soldiers conducting training and increases the public’s understanding of the Canadian Armed Forces.  

Exercise ROYAL HUNTER was a challenging collective training opportunity for the over 120 members of participating units. The exercise had a high operational tempo and the challenges of the exercise were compounded by the adverse weather conditions. The exercise allowed soldiers to conduct a wide array of tasks on unfamiliar terrain with support from all arms.

Author: Second Lieutenant Richard McWatt, 3 Platoon Commander

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