Building bridges is building relationships at Ex TRIDENT JUNCTURE

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Article / November 27, 2015 / Project number: 15-0200

Santa Margarida, Portugal — Canadian Army combat engineers oversaw the building of bridges both real and symbolic during a recently-completed NATO exercise.

Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2015 took place from October 21 to November 6 in Spain, Italy and Portugal. It was NATO’s largest exercise in more than a decade, involving 36,000 troops from more than 30 nations, including 1,600 Canadians.

Simulating an attack on Western Europe, TRIDENT JUNCTURE was an opportunity for NATO members to test their abilities to overcome technical differences and work closely together in a combat scenario.

Members of 5 Combat Engineer Regiment (5 CER), based in Valcartier, Quebec, not only deployed a field squadron composed of  light and motorized combat engineer troops but also took command of  two specialized bridging companies, one German and another Portuguese, to form a multinational engineer regiment.

Major Dave Morency, who served as deputy commander of the multinational regiment, said one of the highlights of TRIDENT JUNCTURE was the construction of a floating bridge over the Tagus River between the Portuguese cities of Tancos and Arripiado.

The 200 metre-long structure was assembled by the German engineers using an M3 Amphibious Bridging and Ferrying System. This German-built vehicle carries two aluminum pontoons that form a floating bridge capable of supporting heavy tanks when linked. The M3 then tows the floating bridge across the body of water.

The bridge not only allowed military equipment to cross the river but also served as a link to the local civilian population, who were invited to walk on it, meet the troops and enjoy displays of uniforms and equipment during an event held October 26.

It permitted the population to ask questions and satisfy their curiosity,” said Maj Morency. “It allowed us to develop a good relationship with the local community and listen to any concerns they may have had with our presence. Overall, the activity was a success and the local population was very pleased with our activities.

Captain Mathieu Dufour, an Army public affairs officer who took part in TRIDENT JUNCTURE, said the population is accustomed to a much smaller military presence but responded well to the outreach effort.

They’re close to a military base so they’re used to a small military presence but having other nations training with the huge numbers and high quantity of equipment in civilian areas, it’s a big thing for them. Everyone from babies to grandparents came. They walked, met directly with the soldiers and greeted them. They touched the equipment and climbed in the trucks. They were very happy.

5 CER Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Éric Fortin characterized TRIDENT JUNCTURE as a valuable experience that allowed the participating countries to learn valuable lessons from one another.

We speak the same doctrine at the tactical and operational levels, but on a technical level, we vary because of our differences in terms of capabilities,” he said. “However, I believe that this difference is what makes our strength as we bring more solutions to the same problems. My biggest take away on this exercise is the excellent collaboration and teamwork developed.

Maj Morency echoed those remarks, saying the lessons learned will improve the way NATO countries work together.

By understanding one another’s capabilities, we can develop operational plans that are more effective and efficient. As such, we save significant amounts of time during the planning process and the execution is significantly better.

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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