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2015 Sandhurst competition through the eyes of 2 participants

“Last weekend’s Sandhurst Competition was a compelling show of Canadian Military skills. The effort and aptitude displayed by our team was impressive, even with the added honour and burden of being the first team to embark on the competition.The Canadian Flag was featured prominently several times throughout the weekend, bringing cheer and inspiration to the RMCC team.

The United States Military Academy put on an impressive competition, and the RMCC contingent was well taken care of by capable and eager staff; our thanks go to them for an excellent event.”

BGen Al Meinzinger – RMCC Commandant

A look at the 2015 Sandhurst competition through the eyes of 2 participants

Authors: 26268 OCdt (IV) Stéphanie Paquette and 26015 OCdt (IV) Justin Hanlon

5 April  

On Sunday 5 April 2015, the RMCC Sandhurst Team departed the College, bound for West Point for the annual Sandhurst Competition. The accompanying staff included Capt Justin Lystiuk (Sandhurst Team Coach), Capt Adam Bradley (Team Manager), WO Julian Wieczorek (Training NCO), PO Peter Strickland (Admin and Equipment NCO) and two members of the Kingston PSP Staff, Tomasz Deren and Capt Steve Mitchell.

Arriving in the afternoon, RMCC Sandhurst was greeted by their host company, I-4. After hosting Team Canada for several years in a row now, a friendly atmosphere has developed between I-4 and the Team. Team Canada has even managed to get their name on I-4’s weekly “Winning Board” by bringing back a broom stick belonging to I-4 that was mistakenly taken back to Canada amongst the Team’s gear last year.

MORE / including complete results

6 April  

The Team commenced the pre-competition training week with an introduction brief by BGen John C. Thomson III, Commandant of United States Corps of Cadets (USCC). Other briefings about West Point’s history and Course Safety kept the cadets busy for the morning.

This year, 36 West Point teams and 22 other teams (US ROTC, Canada, Chili, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Republic of Korean and many more) will be competing in the 2015 Sandhurst Competition.

En après-midi, l’équipe Sandhurst du CMRC s’est familiarisée avec la course à obstacles du camp Buckner dans l’aire d’entrainement du United States Military Academy (USMA). Sans aucun doute, leur course à obstacles a su offrir un défi à chacun des élofs incluant les plus téméraires.

The Team then tried their hand successfully at the USMA Ranger Wall and the IOCT (Indoor Obstacle Course Track). Some cadets from host company I-4 gave a demonstration of the IOCT in the evening and taught the RMC cadets the proper techniques required to surmount the different obstacles. The IOCT includes challenges like walking on a high beam, crossing a 6-foot wall, performing a vault jump, leopard crawling and rope climbing.

As of today, the RMC cadets do not know if the Confidence Course or the IOCT will be included in the competition, but one thing is sure: the Team is ready to overcome them. There will be at least one team event involving obstacles, and the Team has prepared accordingly, practicing with added loads and extra constraints during practice in order to be prepared for any challenge the Department of Military Instruction (DMI 6) could throw at them on comp day.

En soirée, l’équipe se réunit pour recevoir les points et les détails pour la journée du lendemain. Par la suite, les membres étudient et exécutent des travaux scolaires comme ils manquent la dernière semaine d’école, et ils doivent se préparer pour les examens finaux qui débutent la semaine suivante.

 

7 April  

RMCC Sandhurst Team kicked off the 7 April 2015 training day with a review of Tactical Combat Casual Care (TCCC, or T triple C) skills, which are akin to first aid procedures that have been adapted for use in a combat scenario. The Team has trained all semester to perfect theses skills, but were introduced to a few new pieces of American equipment that differ from the gear to which they are accustomed. A prime example are the half and full-sized SkedCo improvised litters, which were introduced to foreign teams by the West Point medic staff. Team Canada was fast to pick up the new carry techniques while incorporating this new and effective piece of equipment into their casualty management procedures.

Puisque le terrain à West Point est considérablement plus escarpé que les alentours du CMRC, l’équipe s’est aussi familiarisée avec les environs en performant quelques exercices d’attaque de sections ce matin. Il va sans dire que les positions de couvert ainsi que le positionnement des membres de la section sont ajustés pour maximiser l’utilisation du terrain à l’avantage de l’équipe.

In the afternoon, Team Canada had a period of familiarization with American weapons and equipment. First, they tried the night vision goggles (NVGs) that they suspect will be used during a shooting range in the dark. Following this, they got their hands on M4 rifles which they will be using as their personal weapons during the competition. Team Canada trained all season with C8, which is the Canadian equivalent to the M4, so the members were already familiar with the weapon system, and only minor differences were noted and adapted to. The training day drew to a close with a review of grenade drills.

8 April

This morning, the RMC Sandhurst Team went to the range to zero their personal weapons and to familiarize themselves with American range commands and procedures. The weather was a bit chilly outside, but was nothing short of tropical in comparison to the frigid, sub-zero temperatures in which the Team honed their skills during their winter training season. Needless to say, the range day proceeds much more smoothly when you can feel your fingers.

En début d’après-midi, c’est en classe que l’équipe s’est réunie pour une révision de mission de tir d’artillerie avec le Capt Bradley. Après une révision détaillée des procédures, les élofs ont pu s’entraîner sur un logiciel de simulation de mission de tir.

Later in the afternoon, the Team practiced section attack scenarios on the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) which is an indoor range simulator similar to the Small Arms Trainer (SAT) range at RMC. The Sandhurst Team had the opportunity to use the SAT range weekly for training, but the training scenarios encountered today simulated engagements with mounted and dismounted enemy infantry sections in various environments. The time spent in the trainer allowed the team to practice their communication drills as well as the designation of sections of ground to be covered by members of the Team. This provided valuable practice for long range precision shooting on pop-up targets, which is a skill that is expected to be included in the competition.

The training completed on the 100m range at CFB Kingston throughout the semester is expected to be very useful with the news received today that barricade shooting and low light, short-range shooting will likely be encountered during the competition. The team gained confidence in their shooting skills as they executed various shooting exercises under the supervision and guidance of WO Wieczorek in preparation for the competition.

9 April

La dernière journée de précompétition est arrivée. Il ne reste plus qu’à faire le zéro et l’ajustement du iMiles Gear. Cet équipement utilise un laser attaché à l’arme personnelle et un harnais porté par le soldat pour simuler le tir et informer le soldat s’il a été touché lors de situation de combat en entraînement (ou en compétition, dans ce cas-ci). L’équipement iMiles sera utilisé par les équipes Sandhurst lors de l’événement d’attaque de section.

En après-midi, l’équipe a pratiqué pour une dernière fois le mur de 12 pieds et les attaques de section. Cela s’est avéré une bonne confirmation des connaissances et des compétences de l’équipe, question d’être juste assez confiant pour la compétition et de faire quelques ajustements de dernière minute.

The RMCC 2015 Sandhurst Team is lead this year by OCdt Jean-Sébastien Otis (IC), OCdt Anton Humeniuk (2IC) and OCdt Graham Mater (3IC). This evening, Team Canada’s IC and 2IC, with all the leaders of the other 57 teams, went to receive the Competition Orders. After, as the Team was completing a final kit check, the IC completed his own orders and worked with his command team to plot all the checkpoints on the map and plan the route for tomorrow’s competition.

RMCC Sandhurst Team is expected to leave the start line at 05h30 leading the way as the first departing team. All 57 other teams will leave subsequently, on 5 minute intervals. Team Canada will be their own and self-supported for the following 36 hours as they complete the obstacles and challenges, spending the night in the field.

10 April – Competition Day 1

The team awoke well before sunrise this morning to be ready and on time for the 04h35 kit inspection. The early morning rain was cold, and it soaked their clothing as they stepped across the start line at 05h30, bound for the first challenge of the competition. Their map led them to an outdoor track to complete a physical fitness challenge where each member of the team was evaluated on the maximum amount of push ups and sit ups they could do, as well as how fast they could run a distance of two miles.

At the next event the team was met with a first aid scenario where they put their tactical combat casualty care (TCCC) skills to use. Once the casualty was stabilized he had to be evacuated, which meant carrying him up a ski hill. This year the weather has been colder than in the past and there was still snow on the hill. Fortunately for the competitors, there was a lane up the center of the hill that had no snow, but with the rain it soon became muddy and slippery, adding to the challenge of carrying their casualty.

The third stand was a barricaded pop-up target range. As the sun rose a fog settled over the range though, and the event had to be postponed until later in the day for Team Canada and several following teams.

The fourth stand was a conventional pop-up range where all the members of the team had their own lane with their own targets. Concurrently, one member of the team, OCdt Thow, had been selected to perform a call for fire support. Due to the lingering fog, the targets for the call for fire – located about 1000 m away – were obscured and difficult to see. Worse yet, once the targets were spotted the fog obscured any nearby features that would have allowed Thow to pinpoint the target on a map. Despite the complications, he executed the procedure perfectly.

Then, the Team proceeded to the navigation portion of the competition. The Team separated into two groups in an effort to locate the maximum number of checkpoints, with each group searching for a portion of the points. Pursuit of the checkpoints saw the team navigating through thick brush on steep and difficult terrain. An hour and a half later, the team was glad to be finished with this portion of the competition.

Upon completing the navigation portion, the team returned to the first firing range of the day, now that the fog had lifted. After engaging their targets, they prepared to move to the bivouac site for the night. The Team was well prepared for this challenge after training all season in the Canadian winter, and even spending a weekend in the field sleeping in hutchies in the snow. Citing concerns over hypothermia, though, the competition officials decided that the teams would not spend the night outdoors. To be fair, the temperature was quite low, the competitors were wet and very tired, and it didn’t appear that the weather would improve during the night. Though all squad members had in their march load a bivouac sac, or bivvy bag, a sleeping bag, a full change of uniform with socks and underwear, it was decided that all 58 teams would spend the night in a field house. To simulate field conditions, each team was expected to maintain a sentry at all times during the night. In the early evening, the captain and one other member of the team completed a reconnaissance challenge where they identified enemy positions and movements. Because the two alternate members of each team – ready at all times in case of an injury – were required to spend the night in the field house with the nine running members, OCdt Justin Hanlon and OCdt Evelyne Gauvin assumed several sentry shifts during the night, allowing their team to have maximum rest for the following day.

11 April – Competition Day 2

The whole purpose of the RMCC Sandhurst Team is not to train specifically for a competition, but to develop a group of motivated cadets and to give them the tools to achieve and maintain a high standard of competence in various military skills, as well as an elevated level of physical and mental fitness. The training of the Team this year was extremely challenging and diverse, involving a broad array of military skills such as section attacks, indoor and long range barricade shooting, first aid, TCCC, and navigation, as well as training in grenade, medevac, radio, CBRN, and call for fire procedures. To ensure their physical capabilities could match their ambition, PSP staff Tomasz Deren and Steve Mitchell put the Team through their paces with gruelling workouts that included crossfit style circuits, long runs, hill sprints and ruck marches. To maintain their physical and mental health (and sanity), they also worked with PSP Staff Stephane Robert on body mobility, myofascial release, and stretching, as well as meditation, visualization and other mental exercises. Certainly this aspect of their preparation would not have been complete were it not also for the efforts and care of the team’s athletic therapist, Penny. While the immediate goal of this training was to prepare for the competition, the skills learned by the team are applicable to their summer courses, their career, or to many other challenges they may face.

The individuals chosen to participate in the Sandhurst 2015 training were selected for their ability to make the most out of the training, and their will to dedicate their time and effort to the team throughout the whole semester. Training saw the Team awake each morning at 05h30 to train until breakfast. They would meet again each evening after school for another dose of training until dinner, and sometimes longer. The immense time commitment left the team with a total of two weekends off during the entire period, since the rest were dedicated to range days or field training.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the Team and all the dedicated individuals that contributed to training, Team Canada did not accomplish their goal of winning the competition and bringing the sword home. With the challenges surmounted, the experience and skills gained, and the friendships and bonds created throughout the season though, Sandhurst 2015 has been a marked success. Each member of the team can testify that they are better off for it, and that they are well prepared to meet future challenges and to pursue their careers as officers in the CAF.

The 2015 RMCC Sandhurst Team would like to dedicate a special thank you to the RMC Foundation, and the Class of ’64 for their financial support, making the whole journey possible again this year. Looking at the Sandhurst 2015 season through the lens of the RMC Foundation mission – the enhancement of excellence at the Royal Military College – we can say, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Thank you!

***

Ed Note: RMCC finished17th. The overall winner was the red team from The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Complete scoreboard results: