By 27144 OCdt Ian Ferrier
From Friday the 20th to the 22nd of October 2017, Officer Cadets joined 30th and 2nd Field Artillery on EX THUNDERFORCE to hone their skills. All of the Cadets who attended the exercise are currently in their last year of studies at RMC and are preparing to commission as Artillery Officers in the Canadian Armed Forces. The final phase of their training shall be Phase 4. The Cadets who attended have successfully completed the following phases of training during the summer of 2017:
Phase 3 (Artillery)
OCdts: Allard;Levert; Nettie;Poirier; and Saumere
Phase 2 (Basic Military Officer Qualification – Land)
OCdts Fryxell; and Snape
A fully qualified Artillery Officer, Captain Robison, provided the escort to the Cadets while the Training Wing Operations Cell, Captain Payne and WO Miller, ensured that the Cadets were provided with the necessary resources and authorization to deploy to the training area. My role was to transport Cadets from RMC, deploy and provide transport in the training area, and redeploy to RMC. An error in communications ensured that we arrived at the training area hours before the deployment began. Various Reserve Force units from 2nd Division 34th Canadian Brigade Group and 4th Division 33 Canadian Brigade Group , which is comprised of Ontario and Quebec, participated in exercises that weekend. We arrived at the sleeping quarters along ROUTE EXCALIBUR and went to ground, AKA sleep, at approximately 0230 hrs. We awoke for breakfast and numerous cups of coffee at 0600 before OCdt Poirier was asked to prepare our Safety Brief on behalf of our host, Major Koshman of 30th Field Artillery. We were given the ground trace, which helps soldiers orient themselves on the ground for a mission, given safety equipment, and briefed on the progression of missions that would take place over the next few hours. Lucky for us, breakfast was not rations but hot food that had been brought into the field for us. There were plenty of rations to be had for dinner, which can now be poutine, burgers, vegetarian, or countless other choices depending on the meal the person receives or has for dietary requirements.`
As a Logistics Officer, it was interesting to understand and witness how a fire mission is called in from the perspective of artillery, AKA SHELLDRAKE. SHELLDRAKE successfully calibrated their weapons, perhaps taking more time due to the age of their guns which have not yet been replaced by the Canadian Armed Forces M777, a GPS assisted artillery piece with a significantly longer range. Cadets wore ear protection and practiced loading the guns to better understand the role of and NCM in a firing platform, the basic team that cares for and fires the artillery on command. Afterwards, OCdt Allard set up a defense plan as for the field artillery as we moved into our firing position for the night. The Command Post controls the fire of artillery and, when it was successfully set up, we were able to fire on time and on target to support other elements of the battalion in their respective missions. This was also a chance for the Cadets to review what they had learned and for more senior Cadets to pass on their knowledge to OCdt Fryxll and OCdt Snape before they move onto their first phase of artillery specific training. It was also a chance for some of us to fire our first shells, and an excellent chance for Captain Robison to take pictures of RMC training in action. As a logistics officer, it was a special privilege to get to fire the guns, something I will likely never do again unless I change trades, which I do not intend to do – of course this was only done once safety regulations were met in regards to members firing a gun. We also had a chance to eat a hot lunch and watch how the guns are safely unloaded, a procedure which is not usually done unless a the type of round has to be changed before firing.
Cadets reviewed specific types of rounds and the effects of fuse timings, such as detonating a shell before impact to produce an effect on ground troops by raining down shrapnel or by firing the shell to detonate into the ground, making the impact more apparent and producing other useful effects. We then proceeded to the location of the FOO, or Forward Observation Officer, along ROUTE EXCALIBUR. The FOO calls in the type of round, location, adjustments, and other information to the Command Post to produce the desired effect on the enemy. After some delay in communication to get permission to fire from range control, the artillery fired over the position of a infantry unit operating in the area in order to produce the psychological effect of artillery being used against the enemy before the infantry move in on that position, as well as to accustom the infantry to the sound of artillery that could potentially be used on them. This produced the best quality training for both parties, especially as the fire mission was carried out in a safe manner. As night fell, we cooked up our rations and myself and the other driver went to ground. The remainder of the Cadets were able to learn about illuminating effects of artillery at night and how smoke can be used to help locate targets at night because of its thermal signature. Overall, mission success.
Cadets returned to RMC the following morning, and I was glad to have gone to bed early like our other driver so that I was as alert as possible when we began to drive out at 0700 hrs the next morning. Once again, if you are reading this Major Koshman, thank you for inviting RMC and good luck in your future missions. – special thanks from me for letting me fire the guns. As well, thank you to RMC for ensuring the mission was a success.