By Staff Sgt. Derek M. SmithMay 27, 2014
GARRISON WAINWRIGHT, Alberta - Enemy to some, freedom fighters to others, lethal to all, the opposition forces (OPFOR) taking part in Exercise Maple Resolve 14 (EX MR14) here, May 5 through June 1, have forged a cohesive, professional fighting force.
In an age of ever-changing and kinetic battlegrounds, the OPFOR, consisting of elements of the 12th Armoured Regiment of Canada (12 RBC), U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, British forces and U.S. Marines integrates lessons learned from real-world experience and individual unit training doctrine with the training exercise scenarios established for EX MR14. Approximately 5,000 Canadian, British and U.S. troops participated in the culminating collective training event that validates the Canadian Army's High Readiness Force for operations assigned to it by the Canadian government through the Chief of Defense Staff.
"We came up on an international relations mission," said 1st Lt. David Collins, platoon leader, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division (3-1 Cav.) out of Fort Benning, Georgia. The Elmira, New York, native, brought the platoon to the exercise to augment the OPFOR with combat reconnaissance, share tactics, share experiences and broaden their horizons.
Collins explained the exercise is uniquely beneficial, both in the multinational integration and the challenges inherent in such a coalition.
"We have Americans. We have the Canadians. We have British," Collins stated. "Everybody brings something different to the table. It's nice to share other points of view and it's nice to see how international forces work. It's been great, especially with the squadron we're attached to now."
"Most of my guys have not been deployed," Collins continued. "This gives them an opportunity to see what it's like to work with international forces in a big scale operation and actually conduct combat missions outside the U.S."
Working through the challenges of communications and equipment compatibility, the 3-1 Cav. and its OPFOR partners meshed quickly into a formidable opponent.
"The biggest challenge is the language barrier. Even though a lot of people do speak English, out in the field it's a little difficult," said Collins, relating some communications differences in the OPFOR operations. "As well as some of the U.S. equipment isn't compatible with some of the equipment they use in the field. They've done everything in their power to help rectify the situation," from equipment reconfiguration to weapon calibre adjustments.
"(The OPFOR has) been doing great. I think the (training coalition force) is a little scared of us right now," Collins said with a smirk. "They know our presence has been made out there. I think we've been performing to the higher standard."
"We're working at a battle group level. What we're trying to do is be an interactive enemy," elaborated Capt. Carl Chevalier, adjutant for the 12 RBC. "We are able to plan our own operations. They've (EX MR14 organizers) given us a fairly wide margin of maneuver. What we're trying to do is essentially get into their battle cycle and set them off kilter, which I believe we've been doing quite successfully."
Chevalier, a native of Bedford, Quebec, said the exercise provides both sides substantial benefit in conducting military operations. The integration of multinational forces during EX MR14 follows the real-world pattern of recent operations around the world.
"There is training value here for us even if we are here providing the opportunity to be a training aid," said Chevalier. "We are training my soldiers as well, putting them in the role they would have in a real theater of war."
"I think it's diversity (of forces) that makes it more fun, more entertaining, and also makes it more challenging, but in a good way," Chevalier continued. "We come from different backgrounds and bring different ideas. They feel they're doing their job right and they're providing an excellent training opportunity for the other side."
Coming together quickly, the OPFOR mission may have been daunting, initially, but the individuals adapted into a true test for the validating forces.
"We didn't have a lot of time to integrate," said Maj. Adam Siokalo, B squadron commander, 12 RBC. "We got on the ground and only had a week to build a cohesive team. We started at the base level such as terrain familiarization and climatization. As the days went on, we integrated (the individual OPFOR components) in squadron operations."
"There were differences in ways we operated," Siokalo furthered, "but we've both done a pretty good job of adapting. It took a couple of days getting used to, but now we are operating like a well-oiled machine. (The multinational units) bring a lot of technical abilities and tactical experience which really helps us out, so we're happy to be working with them."
Siokalo related his force's passion to win was carefully balanced with the exercise objectives. Ultimately, both sides of the conflict benefit from the conflict.
"It's still a great training opportunity for us because we get to do a lot of combined arms training that we normally don't get to do especially with international allies," said Siokalo. "It's a very good opportunity for not only myself, but for all the troops in my squadron to be able to work with a multinational force like this."
"Opportunities don't come along like this very often. So, I know we are all very grateful and we are trying to pull as many training opportunities and as many lessons learned at our level that we can," Siokalo continued. "We're imparting our lessons learned with our international allies as they are imparting theirs. I think we are all going to go away a little more experienced."
Siokalo emphasized the importance of international cooperation in exercise such as Maple Resolve 14, and his hope that the practice is continued.
"The more we can facilitate these international exercises, the better we will be," Siokalo stated. "Each force has brought a very different capability with it. It just shows that with a professional group like we have with only a couple of days of training together, that we can come together as a cohesive force and inflict a lot of damage on an enemy. It's interesting to see how we can integrate them against a common foe."