JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Soldiers from the U.S. and the 39th Canadian Brigade Group took part in a multi-day exercise, allowing a unique opportunity to integrate support and skills while improving long-term readiness for both nations during Exercise Cougar Rage 18, April 26-29, 2018 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Oregon Army National Guardsmen with the scout platoon from the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, attached with several Canadian Light Infantry platoons, providing gap-capabilities to enhance mission essential task lists for future evaluations later this year.
The Soldiers spent the first two days working on weapons qualification and rappelling prior to the "exercise-intensive" culmination, where the fully integrated teams undertook an advance on the mock village of "Leschi Town."
"For our guys, this really is a great rehearsal before our own evaluations later this summer (at Camp Roberts, California)," explained Sgt. 1st Class Tyson Bumgardner, the platoon sergeant with the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment. "Our mission during this exercise is to get out ahead of the Canadians; to get eyes on the site, collect intelligence and report it back to their company commanders prior to the attack on the village."
As the Canadian forces began their early dawn advancement along the western side of the village, the snipers from the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment scout platoon provided real-time intelligence and suppressive firing protection. After the initial attack, the combined forces established secure positions inside several buildings, as the exercise posture shifted from offensive to defensive scenarios. Once established, the forces held the far end of the village as several waves of well-planned attacks transpired throughout the day and into the night.
"This is an intensive event for us; integrating with a different country's army is exciting and they operate differently, but at its core, what we undertook during this exercise is something we have been practicing for well over 18 months with this group," said Bumgardner.
For the 39th Canadian Brigade Group, the planning for the exercise began months in advance as many of the Group's leaders visited Oregon to meet and build the exercise plan with the scout platoon.
"When planning for the exercise, we traveled down to Oregon to invite them into the integration process of the MPC (Mission Planning Center) and other aspects of the exercise," explained Maj. Pawel Dudek, Canadian Plans and Policy (G5) for the 39th Canadian Brigade Group. "In the past, we have trained many times with the U.S. military but this is the first time a scout formation has joined our actual formation out in the field."
The weeks of planning and accumulated training prior to the exercise were quickly put to the test as the exercise developed. Several team members of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment established a clear vantage point inside a crucial building in Leschi Town; two Canadian Soldiers were assigned to work side-by-side with the scout platoon.
"They tasked us the night before the raid, attaching us to the sniper teams," explained Pvt. Chakkathon Duangkaew, an infantryman with the 39th Canadian Brigade Group. "This was my first time to work with American Soldiers, and learned a lot in the experience, from how the snipers prepare their camouflage in the field, to how they hide their depths inside the buildings. It was really worthwhile."
This type of learning and trying new tasks was a central theme of the training by both the U.S. and Canadian Soldiers, and was echoed by 39th Brigade Group Commander Colonel David Awalt during the conclusion of the training.
"Hopefully, during the week you were able to learn something; whether it was a Soldier skill or leadership skill," he said, during the after action report. "I know that training like this can often be uncomfortable, but that's really the best way to learn and it made for a great exercise."