Excited in Idaho

Exercise Cougar Salvo

Infantry soldiers from The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), from Victoria British-Columbia, line-up during a platoon attack in the Orchard Combat Training Center in Boise Idaho during Exercise Cougar Salvo.

Approximately 600 Army Reservists from 39 Canadian Brigade Group, including members of Vancouver Island units,  participated in tactical manoeuvre and live fire scenarios during 39 Canadian Brigade Group’s Exercise Cougar Salvo.

This week-long exercise took place from April 28 to May 5, at Gowen Field and the Orchard Combat Training Center, near Boise, Idaho.

The event was designed to develop soldiers’ and leaders’ skills at all levels in a realistic and challenging environment in order to retain their skills, and strengthen readiness for future operations.  The Army Reservists from Vancouver Island represented the  5th (British Columbia) Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery; The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), who are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year; 39 Signal Regiment; and 39 Service Battalion.

While integral to the Canadian Forces Health Services, members of Victoria’s 11 Field Ambulance frequently support and train with the Army.

For example, MCpl Adam Goulet, a veteran of 13 Cougar Salvos and two overseas tours, was very happy to train medics in the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Simulator (MRAPS) vehicle roll-over simulator.  There is no equivalent training device in Canada, to his knowledge.  

“I think the troopers really enjoyed it,” said MCpl Goulet. “This has been one of the most elaborate cougar salvos I have done, and on the whole it’s been a really good experience working with the National Guard.”

In addition to the Reserve soldiers who comprised the primary training audience, approximately 90 Arizona Army National Guardsmen and 100 additional Canadian Forces personnel (including several from CFB Esquimalt) supported the exercise logistically. Members of the Vancouver and Calgary police forces provided an opposing force (OPFOR) complement to strengthen realism.

“We chose Gowen Field and its nearby Orchard Combat Training Center due to their modern ranges and training areas, logistical accessibility, and other important advantages. These enabled us to make the most effective and efficient use of our soldiers’ limited time here in order to conduct relevant and exciting training,” explained Colonel Bryan Gagne, Brigade Commander. “By all accounts, this exercise has been a tremendous success, and an important step in strengthening our field firing and tactical skills while building our professional relations among regional Canadian and American Reserve and Regular Force military organizations.”

Since 2006, Army Reservists from 39 Canadian Brigade Group, which incorporates a strong complement from Vancouver Island, have fulfilled approximately 500 voluntary individual rotations to Task Force Afghanistan. Others have supported Domestic Operations, including Operation Podium – the military support to the RCMP for the security of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, which came under the command of Joint Task Force Games, based at CFB Esquimalt.

The skills gained during Exercise Cougar Salvo, International and Domestic Operations, and other Reserve commitments extend well beyond the military environment. Approximately 30 civilian organizational leaders, primarily employers of Reservists, visited the exercise to witness the culminating tactical scenario and observe the troops in action, and to gain an appreciation of their leadership and other skills that can be invested in their civilian workplaces and communities.  

The next major Army Reserve exercise in western Canada, Exercise Western Defender, will take place in Wainwright in August 2013. Army Reservists from 39 Canadian Brigade Group will be able to further strengthen their skills developed during Exercise Cougar Salvo 12.

Captain Howard Hisdal is a Primary Reserve officer in The British Columbia Dragoons in Kelowna, and a history professor at Okanagan College in his civilian career.

Capt Howard Hisdal, Contributor

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