Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE puts learning into focus

Article / May 30, 2017 / Project number: 17-0146

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By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Each year, one of the Canadian Army (CA)’s four divisions is given the responsibility of being in a state of High Readiness. To prepare, their members undergo a full year of intense training, culminating in Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE (Ex MR). Taking place annually at Canadian Forces Base/Area Support Unit Wainwright in Alberta, Ex MR is planned and conducted by staff at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre (CMTC). It offers a full-scale dress rehearsal for combat and serves as a validation of each participating division’s high readiness. Beginning in July 2017, it is 4th Canadian Division (4 Div)’s turn and in response it has created Taskforce TOMAHAWK, which will stand in High Readiness until June 30, 2018. Taskforce members took part in this Ex MR 2017 from May 14-29. The following article is one of a series of dispatches from the field.

Wainwright, Alberta — Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE (Ex MR) is the Canadian Army’s largest and most comprehensive annual exercise. This year’s edition includes some 5,000 Canadian and Allied troops, all counting on their hosts at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre (CMTC) in Wainwright, Alberta to provide a highly realistic dress rehearsal for future combat missions.

In the midst of Ex MR 17, Lieutenant Colonel James L’Heureux, Chief Operations Group at CMTC, took time out to offer his perspectives on the complexities of planning a hyper-realistic training environment, sharing knowledge and practices with our Allies, and keeping the exercise challenging.

We are about a week into MR 17 now. What are your impressions so far?

From what I’ve seen, it’s very clear that 2 Brigade [2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group] and the primary training audience came into this well-prepared. They embraced the scenario and they’re performing to a high standard. This has triggered our team to make sure the scenarios are challenging enough for them. We have had discussions on areas that should be considered for them to tweak. I wouldn’t say ‘fix’ because there’s nothing there that our observer-controller-trainers have identified. We do meetings every day to tweak parts of the scenario details to make it more challenging and the Brigade is keeping us on our toes.

Planning MR must be a daunting challenge. Can you speak to how the process unfolds here in Wainwright?

We started planning this one last January. And we work with not only the primary training audience from the lead mounting division, but also with all the enablers throughout the Army. We’re actually a pretty small team here. The plans team that started out with this is six people. In total, we’re around 170 and that is Regular Force, some Reservists, and some civilians to pull it all together. Our signals team, working with the communications, I cannot commend them enough for coordinating the different networks. When you talk about building networks so that Canadians can talk to Americans by both secure and non-secure means, that’s not easy stuff but our team here gets it done. We just have some incredible people that are capable of doing a lot of heavy lifting.

Even just in terms of day-to-day life on the base, do things change a great deal during the exercise?

This is a small base; we don’t have a lot of room. We have the training centre here, we have the base, all just trying to keep things moving. And when you bring in an extra 5,000 people and all their equipment, this base starts to get very full. And it does change the lifestyle a bit. The town is very receptive to the military community. We aren’t just a base beside a town. It’s really one community together because one depends on the other. The townspeople like it because it’s a boost to the economy, we like it because it is the biggest thing that we do here. It’s always nice to see the jets flying overhead, the tanks coming in at the rail yard. It really provides focus for what we do and our sense of purpose here.

And how has the experience of working with the Allied troops been, from your perspective?

It’s great because they do things differently than we do. They fill some knowledge gaps and bring some things we wouldn’t have access to, and that allows us to learn from them. For example, 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment [Kingston, Ontario] is practicing interoperability here in MAPLE RESOLVE, so they have access to some of our Allied partners from Australia and New Zealand. They have coordinated to bring them here so we get to integrate some assets that we don’t necessarily have in Canada to provide a richer experience for the primary training audience. I enjoy integrating this stuff because it’s helping, from my perspective, move Army initiatives forward. It reaffirms for me that we are a learning organization and I like to be a part of that.

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