Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE troops seek post-battle solutions

Article / June 2, 2017 / Project number: 17-0149

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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 — On this day of Ex MR 17, a furious battle has ended but there is still important work to be done.

Members of The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) have successfully captured the fictional village of Todan from the “enemy” – in this case, a combination of other Canadian troops and American tank crews.

The object of Ex MR 17 is to offer troops as realistic an environment as possible. The armed parties in the exercise are equipped with Weapon Effects Simulation gear, which, instead of bullets, emits laser bursts that are received by sensors worn by the players. The sensors register where people or objects are hit and give a detailed picture of the damage. 

Not only do soldiers move through villages in which sea containers represent homes, businesses, or community spaces, but a veritable army of nearly 100 role players adds another layer of complexity.

Some of those role-players are here portraying Todan’s residents. As set out in the scripted scenario, they are split along lines both ethnic and political: half are playing the role of Arianians and half Atropians. Both imaginary, the former are hostile to the Canadians and their coalition partners, openly so on occasion, while the Atropians view them as liberators.

Whatever their political stance in this fabricated scenario, both groups are not only reeling from the battle, which included a simulated artillery strike, but also from previously-inflicted damage to the village’s power and water infrastructure.

The people of Todan would likely demand that the civilian casualties from the battle and the damage to their homes and businesses that also resulted ought to be addressed and that is precisely what today’s victors are concerned with as part of cultural awareness training that is an important part of the exercise.

Sergeant Paul Geburt of RCR’s 2nd Battalion, which is based out of 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, and Sergeant Tony Bahadur from the CMTC, based in 3rd Canadian Division Support Base

Edmonton Detachment Wainwright, are inspecting the scene and their Battle Damage Assessment will form the basis for reparations to the villagers.

“If we created the problem,” said Sgt Geburt, “we should find the solution.”

One building’s foundation has been destroyed, others are bullet-ridden – Sgt Geburt counts 30, equivalent to a full rifle magazine – in one. The only computer in Todan’s modest Internet café has also been taken. That may not seem particularly consequential in the big picture, but Sgt Bahadur noted that it could be exploited for intelligence purposes.

And besides, he added, with sincere outrage, “That belongs to somebody.”

Major Martin Lamontagne-Lacasse, a member of Quebec-based Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke, is not “in-play” but is engaged as an observer, controller, trainer (OCT) overseeing the action.

He explained that more work will have to be done in the coming days – in addition to reparations, commanders will meet with village leaders to establish the most positive relationships possible under the circumstances.

“Every military operation will produce damage, either physical or psychological,” he said. “So the first thing you want to do is interact quickly with the population. We want to mitigate the impact of that damage by doing these evaluations, give compensation.”

The fictional nature of Ex MR 17 aside, he added, this operation was a successful test of how well the CA’s various elements – infantry, armour, artillery as well as other aspects, such as help from Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft and the military police who deal with captured enemy troops – coordinate their work to meet an objective.

“It becomes really complex,” he said. “And a huge challenge.”

Calgary resident Sergio Vazquez was one of role players. This year was his seventh at Ex MR.

“I’m a rural villager. No one special, but I’m concerned about the people and everything that’s happening. We’re frustrated about the situation and very sad,” he said.

For Mr. Vazquez, the decision to take on these roles was inspired on his experiences as a Red Cross volunteer in his native Mexico. He added that he sees it as a way to continue to help others who may benefit from a well-trained CA in future war zones.

“I think this job is useful for people – not just Canadians. The Canadian Army has a good approach to community, no matter what the country.”

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