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A proposal for combined arms training for Reserve officers

Loch Sloy!

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We believe that the introduction of regular joint exercises between local Reserve units and the development of a battlespace simulation software intended for Reservists’ use can remedy the current training deficiency. For instance, combat and support units based around Vancouver, including the Seaforth Highlanders, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, the British Columbia Regiment, the 39th Signal Regiment and the 39th Service Battalion can organize a joint exercise once a year to test their interoperability. If possible, involvement of air and naval assets would increase the realism of the exercise. In essence, Reserve units should be encouraged to hold their own “mini-Exercise Maple Resolve.”


41 Bde has been doing this (the weekend CAX part) for several years. The simulations are quite good and the operators hired by the contractor (Calian?) are top notch: all highly experienced former or serving officers/ NCOs who add significant value. Our plans for a few combined arms weekend field exercises this year were unfortunately frustrated by COVID.

We are also heading back to Wainwright for our first real summer concentration exercise in years (Western Sabre) which I see as a step in the right direction.

Personally I'd rather see fewer exercises done right than a poorly attended and resourced one every month during the training year... weekend exercises should not be optional. As I understand it in a US National Guard Unit if you fail to attend a training weekend a warrant is issued for your arrest by the civilian authorities. I get that this would require huge legislative and cultural shifts but it sure would be nice. :)
 

daftandbarmy

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I could buy that but I really don't because in both cases I was the one in charge of creating the units' training plans and setting the exercises. And if there's one thing I am its cooperative and a believer in joint training ... yet over a period of four plus years I never organized any such training.

I'm genuinely wondering about why I never did. What I keep coming up with is that the complexities of a short combined exercise for reservists gets in the way of the teaching points for the individual elements of the participants and as a result, at the junior level, the training is not as thorough as it might be if they were being exercised individually.

... Of course I'm not sure if that's just a rationalization.

:unsure:

I constantly pushed for joint exercises, to no avail, along the lines of "we all plan to train on the same weekends, so why not just all plan to show up at the same training area, for example, and we all do our own things for awhile, and then we do some stuff together for awhile."

This required a CO to CO agreement, of course, which was never possible to arrange because of, mainly, big egoes and small thinking IMHO.

The only time joint exercises during the training year ever managed to be organized was during range exercises where, because our Infantry Officers and NCOs (except for a very few from the other units) were the only ones qualified to run the ranges, we would usually wind up putting dozens of troops from other Bde units through their TOETs and PWTs.

It was kind of like being used as a local 'public convenience', while earning the CO a big bag of brownie points from the Bde Comd.

Oh, wait, guess who became the next Bde Comd? What a coincidence....

shocked GIF
 

FJAG

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Oh, wait, guess who became the next Bde Comd? What a coincidence....

Some day I must make my way out to Victoria and have you take me on a pub crawl to some of these messes so that I can meet all these folks.

:giggle:
 

daftandbarmy

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Some day I must make my way out to Victoria and have you take me on a pub crawl to some of these messes so that I can meet all these folks.

:giggle:

The most effective 'butt snorkelers' are most likely working out closer to where you live on a regular basis :)
 

GR66

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I constantly pushed for joint exercises, to no avail, along the lines of "we all plan to train on the same weekends, so why not just all plan to show up at the same training area, for example, and we all do our own things for awhile, and then we do some stuff together for awhile."

This required a CO to CO agreement, of course, which was never possible to arrange because of, mainly, big egoes and small thinking IMHO.

The only time joint exercises during the training year ever managed to be organized was during range exercises where, because our Infantry Officers and NCOs (except for a very few from the other units) were the only ones qualified to run the ranges, we would usually wind up putting dozens of troops from other Bde units through their TOETs and PWTs.

It was kind of like being used as a local 'public convenience', while earning the CO a big bag of brownie points from the Bde Comd.

Oh, wait, guess who became the next Bde Comd? What a coincidence....

shocked GIF
Does the Brigade HQ not take any role in coordinating training between their units?

If not, is it because they are not staffed for that role? They play just an administrative role for their Regiments rather than a command role so lack the authority? Lack of initiative? Just because that's just the way things have always worked in the Reserve Brigades?

Honestly curious.
 

Brad Sallows

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During the entire time I was in, HQ let units conduct their own training most of the year and coordinated training at concentrations. Over the years this became a little more focused with the imposition of standards.

Isn't training evaluation supposed to be done two-up (ie. a brigade commander evaluates the training of sub-units)? With most units training as platoons, that means a unit CO.

If units are failing to produce platoons that can achieve core BTS, then the army should try an experiment: have the HQs plan and execute the training for a year or two. If the HQs fail to get anywhere, then they've likely shown that the problem is beyond the ability of most units to solve. If they succeed, they've likely shown that at least one tier of Res F unit leadership is valueless and either should be replaced or just eliminated.
 

daftandbarmy

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Does the Brigade HQ not take any role in coordinating training between their units?

If not, is it because they are not staffed for that role? They play just an administrative role for their Regiments rather than a command role so lack the authority? Lack of initiative? Just because that's just the way things have always worked in the Reserve Brigades?

Honestly curious.

To say they did nothing would merely reflect my ignorance of their true role in the planning and coordination of training for units.

But I doubt it.

They have very little to do with unit training plans, with most of that being delegated to the units. We used to wait for months before they declared a training focus e.g. ‘Offensive operations‘, but eventually just gave up and figured it out for ourselves because we have to book ranges, training areas and equipment months in advance.

Bde level concentrations were usually delegated to a ‘lead unit’ to organize and plan, adding immensely to the load of the RSS and other leaders in that unit of course. Ambitious COs, with their eyes on on Bde Comd’s job, willingly volunteered their units for this onerous task. The Bde staff helped out with bookings etc in support of this lead unit, as I understand it.

At no time in my three decades or so of service did I ever see Bde staff lead anything, or even be in the field with us, apart from the infrequent CAX.

However, they do get involved in a lot of force generation and maintenance work for tasks, courses, DOMOPS and other similar big picture activities. Since the big fire season of 2003, and 9/11, more and more of their work seems skewed to serve these requirements.
 

FJAG

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My experience is now more than a few decades out of date but I always found that the brigades varied very much in their involvement. Some created brigade training companies to do things like run recruit training or they ran things like professional officer and NCO training, or organize and run concentrations and/or regional rank and trade schools. Almost all provided some basic supervision of unit training by at least mandating and reviewing unit training plans.

The differences usually depended very much on the qualities of the current brigade commanders and senior regular force staff officer and frequently on the cooperation or friction from the unit commanders.

I'm not sure if the current divisional concepts has much impact on that but my guess is that if it does it's a negative effect coming from a headquarters twice removed from the parade square.

🍻
 

daftandbarmy

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My experience is now more than a few decades out of date but I always found that the brigades varied very much in their involvement. Some created brigade training companies to do things like run recruit training or they ran things like professional officer and NCO training, or organize and run concentrations and/or regional rank and trade schools. Almost all provided some basic supervision of unit training by at least mandating and reviewing unit training plans.

The differences usually depended very much on the qualities of the current brigade commanders and senior regular force staff officer and frequently on the cooperation or friction from the unit commanders.

I'm not sure if the current divisional concepts has much impact on that but my guess is that if it does it's a negative effect coming from a headquarters twice removed from the parade square.

🍻

They do nothing of the sort these days AFAIK.

There is no unit accountability for achieving training goals beyond the minimums e.g., FORCE Fit, GBA+, PWT etc. All of this is tracked through MM. Woe betide those who do not keep MM up to date. All of these boxes have to be ticked, as the highest possible priority, usually between September and December. No one cares about achieving any other training goals after that really,

I exaggerate a bit but, as an OC, I could probably deploy for a weekend to a local training area and we could sit under Mod tents eating IMPs, and nothing else, and we’d be good. I would, of course, post a sentry to keep an eye out for the CO and the RSM in their rented white SUV so we could do our dog and pony for the hour that they spend with us that weekend before they go home to watch the game. If they visit at all.

Experiences differ, and I trust that someone here will zoom in and poke me in the eye, but the Bde staff never come to the units apart from SAV and Tech visits. We never see the Bde Comd. Hell, we hardly see the RSS or CO where the boots leave pavement.

We are seldom in the position of being given a training goal, like we used to, for the Spring/ Summer milcon for which we must train. More often than not this event is cancelled due to budget constraints or OP LENTUS.

Along the way we may run courses, like Drivers courses, which will see Bde G3 staff visit for Standards purposes/ pissing matches With course staff. I get the sense that their value add is questionable.

Again, I think the Op tempo of being a temp agency for the Reg F, and non stop Domops (that rhymes!), has significantly changed the roles of Bde HQ and the units, and we really haven’t taken a step back to figure out what we need to do, and how we need to be organized and led, to address this ongoing reality.
 

FJAG

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The nice thing about reserve artillery is that its a bit of a rhythm that comes together annually. There are four basic skills: gun number, arty signaler, arty technician/FOO tech, and arty driver. Courses for each are run throughout the summer at various schools or during the winter with units on training nights and weekends. Basically you teach then confirm the training through dry deployments followed by live fire exercises.

You do this and repeat it every year as you feed new people in and then push trained ones further up the skill and rank chain. Along the way people you also train officers and NCOs usually on special courses.

Basically gun batteries don't care if the phase of training is demolition guard or advance to contact or defence. The rhythm remains the same with maybe some small adjustment by the FOOs and BC (who rarely if ever deploys a real FSCC)

Gunners generally do not care if the brigade does its job or not as long as there are a few hundred rounds of HE to send down range every year and there's a place to hold a summer training school which, I presume, these days are divisional affairs run at divisional training centres.

:giggle:
 

GR66

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Curious, by comparison how much involvement do the Reg Force Brigade HQ's have in coordinating the training of their Regiments/Battalions?

What about Divisional involvement with the Brigade HQ's? Do they have focus more on the Reg Force Brigades and ignore the Reserve Brigades?
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Curious, by comparison how much involvement do the Reg Force Brigade HQ's have in coordinating the training of their Regiments/Battalions?

What about Divisional involvement with the Brigade HQ's? Do they have focus more on the Reg Force Brigades and ignore the Reserve Brigades?

On the contrary, I find that much of Div HQ's efforts are aimed at the Res Bdes, but this can certainly shift a bit when a Reg F Bde is going into something like UNIFIED RESOLVE and MAPLE RESOLVE. CADTC is quite involved in the Reg F CMBG training, at least in terms of priorities, resources and scheduling the major training activities (UR, MR, JRTC Rotos etc).

While Reg F units don't necessarily need a lot of support/supervision, the Reg F Bde HQs are certainly involved in coordinating the training of their units. Unit COs are accountable to their CMBG Comd for the training of their units. The CMBG HQs will certainly run combined arms computer assisted exercises (CAXs) and other types of training that involve their units. Units will usually cooperate with each other as well to practice working together and supporting each other.

My Reserve time is dated (89 to 97), but I found that when I was the G3 IT of a CBG the span of control was quite wide with fifteen units. I thought it was positive when what became IBTS was imposed circa 1993, and the collective counterpart also provided focus. Having done an exchange with a USMC Reserve Battalion, I think that our own Reserve units should focus their training on one weekend a month with no training evenings. Focus on training objectives like weapons qualification (to include field firing) and leave collective training above platoon/troop for one or two week concentrations.

I believe that the current CBGs have access to the Sim Centres who will run great little combined arms CAXs. One of these weekends in the winter months can be a good PD/training opportunity for the leadership of the CBGs to get together to practice their craft. VBS can be used for lower levels to provide a change of pace - as long as it doesn't just become a video game. We should also manage our expectations of what will come out of those weekends!
 

FJAG

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... Having done an exchange with a USMC Reserve Battalion, I think that our own Reserve units should focus their training on one weekend a month with no training evenings. Focus on training objectives like weapons qualification (to include field firing) and leave collective training above platoon/troop for one or two week concentrations....
I'm fully on board with this. When I was an RSSO in 76-78, our unit had Tues nights as admin nights, Thurs night as training nights and every second weekend for training as well (starting Fri night if we went into the field). And a two week Milcon.

I agreed with the two-week Milcon (would actually prefer three if real collective training is to take place) but thought that the Thursday night and second weekend per month training was useless. This was mostly because the attendance was so spotty that much of each session was catching up the guys that weren't there for the last one and that because of the amount of training to be done many instructors burned out and prepared pretty poor lesson plans.

If a single training weekend is scheduled each month and set out at the beginning of the year then there is no reason why you can't achieve fuller attendance and properly organized and conducted training activities on those weekends.

🍻
 

MilEME09

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A three week mandatory mil con would go a long way to increasing our training and standard of readiness.
 

medic5

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A three week mandatory mil con would go a long way to increasing our training and standard of readiness.
When would you have those three weeks? Can someone who is not a student even take 3 weeks off of work?

If you schedule it during Christmas break, would people be willing to give up their holidays for the Army? Essentially if you schedule it during a holiday, people will be unwilling to give up their holidays for the Army. If you schedule it anytime else then people need to take vacation, which means employment protection, real employment protection.

I have no idea how many students are part of the Reserves, but it probably means it would need to be in the summer.
 

MilEME09

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When would you have those three weeks? Can someone who is not a student even take 3 weeks off of work?

If you schedule it during Christmas break, would people be willing to give up their holidays for the Army? Essentially if you schedule it during a holiday, people will be unwilling to give up their holidays for the Army. If you schedule it anytime else then people need to take vacation, which means employment protection, real employment protection.

I have no idea how many students are part of the Reserves, but it probably means it would need to be in the summer.
I'm well aware it would take a lot if changes for time off, etc... but humor me for a second, this is a hypothetical exercise.
 

FJAG

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When would you have those three weeks? Can someone who is not a student even take 3 weeks off of work?

If you schedule it during Christmas break, would people be willing to give up their holidays for the Army? Essentially if you schedule it during a holiday, people will be unwilling to give up their holidays for the Army. If you schedule it anytime else then people need to take vacation, which means employment protection, real employment protection.

I have no idea how many students are part of the Reserves, but it probably means it would need to be in the summer.

The biggest draw for this would be high school, college and university students where you could trade full-time summer employment for a contract of service that takes them, for example, for three years service post qualifying DP1. Couple that with paying tuition for colleges and universities for course in college that would favour trades like heavy equipment mechanic, heavy transport driver, health services, food services etc coupled with summer training/employment and compulsory service like we do for doctors, RMC students etc.

To keep people past their first term of enlistment offer resigning bonuses.

Yep, you need better employment legislation which would for example mandate three weeks summer unpaid leave over and above the standard employment legislation or union contracts for paid leave.

Do the summer exercises in a specific month (say August) so that families still have time for vacations in July.

If you limit mandatory time to three weeks in the summer and ten monthly 2.5 day weekends per year that totals 48 days per year - not too onerous and leaves the majority of the weekends and the summer free for other things including voluntary DP 2 and above training, if desired. The point being that you want everyone trained quickly and thoroughly to a DP 1 standard in some form of depot training institution and then turn them over to the unit which focusses exclusively on refresher and collective training.

Make regular force contracts term ones as well with no voluntary release (the NDA does not mandate voluntary releases - it says once enrolled you are in until your enlistment period ends or are released - voluntary releases are a creature of CAF regulations and policies which can be changed.) - For those who want out of the Reg F early let them do it by transferring their contract (maybe bumped up a little) to the reserves. There's a lot of flexibility in how we craft terms of service.

Its really not that difficult once you wrap your mind around it. The trouble is the moment you start throwing ideas like this around folks start coming up with reasons why it can't be done - most of which are "the government won't do that". Put together a coherent plan and maybe they will.

Costs. There's flexibility here too. The starting point is part-time reservists are less expensive than full-timers and therefore, if trained to DP 1 standards, are immediately useful to the forces as volunteer augmentees or as compulsory placement on active service in an emergency. Through fixed term contracts attrition is drastically cut meaning less costs are wasted on instructors and replacements. There are already an adequate number of RSS in the system. Even more would be added if you form hybrid Reg/Res units. Even better if a command or staff position by RSS staff in a fully manned reserve unit is considered an equivalent experience level for Reg F staff career advancement rather than a back water.

If this type of regime is less attractive to recruits (and why should it be with full summer employment and education benefits) then that would be offset by a more qualified and capable reserve force. 12,000 DP1 and higher trained folks with collective training skills are better than 16,000 half trained folks.

Equipment? Not a big issue up front. We already have a sufficient supply of individual and some crew served kit to equip the force. In the first instance and for a number of years while the force is transformed, the heavy equipment needed by the reserve force is mainly for training and exercises in the summer which is when the regular force generally doesn't need theirs except what's down for maintenance. Same for instructors. Block off three summer months, June, July and August for annual leave, APS and support to the reserves. Its a scheduling/management issue. That gives the Reg F nine months to themselves to meet their own training requirements. The end result will be reserve force personnel with DP 1 training the equivalent of the regular force and on the regular force's equipment thus greatly cutting down on predeployment training for reservists volunteering for deployments.

The current status of our reserve force is a problem looking for solutions. There are hundreds of solutions available if one opens their mind to them. The project requires a very high ranking champion. Any Minister of Defence worth his salt should welcome such a challenge instead of running away from it. I had high hopes for the present guy but as D&B keeps reminding us constantly, there's a whole group of Molitia leadership that looks to their own interest before the common good. I actually sent the current guy a copy of my book "Unsustainable at Any Price: The Canadian Armed Forces in Crisis" and didn't even get "Thanks for the book, now piss off" from a staff flunky.

😉
 

daftandbarmy

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When would you have those three weeks? Can someone who is not a student even take 3 weeks off of work?

If you schedule it during Christmas break, would people be willing to give up their holidays for the Army? Essentially if you schedule it during a holiday, people will be unwilling to give up their holidays for the Army. If you schedule it anytime else then people need to take vacation, which means employment protection, real employment protection.

I have no idea how many students are part of the Reserves, but it probably means it would need to be in the summer.

Spring Break/ Easter used to be 'Gun Camp', where all the heavy weapons courses would finish their qualifications with a one week shooting camp of some kind. Concurrently, non-Support Weapons folks would do field firing, which is the next logical step after PWT3 (which is where we seem to stop and stagnate these days).

After the Gun Camps units would transition into 'pre-summer course' mode as people started to disappear for training.

Milcon used to be 2 weeks every summer, usually near the end of August so that summer courses would feed nicely into the exercise. It seemed to work well timing wise, and I led 100 soldier rifle companies on a couple of them. IMHO the exercises were crap in many cases, sadly, but we had a good number of bodies available.
 
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