36 Canadian Brigade Group invades Fort Pickett for Exercise Southbound Trooper

Canadian Soldiers from the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based 36 Canadian Brigade Group move through Fort Pickett's Military Operations in Urban Terrain, or MOUT, site Feb. 22 during a culminating training event held on the final day of Exercise Southbound Trooper. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Canadian Soldiers from the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based 36 Canadian Brigade Group move through Fort Pickett’s Military Operations in Urban Terrain, or MOUT, site Feb. 22 during a culminating training event held on the final day of Exercise Southbound Trooper. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Canadian reservists hailing from the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based 36 Canadian Brigade Group descended on Fort Pickett Feb. 17 to take part in Exercise Southbound Trooper. Southbound Trooper, held for the 13th consecutive year at Fort Pickett, is a Canadian-led, joint, multinational exercise designed to bring U.S. and Canadian forces together in a complex training environment.

“Our backgrounds and what we do seems to be the same and we’re even fighting the same wars together,” said Lt. Col. Vic Grandy, credited with founding and continuing Exercise Southbound Trooper, on why the 36 CBG keeps coming back to Fort Pickett. “This fort is about the mission of training soldiers and everyone you link up with here is incredibly enthusiastic.”

This year, more than 600 U.S. and Canadian forces participated in the exercise. The Canadian forces, comprised of around 400 soldiers, hail from approximately 13 different units in the 36 CBG and include infantry, armored reconnaissance, medical, engineer and administrative soldiers. American forces participating in the exercise include the Virginia Guard’s 329th Regional Support Group, medical evacuation assets from the West Virginia Army National Guard, as well as units from the Florida Army National Guard, North Carolina Air National Guard, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Reserves, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.

Among the many functions of the exercise, was a chance for Canadian troops to gain validation on required battle task standards, an effort made easier by the mild Virginia winter.

“Basically, this is our annual validation exercise that we have for our brigade,” explained Lt. Col. Donnie Walsh, the deputy commander for the 36 CBG and commanding officer for the exercise. “We have what we call battle task standards that the soldiers have to achieve every year and so this is the annual exercise where we validate the training. [Fort Pickett] is a good venue for us at this time of year because where we train at home, it’s snowing right now.”

Canadian soldiers from the Canadian Maneuver Training Center, located in Alberta, Canada, conducted the validation of the battle task standards.

“We have some pretty strict orders on what we have to achieve while we’re here,” said Walsh. “Whether you’re an infantry platoon leader or an armored reconnaissance person or an engineer, there are battle task standards that they are doing here this week and we have a whole different set of folks from the Canadian Maneuver Training Center that are like observer/controllers who go out and observe the training and then give the soldiers feedback on what they did right and what needs to improve.”

The planning phase for Southbound Trooper kicked off more than six months prior to the Canadians arriving at Fort Pickett. The exercise was designed to allow for easy evaluation of platoon level battle task standards, which includes reconnaissance, attack and resupply, according to Grandy.

By day three of the week-long exercise, all soldiers were in the field and conducted three days of advance to contact while working their way up from the Southern part of Fort Pickett’s training area to the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site where they experienced one final battle before packing up and heading home the next morning.

“It gets us really good training time with the Americans,” said Pvt. Myan Juttun-Emerick, a Canadian with the Princess Louise Fusiliers, who participated in the exercise last year as well. “It’s really fun and we get to do a lot of things we don’t get to do back in Canada.”

“The exercise is going really well,” said Grandy, who credits the support of the Virginia Guard, and especially the Gate City-based 1030nd Transportation Battalion, with ensuring the exercise took place this year. The 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion conducted a line haul mission to Gagetown, New Brunswick in Canada where they collected the 36 CBG’s equipment and delivered it to Fort Pickett in advance of the exercise start.

“Your state actually came and got us,” said Grandy. “The 1032nd drove up there in a blizzard, picked up our gear and brought it back down here. We could not have conducted this mission without the complete support we got from the Virginia Guard.”

The 1032nd‘s line haul mission included approximately 25 tractor trailers and required the Soldiers to drive through America’s northeastern states during a dangerous snow storm. The Soldiers were able to accomplish the mission, in spite of the storm, with zero accidents while gaining real world experience.

“The make-it-happen philosophy that’s here at Fort Pickett and in Virginia is the reason that we come back,” explained Grandy, who said it’s more than just the weather that has brought the 36 CBG to Virginia for so many consecutive years. “We come back to Fort Pickett because of the Southern hospitality as well. It’s the easiest place I’ve ever gone to train.”

More from Exercise Southbound Trooper:

Photos: Canadian-led Exercise Southbound Trooper wraps with one final fight – Feb. 22, 2013

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