Exercise Southern Raider takes Fort Pickett by storm

Canadian Reservists from the Moncton, New Brunswick-based 37 Canadian Brigade Groupenter the final phase of Exercise Southern Raider 13 at Fort Pickett, Va., March 6, 2013, just as a winter storm swings through the state. Exercise Southern Raider is a joint, multi-national exercise held annually at Fort Pickett that allows more than 400 Canadian Reservists from the 37 Canadian Brigade Group the opportunity to build on lessons learned during previous training events and to strengthen bonds with U.S. partners. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Canadian Reservists from the Moncton, New Brunswick-based 37 Canadian Brigade Groupenter the final phase of Exercise Southern Raider 13 at Fort Pickett, Va., March 6, 2013, just as a winter storm swings through the state. Exercise Southern Raider is a joint, multi-national exercise held annually at Fort Pickett that allows more than 400 Canadian Reservists from the 37 Canadian Brigade Group the opportunity to build on lessons learned during previous training events and to strengthen bonds with U.S. partners. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Canadian reservists from the Moncton, New Brunswick-based 37 Canadian Brigade Group traveled to Fort Pickett, Va., for Exercise Southern Raider, a Canadian-led, joint, multinational, scenario-based exercise, held Mar. 2-8, 2013. This year the exercise included approximately 400 Canadians, as well as units from the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Air Force.

This year’s exercise marked the fifth time that soldiers from the 37 CBG trekked south to make use of Virginia’s mild winter weather and to utilize the varied training sites at Fort Pickett.

“We’ve been to Fort Pickett several times. It’s been an exceedingly efficient and good platform to train from,” said Maj. Douglas Grant, lead planner and developer for the exercise. “The value added for this is where we are in Canada, if you try to use our ranges, you’re fighting the ice and you’re fighting the weather and therefore you’re not training to the full extent.”

Exercise Southern Raider acted as the culminating annual training exercise for the 37 CBG and focused on battle task standards while exposing soldiers to situations they may encounter while deployed to support various operations either at home or abroad.

“This exercise represents the culmination of all training for all the different battalions and capabilities within the brigade,” Grant explained. “They train for about eight months, on what we call the ‘Road to Raider,’ and then the exercise is a confirmatory process on the health of the brigade.”

The main part of the exercise included three days and two nights of continuous operations, primarily in a field environment, and included several major battles that kept the soldiers busy. Four infantry battalions from the 37 CBG were represented at Southern Raider, and included soldiers from a variety of fields, including infantry, light armored reconnaissance, field engineers and combat service support. American forces also provided aviation, logistical, civil affairs and naval engineering support. More than 100 U.S. service members participated in the exercise.

“Our collaborative training with U.S. counterparts is always important,” said 2nd Lt. M.T.J. Ryan, a logistical operations duty officer in the 37 CBG’s 37 Service Battalion. “It’s great to be able to come down here and share and learn collaboratively.”

The Canadian reservists made use of a variety of training sites on Fort Pickett, including several of the small villages in order to enhance proficiency in fighting in an urban environment.

“Fort Pickett allows us to spend a lot of time on training,” Grant said. “It’s a small training area, which means you don’t have to spend a lot of time traveling to get to the next range or the next maneuver ground, so it’s very efficient for our use, and the added value of doing combined operations with any American unit, is the fact that we get to know how to do joint operations.”

The soldiers of the 37 CBG were also able to help U.S. units meet some of their own training requirements.

“When you set up a battle space for a week, a lot of people can gain efficiencies and use that same battle space, and we try to do that as much as possible,” Grant said of the collaborative effort that goes into an exercise like Southern Raider. “Getting Canadian soldiers to work with American Soldiers is always a good thing.”