Canadian forces conduct Exercise Fighting Warrior at Fort Pickett

Canadian soldiers assigned to the Montreal-based 34th Canadian Brigade Group conduct a live-fire artillery exercise Jan. 7, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard by Mike Vrabel)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Canadian soldiers assigned to the Montreal-based 34th and Quebec City-based 35th Canadian Brigade Groups conducted a week-long artillery training exercise Jan. 4 – 10, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. 

More than 200 Canadian soldiers participated in Exercise Fighting Warrior, including roughly 100 members of the 2nd, 6th and 62nd Field Artillery Regiments. After spending a couple days getting acquainted with Fort Pickett’s terrain, the group took their 105mm howitzers to the field, conducting indirect and direct live-fire missions. 

While the live-fire training isn’t dramatically different from what they do at home, Lt. Col. Michel Bourque, commander of the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment, said the change in scenery provided many benefits for his unit. 

(U.S. National Guard by Mike Vrabel)

“This is a week-long exercise for us, which is basically for us to demonstrate fire and maneuver in a different context, outside of Canadian territory, where we’ll use the facilities here at Fort Pickett in order to utilize some of the excellent quality installations you have here,” said Bourque. “It also gives an opportunity for our people to go to different areas, to get them to see something different. It gives them the opportunity as well to coordinate our training with American forces as well.”

For the Canadian soldiers, that change in scenery provides an opportunity to sharpen their skills in the field. 

“The terrain is different,” said Sgt. Robin Johnston. “Where we train usually, we’ve done it over and over again, and we don’t even have to look at our maps. Here, we have to look at our maps because we don’t know the terrain.”

The exercise is an annual one, with different Canadian units making the trip to Fort Pickett each year for a training exercise. Bourque said the opportunity to travel to Fort Pickett and take advantage of its extensive training areas and ranges helps his troops in multiple ways. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us to get to know the region, and for our soldiers to better their knowledge of other areas and other people,” added Bourque. “It’s part of our custom to engage in training outside of Canada. It’s a change of scenery, a change of environment and a chance as well to coordinate and liaise with other military forces.” 

(U.S. National Guard by Mike Vrabel)

Traveling south to Fort Pickett provided one other benefit to training for the Canadian forces. 

“Right now there’s about a couple feet of snow back home, so this is a nice change in weather,” said Johnston. 

A month earlier, Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group conducted a line haul in December to help the 34th move their equipment to Fort Pickett for the exercise. 

The 1032nd’s 64-Soldier team departed from Abingdon, Virginia Dec. 3, 2019, taking with them 21 M915 tractors, two wreckers, one contact truck and 6 passenger vehicles. After an overnight stop at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, the convoy arrived in Quebec Dec. 5, where the began loading the Canadian artillery pieces and other equipment. They departed Canada on the 6th and, after another overnight stop in Pennsylvania, arrived safely at Fort Pickett. 

 “They’re professional men and women. They’ve been supporting us since the get-go in transporting all of our equipment and our guns here,” said Lt. Rosul Khalique, an administration officer with the 34th Canadian Brigade Group. “All the logistical support they provided us was amazing.”