If you were in Dévoluy (Hautes-Alpes) between 3-10 March you may have crossed paths with some 50 or so soldiers in white ski-jackets and khaki trousers, trekking and speaking French with a strong Canadian accent. These were members of the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada (12e RBC), the 12th armoured regiment, who were taking part in the Chevalier Tricolore exercise, the first unit exchange with the 4e régiment de chasseurs français (RCH), the 4th cavalry regiment of the French Army. And it gives us an excuse to show you some nice photos.
The Canadians were learning how to move in high mountains, essentially with skis and sealskins. No problems, you may think, after all there are mountains in Canada too. Yes, but theirs are less high and they generally move using cross-country skis or snowshoes.
For many of them this exercise was an opportunity to attempt Alpine skiing for the first time. And no chairlifts allowed: the downhill run was the prize after a difficult climb with skis and sealskins.
The 12e RBC, based in Valcartier just outside Quebec City, is used to snow, thus the soldiers were able to discuss the best methods of igloo construction with their French hosts. Where the French build a mound of snow atop their bags to then remove the bags leaving an empty space which serves as a refuge, the Canadians prefer to use branches. The pros and cons of each method were noted.
The 12e RBC was taking part in one of three exercises involving some 150 Canadian soldiers these past few weeks in an exchange aiming to allow personnel of the General Staff, the infantry and armoured units of both armies to share knowledge and skills.
“These exchanges and military exercises with France ensure the we maintain and acquire know-how in joint and interoperable operations. Our countries are confronting complex threats and our soldiers have to be ready to work jointly with allied armed forces,” declared Colonel Michel-Henri St-Louis, commander of the 5 Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group (5CMBG).
Up to 18 March, around 50 personnel from the 5CMBG headquarters were, for their part, at a considerably lower altitude, Mourmelon, very close to Rheims, the champagne capital where they were taking part in a multinational command post exercise with Denmark’s 1st Brigade, Holland’s 13th Mechanised Brigade, Belgium’s Light Brigade and the US 56th Combat Brigade. Exercise Citadel Javelin covered the whole spectre of conflict in order to train and prepare the General Staff for tasks linked to the NATO rapid reaction mandate.
The simulation was part of a series of exercises which will allow the Rapid Reaction Corps France to obtain its certification enabling it to take command of the NATO Response Force 2017, taking over from Spain (see FOB of 15 January).
The third exercise, Castor Tricolore, was held in Belfort in eastern France (no wine there, but really good cheese!). A platoon from 2nd battalion Royal 22e Régiment was training until 15 March with the French 35th Infantry Regiment to improve their urban combat skills and to familiarise the Canadians with the equipment, tactics and culture of the French Army.