Training and location are two key elements why the military chose the Trail area for Exercise Sapper Crucible going on over the weekend.
Approximately 70 military engineers are practicing their skills in demolitions, heavy equipment operations, weapons firing, reconnaissance patrols and basic soldiering techniques.
“We have people from Trail and Cranbrook, which are both part of 44th Engineer Squadron, then there is personnel from North Vancouver and Chilliwack,” explained Leah Wilson, Major, Officer Commanding for the 44th Engineer Squadron.
“In the past we’ve done the two-day exercises but we’ve expanded to the four-day. It gives us more of an opportunity to get into that battle rhythm, that mindset of military training,” she added.
The exercise actually goes longer than four days, with personnel arriving Thursday and debriefing and reviewing on Monday.
The goal is to put into practice what the soldiers have trained for. Which makes these exercises critical for the military.
“It’s the core foundation of what we do,” said Wilson.
“We’re doing the nuts of bolts of what a solider is and who a soldier is. How do you fire your weapon? On the engineer side, how do you lay an explosive? How do you set up a tent?
“It seems basic, but all that stuff, you need to train for. You learn and the more you do the more it becomes second nature.”
She added it’s an opportunity for the seasoned soldiers to work with newcomers and share their expertise.
“We have some first time soldiers here. The guys that have been doing this for 20 years don’t think about it anymore, it’s second nature.
“But something as simple as ‘how do I sight my rifle?’ For someone who has been doing it for their whole career, it’s easy. But the new guys might need some help.
“It’s little things like that. We build on that.”
Wilson added Trail is the perfect location for these exercises.
“We’re really fortunate in Trail to have the facilities that we do. The Armouries is great and to have the training areas here is phenomenal. And they’re so close to the Armouries. That’s a big draw for people from the Lower Mainland to come here and get training.”
The soldiers are training at the Stoney Creek area using explosives for demolitions. The key is to practice what is needed in setting explosives, calculating what is required, and how to place the explosives to achieve their intended goal.
Soldiers will also be at the Casino Range for weapons training.
“All of them are going to have the opportunity to do demolitions and to do weapons firing,” said Wilson, adding everyone will be involved in the training.
“Everybody is a soldier first. Everyone needs to be able to handle a weapon regardless of what their role is.”
Citizens around Trail may even spot some soldiers marching through town. This allows training for the soldiers to effectively move about, communicate and work with their fellow troops.
“They’ll have their tactical gear with them, they’ll have their weapons. It’s all about moving from one location to another without a vehicle. Getting from Point A to Point B. It’s all part of being a soldier.”
Once all the training is done, another critical element is reviewing the exercise.
“Some of the best lessons come from the stuff that didn’t go right,” explained Wilson.
“On paper everything looks great but when you get out into a real environment, things never go as smoothly. And unless you’re out doing it, you can never identify all the stuff that can go wrong.”