Some 300 CAF soldiers returned home last week from Norway after taking part in a multinational exercise entitled Exercise COLD RESPONSE. CAF soldiers had the opportunity not only to sharpen their winter warfare skills but build on international partnerships and experiences while on this exercise.
Running from Feb. 23 to March 9, the exercise was a multi-national invitational exercise led by Norwegian forces. Close to 15,000 troops were present from countries including the U.S., U.K., Poland, Spain and many more.
Major Jonathan Hubble and his company were among the CAF soldiers that had a chance to truly experience international camaraderie while on Exercise COLD RESPONSE.
Hubble’s company, Romeo Company, was requested to conduct pre-exercise winter training by American colleagues. This training was hands-on and included demonstrating setting up tents, using snowshoes and how to use stoves. The training allowed the Romeo Company a chance to bond with American counterparts.
“We all came in and worked out of one building. We had Americans and Canadians all sleeping under one roof and eating at the dining room together. So, there was very much a multinational flavour for us,” said Hubble.
Hubble said the integration also helped with the planning process of the militaries and connect on a personal level.
“You’re meeting some guys who have similar but different backgrounds and very interesting guys. I don’t think I was the only one to take time to get to know some of those counterparts,” stated Hubble.
The camaraderie also led these CAF soldiers from Petawawa a chance to check out equipment not typically used in Canada like Abrams Tanks and Humvee anti-armour weapons systems.
“We got to see systems up close that we don’t work with back in Canada, at least not directly. I think there was definitely exposure to some new things and certainly an unconventional group of forces in the sense that our battalion left a couple of companies in Canada and took on a couple companies and figured out how to work together throughout the exercise,” explained Hubble.
During the exercise, Hubble’s battle group was tasked to carry out delaying actions along a river valley area and mountainous area in Norway. His company was tasked with organizing the resupply, maintenance and administration of the fighting group.
Other companies carried out various other tasks. For example, it was the job of the November Company to set up blocking and defensive positions to delay the opposing forces from advancing.
Though Exercise COLD RESPONSE is meant to test a soldier’s skills in extreme winter conditions, Hubble says it was surprisingly milder than expected, the temperature ranging from -5 at night to above zero sometimes in the day.
“In some ways, it was good conditions because the snow didn’t melt. We were hoping it wouldn’t melt all around us. It was very much a winter exercise with the use of over-snow vehicles…a lot of the soldiers were expecting it to be colder when they came over. Certainly, it was colder back in Canada when we were on this exercise, back home in Petawawa anyways,” recalled Hubble.
After planning for eight months for this exercise, Hubble says overall it was a success, and he hopes his soldiers can take away both cultural and warfare experiences.
“For our company, and I know the other companies would say the same thing, but certainly for our company, it was a great success, a lot of hard work. Guys have been here since Feb.11, and some will stay until March 15. We had great experiences and great success in actually picking up and supporting the battalion on the move over a distance of 60 or 80 km and back again which is something we don’t usually do. I think this is something we succeeded in, and everyone will feel a great sense of accomplishment when we look back at it,” said Hubble.