ARCHIVED - Exercise Royal Flush

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Backgrounder / January 14, 1999

Exercise Royal Flush was a theoretical exercise used at the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College (CLFCSC) located at Kingston, Ont. The aim was to practice command and staff procedures of an offensive operation, including the conduct of an opposed river crossing. This was a tactical exercise without troops and no Canadian Forces personnel or equipment were deployed other than the CLFCSC students and even they were only deployed to an area approximately one hour’s drive north of Kingston. The four-day exercise concentrated on the theoretical application of lessons learned in a classroom environment. Students were given a hypothetical problem and had to develop solutions.

Every military exercise begins with a fictional portrayal of a situation in order to allow participants to have a common understanding of the "game". Scenarios are usually based on a common, fictional enemy for the sake of simplicity.

Exercise Royal Flush was designed in the early 1970’s and was part of the CLFCSC program up to 1996. The Canadian Land Force Command and Staff College (CLFCSC) program taught to Regular Force Officers underwent a comprehensive review and rewrite during 1996. All exercises were reviewed in order to examine current applicability and to incorporate the latest improvements in training simulation and map digitization.

As a result of this 1996 review/rewrite, Exercise Royal Flush was deemed no longer required and removed from the program. Ex Royal Flush has not been used by the CLFCSC in the training of Regular Force officers since that time.

The CLFCSC is currently reviewing and rewriting the training program offered to Reserve officers and Exercise Royal Flush has now been removed from the Reserve officer training program, just as it was in the Regular Force program.

The actual ground studied by the students covers an area approximately 5km west of Napanee, Ont. to approximately 10 km east of Kingston. The students learn about the conduct of opposed river crossings using rivers that are all within this radius.

In Exercise Royal Flush, there was a general reference to the enemy force mobilizing in the Montreal area. It must be made clear that this is a Cold War era exercise where the enemy force was referred to as FANTASIANS, a force based on Warsaw Pact structure and equipment. This scenario was created for realism in a Cold War environment and has nothing to do with the political situation in Canada.

Maps issued to students during this exercise were of the Ontario region as far east as Cornwall. However, students would have no reason to examine map terrain east of Ganonoque as all the rivers they were studying were west of that area. The reference to a Fantasian army in the Montreal area was for scenario purposes only. In other words, an artificial scenario is superimposed on actual maps.

It is usual for training purposes to have parts of Canada portrayed as fictionalized countries during exercises. For example, a recent series of exercises designed to prepare soldiers for overseas service superimposed the geography of Bosnia on eastern Ontario. As well, a recent exercise in the Atlantic provinces (MARCOT), divided Newfoundland into two separate fictional countries. This approach is essential to the conduct of realistic training. Scenarios using land which resembles the military operation in question, and happens to be close to the training facility, allows students the opportunity to walk the ground in question, and to analyze the problem from the perspective of Allies and the enemy.

The requirement to conduct war-gaming exercises is a very real one; it is one of the pillars on which a professional army is built. This kind of training vehicle is fundamental to the development of soldiers capable of conducting operations in peace and war. That being said, the head of army training has been tasked to review exercise scenarios for any sensitivities, so as to make crystal clear to all observers that the aim of these sorts of exercises is training in military concepts as opposed to exercising potential military options.

Documents used for this exercise are unclassified, not Secret or Top Secret as some media reports suggest. On the top and bottom of pages of the exercise documents, is the label EX SECRET or EX TOP SECRET. These fictional security classifications add realism to the exercise and compel students to practice the handling of documents during the exercise as if they were classified.

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