“We contributed to something larger than ourselves”: Latest tour of the Operation REASSURANCE Land Task Force draws to a close

Article / August 23, 2016

By: Captain Mark Ruban, Public Affairs Officer, Operation REASSURANCE Land Task Force

The men and women of the latest rotation of the Operation REASSURANCE Land Task Force (LTF) are on their way home.

During the tour, which lasted from February to August 2016, approximately 220 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members supported NATO’s assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe. For the most part, this support took the form of participating in military training exercises with NATO allies.

“We contributed to something larger than ourselves through our work with NATO allies,” said Major Félix St-Jean, LTF Commander. “Our soldiers enhanced their soldiering skills in a range of areas, all in the context of a multinational alliance. We built relationships with other countries and strengthened capabilities that can benefit NATO in operations as required.”

Members of this rotation, known as Roto 5, came predominantly from 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, Quebec. Other members of the contingent included service-support personnel, snipers, reconnaissance patrolmen, artillerymen, combat engineers, and reservists.

The soldiers participated in seven major multinational exercises along NATO’s Eastern flank—in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania—during their six-month tour. Because the LTF is based in the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area in Poland, soldiers also completed multiple joint training activities with the Polish Armed Forces.

Soldiers’ training activities included air-mobile assaults and fast-rope maneuvers. Operating with Polish, American, and Latvian helicopters, Canadian soldiers learned how to conduct rapid insertions and extractions. This skillset was new for most LTF infanteers.

LTF personnel also had opportunities to practice urban-combat and anti-tank tactics in Poland and Lithuania, respectively. During two exercises in Romania, they participated in offensive and defensive maneuvers in hilly terrain, reviewed medical evacuation procedures, and conducted offensive operations with U.S. Army’s Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

In Poland, artillery personnel completed a firing mission. On exercise in Latvia, they acted as forward observers to call in artillery support from allied units. Meanwhile, the LTF snipers ventured to Estonia on two occasions to mentor allies and participate in sniper competitions.

The success of all these exercises rested in part on logistical planning. A 60-person logistics support group managed everything from transportation and supplies, to accounting and cooking, to vehicle repairs and electrical maintenance.

Military police and medical detachments also provided valuable support to the LTF, as did the signallers responsible for maintaining effective and secure communications systems.

The presence of the LTF in Central and Eastern Europe demonstrates Canada’s commitment to regional security and stability. LTF members understood the significance of their presence in Europe and were happy to meet local citizens and learn about the history and culture of the countries they visited.

Canadian soldiers met with local mayors, attended community and sporting events, and made presentations in schools throughout the region. They also invited community members to join in Canada Day celebrations. Outside of Drawsko Pomorskie, some LTF representatives attended Canada Day events organized by Canadian embassies in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, and Romania.

Between training exercises, a group of soldiers got together to form a rugby team. As it turns out, they were pretty good, and they ended up playing against the national teams of both Poland and the Czech Republic.

“Our soldiers found this deployment to be a rewarding opportunity and a valuable learning experience,” said Master Warrant Officer Martin Higgins, LTF Sergeant-Major. “The mission went very well and Canadian soldiers were welcomed by the many countries that we worked with here. Our replacements are starting to arrive now and, for us, we are looking forward to being back with the friends and families who provided support during our time away.”

 At the end of their tour, members of Roto 5 are happy with their accomplishments in Central and Eastern Europe. Their training allowed them to rehearse, improve, and learn skills that are essential to the profession of arms. Their collaboration with allies helped to strengthen NATO’s readiness and demonstrated that Canada is ready to do its part as a NATO member.

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