Local soldiers are in Petawawa this week engaging in a major exercise integral to their training.
Exercise Stalwart Guardian (Ex SG) is the largest collective training event for the Army Reserve formations and units within the fourth Canadian division.
Over 1,000 soldiers from across Ontario are gathered to participate in Ex SG in Petawawa and Meaford.
That includes the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, out of Cambridge and Kitchener, and the 31 Combat Engineer Regiment out of Waterloo.
According to Lieutenant (N) Andrew McLaughlin, our local soldiers will be participating in a force-on-force exercise, where they will be facing other Canadian soldiers with varying levels of experience over an 80-hour time period.
"It will see them engage with major and robust mission forces made up of well-trained soldiers, in some cases," says McLaughlin.
The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada will be performing a unique and relatively new capability: the 81 millimetre mortar fire-support mission task.
"The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada were lucky enough to get the mortar mission-task, which is the indirect fire support of infantry units on the ground," explains McLaughlin. "We have about 30 Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada consituting what we call a 'mortar platoon' taking part in this exercise."
McLaughlin notes that our local soldiers' work isn't going unnoticed.
"We're really proud to have this mission-task in Kitchener-Waterloo," says McLaughlin. "The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada have worked really hard to stand up that mission-task, and we're looking forward to seeing them in action in the field."
The 31 Combat Engineer Regiment will support an assault water crossing and practice explosive breaching.
The full training program will also include ambushes, raids, indirect fire missions, live demolitions, obstacle breaches and more.
McLaughlin says this type of event not only gives local soliders the chance to prepare for future combat missions, but also provides full-time summer jobs for students.
"A lot of these young soldiers have just joined their Canadian Army reserve in Kitchener-Waterloo, and they're now taking part in a major exercise like this," says McLaughlin. "It's a great opportunity for them to utilize the skills that they've used so far and learn a lot from their counterparts."
Besides being a learning opportunity, Ex SG prepares soldiers to join the 'road to high readiness' which is a standing ready force used by the Canadian army to be called upon in domestic and international situations.
"We are taking this exercise very seriously, as we always do," says McLaughlin. "The idea is that these soldiers could be called upon to help with flooding emergencies like in Ottawa, but also in international crises on a moment's notice."
The exercise runs from August 12 to August 25.