February 27, 2008

Canadian Army Reserve conducts exercise at Fort Pickett

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

A U.S. Army Soldier from Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), New Hampshire National Guard receives instruction from Sgt. Joe Plichie while participating in military operations on urban terrain training during operation Southbound Trooper VIII on Fort Pickett, Va., Feb. 16, 2008. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Newman).

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Soldiers from the Canadian Army Reserve conducted a major field training exercise at the Virginia National Guard Maneuver Training Center at Fort Pickett Feb. 22. The training exercise was part of Exercise Southbound Trooper VIII and involved Soldiers from the 36 Canadian Brigade Group from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Training with the Canadians were Soldiers from the New Hampshire National Guard. The training exercise simulated a peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan with approximately 300 Soldiers conducting a cordon and search operation near a simulated village. The mission of the Soldiers was to find and cease the operation of a bomb maker who has been targeting friendly forces near the village. 

Canadian Forces assigned to Task Force 36, Princess Louise Fusiliers establish an observation post during Operation Southbound Trooper VIII on Fort Pickett, Va., Feb. 22, 2008. The operation is an integrated, joint and combined training exercise with U.S. forces. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Newman)

The purpose of the Exercise Southbound Trooper is to prepare Canadian Army Reserve Soldiers for possible mobilization and deployment to Afghanistan. The selection of Fort Pickett for the training is to give Canadian Soldiers the chance to train in a coalition environment where they conduct operations with forces from the United States.

Conducted annually in the United States since 2000, Southbound Trooper continuously grows in size. Initially conducted at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Southbound Trooper moved to Fort Pickett in 2001 for the MTC's unique aviation training opportunities.

"Coming to Fort Pickett gives us a training opportunity we can't get anywhere else," said Capt. Ron Kronstein, a public affairs officer with the 36 Canadian Brigade Group. "We get great cooperation here; the facilities are first rate, and we get the opportunity to operate with American Soldiers and aircraft from both the United States Army and Navy just like we would in Afghanistan."

U.S. Army Soldiers from Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), New Hampshire National Guard practice room-clearing techniques during Exercise Southbound Trooper VIII on Fort Pickett, Va., Feb. 17, 2008. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Newman)

Out of the approximately 300 Canadian Reserve Soldiers taking part in the training exercise, approximately 40 to 50 are veterans from Canadian operations in Afghanistan, Kronstein said. Canada currently has approximately 2,500 personnel serving in Afghanistan in the Kandahar Province.

The 36 Canadian Brigade Group consists of mostly light infantry Soldiers but also has engineers, military intelligence, signal, military police and civil affairs personnel.

The training area being used for the exercise is named "Cherry Village" in honor of Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry, a Virginia National Guard Soldier who was killed in action in Afghanistan Aug. 7, 2004. Cherry was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment headquartered in Winchester.

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