Moving the Masses

2 Combat Engineer Regiment Conquers Water Obstacle

by Sgt Marco Comisso and MCpl Vaughan Lightowler, Petawawa Post, 9 June 2011

From 24 May to 03 June, 2 CMBG deployed in the largest field exercise since 2003. One unit was responsible for ferrying the manpower and equipment for Exercise Spartan Bear across the parts of the Ottawa River.

Supporting and moving the entire brigade one battle group at a time, “... is a pretty extensive operation because it's going to involve a deliberate crossing operation.” said LCol Ted Middleton, Commanding Officer of 2 Combat Engineer Regiment.

Deliberate crossing ops began with the construction of three Medium Rafts (MR) a day prior to the attack. The rafts were assembled in a safe area, called a hide, and moved into location just prior to launching the offensive.

Each MR consists of three interior bays and two ramp sections and requires two large boats called Boat Bridge Erectors (BBE) for propulsion,. The raft is large enough to accommodate various combinations of vehicles to be loaded and delivered across the water, for example, two LAVs or one HLVWs - with a towed artillery piece.

The engineers would first have to move the “assault force by assault boat across Chalk Bay to gain lodgement and seize intermediate objectives on to a bridgehead.” said LCol Middleton. Then, using the Medium Rafts, build up enough combat power for the break out force, adding “That operation is going to take probably 24 to 48 hours.”

Due to the operational tempo faced by his unit involving Afghanistan, Sgt Georges Forcier, the 2 Troop Recce Sgt for 23 Field Squadron and raft commander, talks about challenges encountered while constructing the raft. “The biggest one is equipment breakdown. The equipment itself hasn't been used much for the last few years and that gives us some challenges because the condition of it is not as well-known as it was ten years ago.”

To work through many of the problems, 2 CER spent three weeks prior to Spartan Bear familiarizing themselves with the equipment and procedures. “We have good knowledge, a good depth and a lot of the problems have been identified already,” explained Sgt Forcier.

Not only did the engineers provide the troops and equipment to move the battle group over the river, they also provided a squadron of engineers to support advancing forces, seizing objectives and conducting point demolitions. Once all objectives were realized, they would also provide the extrication of friendly forces using 40 assault boats moving approx 400 soldiers down the Petawawa River.

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