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Exercise TARTAN CHINDIT: Porcupine Hills 3-5 October and 17-19 October 2003
Article by 2nd Lieutenant RC Palmer, Number 3 Platoon Commander, "A" Company
Photos by Corporal Michael Dorosh  - click to enlarge thumbnails


 

On the weekends of 3-5 and 17-19 October, "A" Company of the Calgary Highlanders participated in a two-phase patrolling exercise in the Porcupine Hills, just south of Chain Lakes Provincial Park. The new training area was a welcome change from the familiar flat, windswept and cold areas in Wainwright. Despite the severe terrain, and with the aid of the excellent weather, these exercises were an invaluable training opportunity. During both weekends, the rifle platoons were left to their own devices to accomplish their objectives while "B" Company and the Recce detachment provided the enemy force.

Phase one of the exercise saw the rifle platoons deploy from Highway 22 on the Friday night. From here each platoon conducted a cross-country move to a patrol base from which reconnaissance patrols could be conducted. All personnel involved soon realized the reality of the terrainís immense scale. Each soldier became acutely aware of the steep valley walls and thick underbrush, where small navigational errors could lead to a great deal of extra exertion. Each platoon sent out some combination of point, area, and route reconnaissances, or OPís. 2 Platoonís use of the "friendly" local civilians proved most beneficial, while a 3 Platoon OP under Sgt Tucker was forced to quickly break "contact" with the OC. The information gathered by these patrols was then collated by the Intelligence Section from 6 Intelligence Company, and formed the basis for subsequent fighting patrol operations the following weekend.

The second phase of the exercise was to conduct fighting patrols against some of the targets that had been reconnoitered the previous weekend. Orders were issued on the Friday night and the unit deployed early Saturday morning with each platoon conducting long cross-country moves to their respective patrol bases. That evening, commanders went forward to confirm the location of firebases and assault lines on our objectives. Additionally, eyes were left on the objectives overnight to inform the rest of the patrol of any changes and finish the objective reconnaissance that night. For 3 Platoon, Corporal Kotuk and his team proved invaluable in this regard. The two platoon missions were to destroy an enemy re-broadcast site and a notional divisional headquarters. These two objectives were to be attacked simultaneously at 0600 hours on Sunday morning, under cover of darkness. At the appointed time, the firebases opened up, and the objectives were quickly fought through. Following the attacks, after-action reviews were conducted and the objectives were fought through a second time, based on lessons learned from the first assault. This proved to be a valuable learning experience for all concerned.

Overall, these very valuable training exercises added much needed variety to the usual type of training conducted. Patrolling in a mountainous environment has its own unique challenges and rewards and the Porcupine Hills offered some interesting challenges to The Calgary Highlanders and in some ways have given us a better perspective of our own "back yard".

Webmaster's note:  as one of the troops manning the radio re-broadcast site mentioned above, he can attest to the ferocity of the "A" Company assault....as well as to the severity of the terrain.   At right are photos from the first weekend, below, a signaller from 746 Communications Squadron mans the RRB during the second weekend.  At bottom, a Company Orders Group. 

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The name of the exercise refers of course to the "Chindits" of the Second World War.  The Chindits would be considered "special forces" today.  The Chindits were  employed in deep penetrations through the jungle behind enemy lines in North Burma.  The first Chindit expedition in 1943 consisted of 3,000 men who marched over 1,000 miles without mechanical assistance, and took four months to complete.  A second expedition in 1944 was even larger, involving some 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers.

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