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Exercise GOLDEN COYOTE - 2016

Article and photos by Corporal W. Fong

Webmasters note: Some 240 Canadian Army Reservists from 41 Canadian Brigade Group (41 CBG) will participated in Exercise GOLDEN COYOTE 2016 in South Dakota, from June 11 to 23, 2016. This exercise, the thirty-second annual GOLDEN COYOTE, is one of the longest-running and largest National Guard exercises in the United States. It is an annual, joint, multi-national exercise, hosted by the South Dakota Army National Guard and conducted in cooperation with the U.S. National Forest Service and Custer State Park. Approximately 4000 military personnel from Canada, Denmark, Singapore, Suriname, the United Kingdom, and the United States came together to create invaluable training experiences and demonstrate the interoperability between allied militaries. The exercise allowed units to conduct combat support and combat service support missions in a realistic training environment and included real-time engineering missions.

Stepping off the charter flight at Ellsworth Air Force Base just outside of Rapid City, South Dakota you are met with a blast of hot air, the same feeling you get when you open up your oven to pull a tray of freshly baked cookies out to cool off. This is how I would sum up the whole training exercise in South Dakota.

I was the only infantryman on the first flight to South Dakota so I spent the day as a GIB (Guy In Back) and hatch gunner on a G-Wagen with the King's Own Calgary Regiment. I quickly realized that picking infantry as a career in the Canadian Forces was definitely the way to go. The following day our two sections of infantry were shaken out with Sergeant Mihalcheon as the designated platoon commander with an LER (The Loyal Edmonton Regiment) sergeant as the platoon warrant officer, with MCpl Fabian-Waddell and myself tasked as section commanders. We were given the call sign of Rocky 6-1 by the Americans.

The next several days our platoon was involved in section and platoon level rehearsals, patrolling basics, advance to contact, building defensive positions in Forward Operation Base CUSTER (inside of Custer State Park) where we were stationed, scouting locations for Observation Posts and possible routes of attack into the FOB. We were also tasked by the American Command Sergeant Major to be the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) for threats against the FOB, which had approximately 500 people occupying it.

Throughout the following days ahead we had the opportunity to cross train with other units in the CF, U.S. Army, as well as the Danish military extensively. The Danes were so impressed with how the Canadian Infantry ran their dismounted patrol lanes and Close-Quarter Battle kill house scenarios that we were invited back three times to run the kill house scenarios with the KOCR and Royal Canadian Engineers (both Primary Reserve Engineers and Regular Force). We also had personnel from the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and U.S. Air Force attached to our platoon. Our platoon even adopted the “Danish T” approach to advancing to our objectives in one scenario.

We conducted presence and reconnaissance patrols, acted as Opposing Force (OpFor), and continued to be QRF for the duration of the exercise, we even employed PsyOps elements into one of our kill house scenarios. Between the tornado touch down 5 miles away from the FOB, the point blank lightning strikes, heat, and eating American MREs, there wasn't a dull day during Exercise GOLDEN COYOTE. I personally learned a lot as a first-time Section Commander and got excellent coaching from the senior NCOs.

The training was interesting and a challenge, definitely not something I could have experienced anywhere else but with The Calgary Highlanders and the CF. Like the first blast of hot air walking off the plane at Ellsworth AFB or that blast of heat from the opening oven door, the closing of Ex GOLDEN COYOTE  as a whole felt like the cookies cooling on the proverbial baking tray, fresh and delicious.

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