From September 4 to 9, 2012, 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron supported ‘C’ Company, 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (known as 3VP), on Exercise Spartan Dagger at Canadian Forces Detachment Dundurn, Sask.
Spartan Dagger was a ‘live’ (with live ammunition) and ‘dry’ (without live ammunition) fire exercise that built on battle skills that have been practiced throughout the year. 408 Squadron worked with 3VP to provide section-level airmobile raids (an infantry section is composed of eight personnel and is commanded by a sergeant).
To help co-ordinate between air assets and troops on the ground, 408 Squadron provided an air liaison officer (ALO) to be the ‘boots on the ground’ with 3VP. This was a unique experience for first officers (FO) Captain Steve Pellerin and me, as we had a chance to participate as both as ALOs and as pilots by interchanging roles during the week.
Throughout the exercise, we coordinated with section leaders before their day of planned section attacks began. We helped plan the insertions and extractions of soldiers, and worked around any limitations caused by equipment, weather, terrain, or enemy.
Despite a few days of what we call sporty winds, which caused grass fires on some of the ranges to burn unpredictably, the crew of the CH-146 Griffon helicopter was able to continue with insertions – rappelling troops into confined areas.
During the section attacks, Griffon crews refuelled and reconfigured the aircraft, while keeping an eye out for the coloured smoke signals that indicated a successful attack and time to go get the troops.
“It invigorated our attitude with the basic infantry skills,” said Corporal Aaron Snowden, a storesman from 3PPCLI, who was manning the ammunition stores. “It was exciting and fresh.”
The excitement in the air before each section attack was palpable. Cpl Daniel Yanor, from 3VP, said that rappelling from helicopters is “a lot more fun than riding in a LAV [light armoured vehicle].”
“Love the helicopters. We need to do this more often,” said Cpl Steve Marczak, another 3VP soldier.
Despite some challenging weather and blazing grass fires, the exercise was not only a success, but also a great opportunity for Army and Air Force members to learn from each other and establish new friendships. We also gained a clearer understanding of each other’s limitations, expectations and abilities that we expect will lead to greater efficiencies in future exercises.