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Monday, January 25, 2016

R22eR Van Doos Perform in Brazilian jungle heat at UNITAS 2015

DND Press Release: Article / January 22, 2016 / Project number: 15-0186
By Lynn Capuano and Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — Canadian soldiers from 2nd Canadian Division proved they can perform not only in the hot and cold extremes of Canada but also excel in steaming Brazilian jungle conditions during an annual U.S.-led allied sea exercise in South America.

The Canadian Army doesn’t have a specialized amphibious force and comes from a country more closely associated with extreme cold than heat. Nonetheless, 47 members of Compagnie B, 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e RĂ©giment (2 R22eR) more than held their own during exercise UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS, which took place in Brazil from November 14 to 25, 2015.

Soldiers and Marines climb on board a Boeing VH-22 Osprey.
Members of the R22eR Van Doos board a VH-22 Osprey next to their U.S. Marines counterparts during the South American exercise UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS in Brazil (November 2015) ©2015 DND-MDN Canada.
“We were able to demonstrate that we, while small, are a force to be reckoned with. We are very well trained, very well experienced. Canada doesn’t have a Marine Corps, so anytime there’s an amphibious operation that requires Canadians, we send in the Army to do the job. We have the versatility,” said Captain Ken Wang of 2 R22eR, who commanded a Canadian infantry platoon. “So we demonstrated that, even though we’re not Marines, as Army infantry soldiers we have the ability to operate at their level.”

“We were able to demonstrate that we, while small, are a force to be reckoned with. We are very well trained, very well experienced. Canada doesn’t have a Marine Corps, so anytime there’s an amphibious operation that requires Canadians, we send in the Army to do the job.”

Captain Ken Wang, 2 R22eR

UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS 2015 involved U.S. Marines and armed forces representatives from Canada and six Latin American countries: Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Columbia and Peru.

“UNITAS-AMPHIBIOUS is a multi-national exercise designed to increase interoperability in amphibious operations between participating countries,” said Canadian Contingent Commander Major Rodrigo DeCastro. “This year, the Canadian participation allowed for a professional development opportunity at the tactical level and in the various headquarters.”

Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, Commander of the Canadian Army, said multinational exercises like UNITAS are about more than just preparing for combat. He noted that by helping to build the capacity of regional institutions, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) contributes to the security of the Americas, advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

“Joint military exercises offer valuable opportunities for the CAF to practice working together with our partners in the Americas in areas such as counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and efforts to counter illicit trafficking,” noted LGen Hainse.

The exercise scenario revolved around an amphibious landing using the Americans’ remarkable V-22 Osprey, which is half-helicopter, half-airplane. With its tilting front rotors up, the hybrid combat aircraft takes off, hovers and lands like a helicopter. With the rotors tilted down, it has the speed and range of a fixed-wing airplane.

“Overall for Canada, it’s a chance to participate in an exercise with foreign nations from the Americas and exchange best practices when it comes to amphibious operations,” Capt Wang explained. “We’re talking about leaving the ship and landing so that doesn’t necessarily always mean boats, but also aircraft such as, in the case of this particular exercise, the Osprey.”

Before moving out to the field, Capt Wang said, the participants spent three days in an “academic phase” indoors to share their different practices and get familiar with the Osprey and other vehicles involved.

Once in the field, he added, his troops upheld Canada’s reputation for punching above its weight.

The Canadians, along with a group of U.S. Marines, were transported by Osprey to a small island southwest of Rio de Janeiro and tasked with securing and defending an airstrip from a fictional enemy force. While the temperature contrast, which at times exceeded 40°C, between 2 R22eR’s home base of Quebec City in November and the humid Brazilian jungle was stark, Capt Wang said his troops, many with combat experience from the Afghanistan mission, acquitted themselves well.

“There was a day where it was really hot,” he said. “We were holding a defensive position under the sun, the humidity – and that’s where some guys collapsed from the heat. The Canadians, we held on and we worked pretty well. It all comes down to training and grit, I guess and it’s one of those things Canada can pride itself on. We have very well-trained soldiers, well-seasoned.”

Maj DeCastro added that this year’s UNITAS exercise was unique in his experience in that it was the first with four languages in play: English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Canada’s participation was also a success in terms of communications, he said. Maj DeCastro is himself tri-lingual, fluent in English, French and Portuguese.

“I think we clearly demonstrated the strength of our multilingual army and our ability to operate in a multinational context. In terms of performance on the ground, the soldiers of the R22eR held their own, serving as willing mentors and mentees.”