Using insurgent tactics to keep CAF soldiers safe

A member of the Contemporary Operating Environment Forces engages during the attack on the fictional village of Ashigli during Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE at 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton Detachment Wainwright. Photo by Pte Jordyn R. Anderson, Garrison Wainwright Imaging. ***Un membre des forces pour l’environnement opérationnel contemporain prend part à l’attaque menée contre le village fictif d’Ashigli durant l’exercice MAPLE RESOLVE, au détachement Wainwright de la Base de soutien de la 3e Division du Canada Edmonton. Photo : Sdt Jordyn R. Anderson, Imagerie de la garnison Wainwright

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Ashley Materi

3rd Canadian Division Public Affairs

Preparing to deploy on operations around the world requires dedication and a rigorous training schedule for members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Soldiers gain valuable skills specific to their trade while working from the unit level up to the brigade level to ensure they are prepared for whatever challenges they might face.

Soldiers are qualified in their trade-specific skills, an important component of training is testing how the troops react and adapt to novel scenarios. This is where the Contemporary Operating Environment Forces (COEFOR) contingent comes in.

A small cadre of professional insurgents made up of combat arms soldiers from across the Canadian Army provide a realistic enemy force. They test how CAF members react to scenarios they could encounter while deployed. Small scenarios are built into the larger training exercise to meet battle task standards. These range from laying improvised explosive devices to direct mortar fire and abducting role players.

“The primary training audience has proven their weapons and tactics training,” says Master Warrant Officer Jason Forth, COEFOR Sergeant Major. “Now we need them to prove they can think through a scenario and pass up what they’re finding so their higher headquarters can make a plan to deal with what they are seeing in the training area.”

Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre at 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton Detachment Wainwright stood up COEFOR at the height of the Afghan War. Senior Canadian Army leadership wanted to establish a permanent, professional full-time opposition force. It provided higher-level collective training opportunities for units deploying to Afghanistan, says Major Tim Day, Officer Commanding COEFOR.

In the years that have followed, that cadre has modernized techniques and simulated weapons used by insurgent forces around the world and have developed more equipment and experience. Maj Day says COEFOR remains relevant by studying the tactics groups like Hezbollah and Da’esh employ, and training CAF soldiers how to overcome insurgent tactics, techniques and procedures.

“By adopting those tactics and using them against Canadian soldiers in a controlled training environment where it’s safe, they can learn those lessons the easy way here in Canada instead of going over and learning them the hard way in combat,” explains Maj Day.

The training effect COEFOR provides is available to any Army unit that requests it. They have provided a realistic insurgent capability for troops in Latvia, the Arctic, the United States and across Canada.

COEFOR member Master Bombardier Ian Harris says the training audience isn’t the only group benefiting. COEFOR soldiers understand the mindset of insurgents and can identify tactics seen in guerilla warfare. He says they “have an extensive knowledge of the unexpected” and go on to share this unique perspective with their comrades upon returning to their home units and saving lives.

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