By Joshua Ford, U.S. Army North
WAINWRIGHT, Canada -- More than 3,500 Canadian, U.S., British, Australian and French forces participated in this year's Exercise Maple Resolve, providing an opportunity to enhance multinational interoperability in a brigade-level field training exercise.
U.S. Army North and the Canadian armed forces plan year-round for the Canadian army's Exercise Maple Resolve, the largest allied exercise conducted in North America.
More than 1,300 soldiers from the U.S. Army's active, Reserve and National Guard components participated in the exercise, which was held here May 13-24.
"If we're going to prepare brigade combat teams to go to combat, we want them to be able to train with our allies and train as we fight," said Dave Morrison, Canada branch chief, theater security cooperation division, U.S. Army North. "So if we're going to deploy with our partners, we want to train with them."
U.S. Army North coordinates theater security cooperation activities between the militaries of Canada and the United States to help maintain interoperability and improve both nations' ability to work together during global coalition operations.
‘We Know We Need to be Interoperable’
"There are certain areas where we know we need to be interoperable," said Canadian Lt. Col. Joseph Pospolita, deputy commander, Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre. "We know communications is something we need interoperability with because that effects how we call in requests for fire and how you coordinate air assets."
Communication isn't the only focus area during the exercise. Other capabilities practiced included command and control of allied forces, logistics operations and personnel processing.
This year was the first time the U.S. Army sent an entire maneuver battalion to the exercise. Other American military assets included military intelligence, aviation, medical, chemical and logistics units.
The 650th Regional Support Group provided command and control of all U.S. forces during the exercise.
"It's good for us to get involved in exercises like Maple Resolve because it's real world versus simulation. We're actually working off demand to provide logistics, the fuel, the ammunition and the food to all forces in the field," said Army Col. Rodney J. Fischer, 650th Regional Support Group commander.
"Every year we look across the force to help identify which units would benefit most in participating in these exercises. We build the requirements at [U.S. Army North], including those from other services like the Marine Corps," Morrison said. "And then we work out how to get them there and what capabilities we need to support them while they're there."
Since the exercise is held in Canada, deploying units there is less resource intensive than sending them overseas to train with allies, but it still provides the experience of deploying to another nation.
"Traveling to another nation for these exercises is good, because the Army is looking to
become more expeditionary, so we have to be able to deploy and project power," Fischer said.
The ultimate goal for the exercise is to certify Canada's high readiness brigade.
After the exercise, 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group will be on standby to answer the call if Canada is put in a situation where it needs to deploy units overseas or within its borders for natural or man-made disasters.
"The High Readiness Brigade is prepped for any operation, whether it be domestic or international," Pospolita said. "If we get a mission overseas and we need a task force or battlegroup to respond, the country would look to the high readiness brigade immediately."
An exercise like Maple Resolve doesn't come without its challenges. Since each nation operates on different systems, getting those technologies to communicate can prove to be difficult.
"The perfect incident would be you could have multiple multination battlegroups or brigades operating where they are, each with different gear, and they seamlessly meld in with our systems," Pospolita said. "Plug and play is exactly where we're going for here."
U.S. and Canadian forces have been working closely together from World War II to Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.
"When it comes to straight operability soldier to soldier, we know how to operate together," Pospolita said. "That's the easy part. Our soldiers know what they have to do in order to accomplish the mission."
"It's important for us to operate at the multinational level because the United States will most likely never go to war alone," Fischer said. "We rely on our coalition partners and working out any issues now makes us that more formidable in the future."
He added, "If we show that capability and our adversaries know that if they do something wrong then the United States and Canadians will be there to protect good.”
Maple Resolve continues to grow each year, bringing together troops from different allied nations and partners.
"It just keeps getting bigger and bigger," Morrison said.