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Canadian soldiers assault mock village at YPG
YUMA PROVING GROUND — About 30 Canadian soldiers assaulted a makeshift Afghan village Monday afternoon as two U.S. Marine Corps Cobra helicopters flew overhead. Their mission: capture or take out a high-level target that is known to be hiding there.
The carefully planned operation wasn't an assault in the war-torn country. It was actually a training exercise at YPG in what is known as its K-9 village, a site consisting of dozens of block-and-mortar buildings meant to simulate a less-than-developed semi-rural area.
Maj. David Hill, of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, said the training is being held as part of the latest Weapons, Tactics and Instructor (WTI) course currently under way and is something the regiment could potentially have to do if it were ever deployed.
“The scenario that has been established is that there is a high-value target in this village in one of the compounds. She has an escort of eight bad guys; four of them will be with her, and four of them will be in other places.
“When the platoon arrives here, they are going to have to go through the village, find the high-value target, capture that person and bring her back to the helicopters for extraction. They have about 30 minutes to do it.”
Hill, in explaining the platoon-size raid on the village, said it involved five UH-1 Huey helicopters and two AH-1 Cobra helicopters. Hill said three of the Hueys would land on the outskirts of the village so the soldiers they carried could set up a perimeter, while two others hovered above specific areas of the village as the soldiers aboard them fast-roped to the ground.
The exercise began shortly before 4 p.m., with the Canadian soldier-filled helicopters taking off from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for the short 20-minute flight to the K-9 village. Shortly after their arrival, simulated gunfire and shouting could be heard as the Canadian soldiers made their way through the block-and mortar buildings in search of their target.
“As we flew in over the village, we could see roughly where they were positioned,” Master Cpl. Tyler Stephanich said of the high-value target and her bad guy insurgents. “We grabbed her within the first three to four minutes from what I heard on the comms.”
Not a live-fire event, Hill said the Canadian soldiers were using blanks in their weapons while the insurgents were firing paintballs.
“If the platoon comes down and does poor drills, they may get shot with some paintballs.”
Stephanich, a reservist with the regiment, said the training was the most realistic and demanding he has received so far in his career and that it helps prepare Canadian soldiers to better handle what they call “going into the black.”
“We rehearsed it days in advance, just to get a feel for things. But of course once the actual mission takes place, it gets very exciting,” Stephanich said.
“You tend to forget your drills, and the whole purpose of this training is that despite all the confusion going on around us, we are able to focus on our drills, maintain our training and then carry on through with our mission and not ‘go into the black,' as they say.”
Hill said about 160 soldiers from the regiment, which is based in Petawawa, near Ontario, were involved in the training. The regiment, he said, has been at YPG for the past several weeks in support of WTI, participating in various types of training, including urban assault and some small unit live-fire exercises.
MCAS Yuma's Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 conducts the seven-week WTI course twice a year at MCAS Yuma. It is intended to teach Marines and Marine pilots how to conduct military rescues and evacuations.
The seven helicopters used in Monday's K-9 village training were all flown by Marine pilots.
Click here for a slideshow of more photos: http://www.yumasun.com/sections/slideshow/?id=13500520