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CMSS Students Get Up Close and Personal at Maple Resolve 2017

Ian MacMillan (back row, third from right), Kiernan McClelland (back row, first on the right), and Carleton University's Dr. Elinor Sloan (front row, first on the right) in a group photo taken during Exercise Maple Resolve 2017

On May 17, 2017, the Canadian military hosted a number of civilians observers at their annual Maple Resolve exercise, which ran from May 14 to 29 at the Wainwright Manoevre Training Centre southeast of Edmonton. The exercise sought to ensure the Canadian Army's high-readiness brigade is ready to take that responsibility for the year. The high-readiness brigade for 2017-2018 is the 2nd Mechanized Brigade Group, which is expected to be ready for deployments at home and abroad upon completion of the exercise. Although most of the observers were journalists, a minority of them were academics as well, including two CMSS students specializing in Canadian security issues: PhD candidate Ian MacMillan and MSS student Kiernan McClelland. Also present was Dr. Elinor Sloan of Carleton University, a familiar name to many who study Canadian military and security issues.

Maple Resolve 2017 involved some 5,000 participants, approximately 20% of which came from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States. As a combined arms exercise, it involved not just land units, but aerial assets as well. The Royal Canadian Air Force participated with CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft, CH-147F Chinook and CH-146 Griffon helicopters, and CC-130J Hercules transports while the US Army National Guard provided UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-72 Lakota helicopters, as well as unmanned aerial systems. On the ground were Canadian Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs), LAV 6 light armoured vehicles, and, perhaps most excitingly for the academics present, American M2A1 Abrams MBTs and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). The observers made the most of this rare opportunity to explore these machines closely and to better understand the conditions under which Canadian and allied soldiers and airmen fight.

For Ian, his most memorable experience was being able to look out the top of a Bradley IFV while it was on the move - it was an unusual sensation to be facing one direction while the vehicle turned underneath! Similarly, Kiernan found being able to rotate a LAV 6 turret to be an unexpected privilege. As they rolled across the Wainwright fields, they noted a curious observation from one of the military personnel regarding national attitudes toward the arboreal presence: while Canadians would studiously drive around felled trees, their American counterparts would simply go right over them! No doubt one is more chassis (and budget) friendly than the other. 

A hot lunch was provided in addition to several IMPs (Individual Meal Packs), which also operated as an ad hoc currency: while IMPs can be consumed cold, they are significantly better when heated, so some soldiers would trade excess better-tasting IMPs for portable food warmers.

Upon the conclusion of their visit, the civilians were put onboard a CC-130J Hercules, which took them back to Edmonton - a short flight with only ten minutes at cruising altitude, but a unique experience nonetheless. Future CMSS students are strongly recommended to jump on this opportunity should it re-emerge!