FORT DRUM, N.Y., June 5, 2015 -- Fighting alongside Americans, more than 40,000 Canadian armed forces members served in Afghanistan from 2001-2014. Of them, 158 made the ultimate sacrifice. U.S. and Canadian forces have worked together in Afghanistan, and with their geographical proximity, the North American countries have a mutual interest in each other's national security.
Soldiers of the 2nd Service Battalion, 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 4th Canadian Division, trained side-by-side with U.S. soldiers of the 10th Brigade Support Battalion, or BSB, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), during Operation Southern Sustainer held here May 20-26.
The 10th BSB coordinated and provided the unit Petawawa, Ontario-based unit with training opportunities that included marksmanship ranges, convoy security training exercises and sling loading vehicles for transport using a CH-47 Chinook.
Canadian army Capt. William Lister, second in command of 2nd Service Battalion's Forward Support Group, said he hopes Operation Southern Sustainer is the first of many collaborations with 10th BSB, which he called their "sister battalion."
Both battalions are combat service support or sustainment units, which provide combat units with logistics, maintenance and health services. While the sister battalions speak the same language, use similar equipment and have similar missions, they use different acronyms, organizational structures, training and methods of operation. Their internal communication is different, and they used the exercise to learn some of each other's tactics, techniques and procedures.
Platoons from both battalions worked together to produce a standard for operations and procedures using terminology from both services, so American and Canadian can communicate during exercise and real-world operations, Lister said.
Canadian army Lt. Col. Carla Harding, 2nd Service Battalion commander, said one of the outcomes she wanted to see was smoother interoperability. Harding said she wanted her organization to understand and experience how U.S. Army equivalent units operate, in hopes that the 2nd Service Battalion would function better with their American counterparts in the future.
"We like going on deployed operations with you guys," Harding said. "Think about it. We're (all) North Americans, so our ethos and values aren't that different."
Another one of Harding's desired outcomes was to build the relationship between U.S. Army and Canadian troops.
Soldiers of A Company, 10th BSB, and soldiers of the Royal Canadian Electric Mechanical Engineers did that by training and qualifying with each other's weapons at a squad automatic weapon range. Afterwards, they traded Canadian rations with U.S. military Meals, Ready to Eat.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 William James, B Company, 10th BSB, range officer in charge, said he enjoyed hosting the Canadian troops and hoped their time at his range built camaraderie between them and the U.S. soldiers.
With some Canadian soldiers calling Fort Drum soldiers "southerners" and referring to northern New York's weather as "tropical," those at the range said the bond between the Canadians and their American counterparts is like family.