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How to Maintain Skills and Unit Cohesion while on PRes Shutdown

Fishbone Jones

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We all know the PRes is in somewhat of a crisis at the moment. One of the results of the slash and burn cutbacks has been massive loss of training days. The overall result that will affect unit and personal level is the loss of skills and people drifting away to other endeavours without retuning later.

The challenge:

Come up with legal, viable and positive activities that will maintain your basic skills and\ or promote unit cohesion. You won't be paid. The military will have no responsibility to you.You MAY be able to get your CoC to provide some equipment (tents, stoves, etc). Don't limit yourself to time constraints. It could take an hour or a weekend. There will probably be other caveats as the thread progresses. Instead of moaning about it, let's find a workaround.



Consider winter indoc. No weapons need be involved. You have tents, stoves, etc. You have your sleeping bag, ruck and warm clothes. You need participants, knowledge, a campground and a way of getting people on board. Done in a relaxed atmosphere, you can accomplish the aim and have a bonding experience that provides cohesion. If you can get the blessing of the CoC, if the proper points are covered they may even be able to write it into your UER as an equivalency.

That's one idea. If you see a problem somewhere in it, bring it forward, but have solution to offer first.

Let's get positive and proactive. Let's see your leadership potential. Let's hear some more ideas.
 

Spanky

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We could start unit "Hiking Clubs".  Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, toss on a ruck with a bunch of buddies, go for a walk on local fitness/nature trails, and you've got some BFT work-up.  Retire to a mess with some chilli, brews and football on the big screen. 
 

jak3_dude

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I had to laugh at your name Spanky, when a candidate on my BMQ was asked the name of his rifle he replied Spanky and when asked what kind of name that is he replied it's his wife's nickname.  Inspection was pretty lax from there, haha.

I HAVE asked before and been told that it IS okay to load up you ruck sack (50lbs or more) and wear it and your helmet for a load bearing march on your own. Don't know if you want to get too many guys doing this together as it might attract unwanted attention, so try and keep numbers low, maybe you and a buddy or two (better if they have a similar pace to your own).  Probably not best to do this downtown either (for people in places like Ottawa) going to the Gatineau Hills and doing a nature rucksack walk might be better and look more normal.
 

Brasidas

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jak3_dude said:
I had to laugh at your name Spanky, when a candidate on my BMQ was asked the name of his rifle he replied Spanky and when asked what kind of name that is he replied it's his wife's nickname.  Inspection was pretty lax from there, haha.

I HAVE asked before and been told that it IS okay to load up you ruck sack (50lbs or more) and wear it and your helmet for a load bearing march on your own. Don't know if you want to get too many guys doing this together as it might attract unwanted attention, so try and keep numbers low, maybe you and a buddy or two (better if they have a similar pace to your own).  Probably not best to do this downtown either (for people in places like Ottawa) going to the Gatineau Hills and doing a nature rucksack walk might be better and look more normal.

I've seen folks do it in 2's and 3's with full kit less rifle, on the river valley trails by the university in Edmonton. Last time was probably september.
 

snoman317

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PT is always an option. It might be valuable to take a day to teach and learn how to exercise properly. By that I mean how to lift weights safely and effectively, fundamentals of a good diet, how to organize a routine, cardio vs. weights, etc.

In a friendly and helpful environment this might convince some troops to adopt a more athletic lifestyle, which I believe is a necessity for our occupations, and aid morale. 

Most units have guys that understand this sort of stuff and can teach it. However, another option would be to pitch in some money and do a group "fundamentals lesson" at a crossfit gym or something of that sort.
 

Journeyman

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Have a war-movie night, but instead of just grousing that "Bruce Willis would have bled out by now," talk through battle procedure, or principles of war, or tactics, or leadership....

It may help to have a particular focus (eg - leadership/ethics), and have people read-up on those topics before hand.

This can also be done, looking at one particular battle. Do some preliminary reading, print off some maps, watch the video, then discuss the battle (what happened [with lessons drawn from the sub-topics I just mentioned], or counter-arguments [how would you have fought the battle differently] ), keeping the principles of war and/or battle procedure in mind.

It just has to be tailored to the training audience, and the troops' exepcted levels of military competence.

This is all a variation on Tactical Exercises Without Troops. For the Snr NCMs and Jr Officers, just take them out of the armouries, plunk them down on a piece of ground (with a scenario) and say defend, attack, whatever.
 

brihard

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jak3_dude said:
I HAVE asked before and been told that it IS okay to load up you ruck sack (50lbs or more) and wear it and your helmet for a load bearing march on your own. Don't know if you want to get too many guys doing this together as it might attract unwanted attention, so try and keep numbers low, maybe you and a buddy or two (better if they have a similar pace to your own).  Probably not best to do this downtown either (for people in places like Ottawa) going to the Gatineau Hills and doing a nature rucksack walk might be better and look more normal.

Hell, what's wrong with doing it somewhere we'd be seen? In Ottawa, for instance, along the canal's a popular place to go for a hike or a run. And what's this stuff and nonsense about attracting 'unwanted attention'? Is some guy in the south tower going to run to the elevator, get downstairs, waddle out to the canal and blast us for doing group PT on our own time? Unlikely, and even if it happened he would be in the wrong. As long as the troops in question weren't disgracing themselves in some manner there would be nothing wrong with it. If anything, it might reinforce to some folks that many reservists do in fact take the job seriously.

I think the most realistic way to keep cohesion going during the stand down is simply to keep the JRs messes open on a periodic basis, and make an effort to get guys out and seeing each other.

I just hope that at the higher levels this has been seriously thought through. There are going to be serious repercussions to this, including loss of a lot of troops and some serious skill fade. Other troops may be finding other jobs that will limit their attendance when we do start back up. Individual training is getting cancelled in a lot of cases, and in some instances, such as PL mods 1-5, this will have a serious impact on the ability to fill PLQ mod 6 courses this summer. This will be exacerbated in LFCA by the impact OP Cadence is going to be having on individual training

With all the things the army spends money on, I'm surprised that a reserve stand down was deemed both necessary and worth the trouble it's going to cause for the reserves...
 

Dissident

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Range:
Most units should have a "Gun guy", maybe more than one, who can bring firearms to the range. Shooting .22 is cheap and can still be used to teach marksmanship. 9mm and .40 is not too bad ($15 per 50 for .40) and troops always enjoy shooting pistols.

We are lucky enough at my platoon to have access to a civi interior range, plenty of "gun guys/girls" and people who are willing to sell ammo for cheap or  just plain giving it away.

For my trade facilitating ride alongs will be good.

Something that should be done even when the money is flowing is taking the time to share good books and other reading material. Guided learning type thing. (This stems from being shocked at how little some troops know about military history.)
 

Old Sweat

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Further to Journeyman's post about military history, as a bit of a buff and one who has been published, one of the recurring themes you can track through time is the number of smart, competent commanders and soldiers there were. Things didn't just happen: people wrote estimates and practiced battle procedure; they organized and trained troops to face new enemies, new theatres and new equipment; they gathered intelligence systematically; they also understood logistics and the challenges of a long, ineffective line of communications; and last but not least, they commanded and led. And, just for fun, there were more than enough nincompoops in uniform around to provide plenty of horrible examples as learning aids.

The basic wiring of the human brain does not change that much over the ages. People tend to do the same sort of things generation after generation, although the big issues like social organization and human communications have developed.
 

Jarnhamar

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recceguy said:
Consider winter indoc. No weapons need be involved. You have tents, stoves, etc. You have your sleeping bag, ruck and warm clothes. You need participants, knowledge, a campground and a way of getting people on board. Done in a relaxed atmosphere, you can accomplish the aim and have a bonding experience that provides cohesion. If you can get the blessing of the CoC, if the proper points are covered they may even be able to write it into your UER as an equivalency.

That's one idea. If you see a problem somewhere in it, bring it forward, but have solution to offer first.

Let's get positive and proactive. Let's see your leadership potential. Let's hear some more ideas.

Spanky said:
We could start unit "Hiking Clubs".  Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, toss on a ruck with a bunch of buddies, go for a walk on local fitness/nature trails, and you've got some BFT work-up.  Retire to a mess with some chilli, brews and football on the big screen.

Some years back I organized rucksack marches along the local bike path. They were a phenomenal hit with the soldiers. As we started going farther and farther out on weekends we began stopping in the woods half way back making a sort of platoon hide and just camping out around a fire.

We had the units permission to conduct PT on our own. No problem. When the unit semed to discover just how many of us were doing this they wanted section commanders out with us, soldiers signing pay sheets and in a matter of a few "unit run" marches we dropped from 2 dozen participants to 0.  (I think I've brought this up a few times here over the years).

Activities like this are a great idea. Even before the budget cuts I was trying to organize section activities (PT, supper, volunteering) outside of signing paysheets.
One problem I forsee is the amount of control a unit will want over the activities depending on the unit and what soldiers are attempting to do.

PT is a big thing, easy to arrange and brings people together. As far as training goes leaders might have better luck with doing classes on their own opposed to bringing people out in the woods and setting up a live fire range with shotguns and rifles.
I've actually done that and it was great but I can see that being frowned on by game wardens and police.

If you could get a few game consoles or laptops together you could probably set up some kinda call of duty type coop game and work on fire and movement,  communication, flanking maneuvers calling out GRITs.
 

Petard

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Brihard said:
Hell, what's wrong with doing it somewhere we'd be seen? In Ottawa, for instance, along the canal's a popular place to go for a hike or a run. And what's this stuff and nonsense about attracting 'unwanted attention'? Is some guy in the south tower going to run to the elevator, get downstairs, waddle out to the canal and blast us for doing group PT on our own time? Unlikely, and even if it happened he would be in the wrong. As long as the troops in question weren't disgracing themselves in some manner there would be nothing wrong with it. ...

Having done RSS with 30th Fd in the 90's,  I can tell you from 1st hand experience it can and will get you unwanted attention, and it won't come from 101, but it might come from the local police force responding to citizens with over active imaginations. One night as we were finishing a BFT practice march, about 20 of us got stopped by an Ottawa Carleton Police Officer near the round about in front of the Dow's lake pavilion; he wanted to know what we were up to since they had got a number of phone calls from "concerned citizens".

But even on an individual basis there can be unwarranted trouble. This fall we had a Capt arrested for , shock, getting ready for his BFT by doing some ruck-marching on his own to work on the Gatineau side; he was arrested at gun point, handcuffed and searched. It wasn't until a Police supervisor showed up were things calmed down. Someone had called in saying they had seen a dangerous looking man in army fatigues walking menacingly in a Gatineau city park, such are the sensitivities of some people. (BTW that's not the 1st time that's happened in Gatineau either)
So yes, it is worthwile doing what you're talking about, but it wouldn't hurt for your Ops pers to make contact with the local police to avoid any misunderstandings either
 

blacktriangle

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You guys should get some cool PT shirts made for when you run around Ottawa. I would suggest a bright colour with "Légion sans emploi" on the back.

Make sure to stop for some push ups within view of 101...
 

Spanky

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I love it!  We'll have to get corporate sponsors though, the troops won't be able to afford shirts. 
 

jak3_dude

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Spanky said:
I love it!  We'll have to get corporate sponsors though, the troops won't be able to afford shirts.

Nicely played. Made me chuckle.

Pardon my ignorance, but what is 101?
 

Fishbone Jones

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Journeyman said:
Have a war-movie night, but instead of just grousing that "Bruce Willis would have bled out by now," talk through battle procedure, or principles of war, or tactics, or leadership....

It may help to have a particular focus (eg - leadership/ethics), and have people read-up on those topics before hand.

This can also be done, looking at one particular battle. Do some preliminary reading, print off some maps, watch the video, then discuss the battle (what happened [with lessons drawn from the sub-topics I just mentioned], or counter-arguments [how would you have fought the battle differently] ), keeping the principles of war and/or battle procedure in mind.

It just has to be tailored to the training audience, and the troops' exepcted levels of military competence.

This is all a variation on Tactical Exercises Without Troops. For the Snr NCMs and Jr Officers, just take them out of the armouries, plunk them down on a piece of ground (with a scenario) and say defend, attack, whatever.
Do you have any movie in particular? Should they restrict themselves to modern times? What about 1812 and the like? Any value there?
 

Journeyman

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recceguy said:
Do you have any movie in particular? Should they restrict themselves to modern times? What about 1812 and the like? Any value there?
Well, if your focus is on recurring generic themes such as leadership, any era movie will do (Breaker Morant comes to mind).

If your focus is on tactics, because of the critical role of weapons systems when discussing at the troop level, then you're more limited to movies looking at latter-20th Century conflicts (yes, yes, Zulu may have lessons for modern COIN, but we're talking weapons' employment in modern small unit battles, and we still focus on conventional warfighting for baseline skill sets).

As an example, although I doubt there will be parachute ops in three-division strength anytime soon, A Bridge Too Far provides excellent material for everything from urban ops, to logistic support, joint/combined ops, medical evacuation, etc, etc  (plus cool jump scenes  ;D )

Just ensure whoever is leading the discussion is up to speed on our actual doctrine, SOPs, etc, to keep discussion somewhat on-track, otherwise any useful lessons get lost in the Hollywood glitter (yes, Vin Diesel should have reloaded at some point)
 

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If you are looking for realism, nothing beats Hanks and Speilsberg.

The entire Band of Brothers series following the 101st Airborne division during WWII is quite realistic and involves several accurate recreations of real battles. They start training just after the Pearl Harbor attack and the series continues until VJ day. The series also covers sub-issues such as training, leadership, how to get over your fear, etc. A must for anyone who hasn't seen it. Not to mention Saving Private Ryan.
 

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Get a hold of all the main PAMS,PTand local range all these can be done  by the individual soldier.I'm waiting to hear this week if my PLQ is canceled.One video to check out  is Magpul Dynamics The Art of the Tactical Carbine.Throw that in with the movies and boring ethics :).Also add paint ball and pints.Good luck hopefully this will be short lived.
 

vonGarvin

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People could join up with the Frontiersmen, but that would just be wrong ;D

For the geeks out there, there are a wealth of wargames that one could learn and then play.  Some are really too much, others are pretty good.  I would offer Squad Leader.  Yes, it's World War Two, but it models leadership, morale, cohesion and the basic tactics apply.  Yes, some games may be harder than others to find, but in the vein Journeyman brought up, one could read about the history, how things happened, and then offer up your own solutions to a particular tactical problem.  Then game it and see how well it works.

PT/Sports is an excellent way for cohesion.  Using the Army Fitness Manual as a baseline, one could offer up a "challenge".  As an example, perhaps you could all meet on a Saturday afternoon.  Then do the following:
5 km run
Pushups
Situps
(No equipment required)
Afterwards, once you have your levels (1-4), agree to meet again in a few months for the next challenge.  In the meantime, get together as a running club/fitness club.

Another "bonding" event is drinking.  I'm serious.  Get together as friends and have a pint or two (don't go overboard). 
 

Rheostatic

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Petard said:
Having done RSS with 30th Fd in the 90's,  I can tell you from 1st hand experience it can and will get you unwanted attention, and it won't come from 101, but it might come from the local police force responding to citizens with over active imaginations. One night as we were finishing a BFT practice march, about 20 of us got stopped by an Ottawa Carleton Police Officer near the round about in front of the Dow's lake pavilion; he wanted to know what we were up to since they had got a number of phone calls from "concerned citizens".

But even on an individual basis there can be unwarranted trouble. This fall we had a Capt arrested for , shock, getting ready for his BFT by doing some ruck-marching on his own to work on the Gatineau side; he was arrested at gun point, handcuffed and searched. It wasn't until a Police supervisor showed up were things calmed down. Someone had called in saying they had seen a dangerous looking man in army fatigues walking menacingly in a Gatineau city park, such are the sensitivities of some people. (BTW that's not the 1st time that's happened in Gatineau either)
So yes, it is worthwile doing what you're talking about, but it wouldn't hurt for your Ops pers to make contact with the local police to avoid any misunderstandings either
Nijmegen teams practice in uniform on the canal all summer. I think they've gotten used to the big bad army in the last ten years.
 
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