FORT PICKETT, VA — Private Randi Swyers invaded Fort Pickett, Virginia this week, and believes she has escaped a better soldier.
The young St. George’s woman is at the American military base as one of about 400 Canadian Army reservists from the 37 Brigade Group who took part in the training exercise “Southern Raider 13.”
The soldiers from Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick were subjected to the scenario-based, enhanced training exercise environment between Saturday and Wednesday. It was based on the most current operational doctrine, used by the United Nations and coalition forces.
It marks the fifth time units from the 37 brigade have gone to Fort Pickett for this type of training.
“I heard about it from previous years, and I figured it would be a good experience to come down and see what it was like,” Swyers said.
The exercise focused on battle task standards for offensive operations in an urban environment. It incorporate all units within the brigade, including light armour reconnaissance, light infantry, field engineers, signals and combat service support.
It was also designed to simulate situations participating soldiers may encounter while serving in future operations at home and abroad.
For Swyers, her life is all about the future. The 18-year-old high school student at Appalachia High in Stephenville has been considering enrolling in the Canadian air force. However, she is now leaning toward a career in policing, likely the RCMP, and believes she will continue to serve as a reservist.
She said the training was so much more than she had expected. Other than the cold and wet Virginia weather, about 100 soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment had to battle an experienced enemy force of American soldiers during the exercises.
People attending the exercise had the chance to train in a realistic environment and implement previous training skills to further develop their abilities to respond to situations as they unfold. The scenarios included 24/7 tactical operations simulating a detailed and flexible training event.
For Swyers, who has been a member of the Stephenville platoon for just over a year, the training was like nothing she previously experienced.
“It has to be the most challenging course or exercise I have ever been on, but I did enjoy it,” she said. “I feel like now, when I go back in my company and we are doing some closed section attacks, I know I will be able to accomplish it because I did this and made it through.”
Swyers, who was one of 11 people from the Stephenville platoon to attend, enjoyed doing the training as part of a platoon.
A number of American military units participated in the exercise by providing aviation, logistical, civil affairs, and naval engineers. American partners also provided transportation with Navy combat helicopters — a popular decision among the reservists.
During the last two days in Virginia, Swyers was looking forward to touring the area and visiting the War of 1812 Museum.