Minnesota National Guard, Canada partner for Exercise Sure Shot

The 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment partnered with the Canadian Army Reserve from the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, known as the LSSR and Sailors from His Majesty’s Canadian Ship – Griffin, known as the HMCS Griffin during exercise Sure Shot over March 2023. Exercise Sure Shot, has been an opportunity for the Minnesota National Guard to partner with Canadian forces for over 20 years. During this exercise Canadian forces conducted their individual battle task standard training at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minnesota.

Canadian Lt. Antonio Redfern Pucci, training officer for the HMCS Griffin, highlighted how his, “Sailors [were] so excited to be here” and that the CH-47 Chinook helicopter ride was a “great experience that was unrivaled” for many of his Sailors.

Over the weekend, Sailors from the HCMS Griffin participated in small arms requalification for the C9A2 Light Machine Gun and Colt Canada C7 rifle in addition to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear hazard training. For many Sailors, this was their first-time training with Minnesota Guard members, seeing a different uniform and rank structure.

For Commander Nathanael Moulson, commanding officer of HMCS Griffin, the best part of this training event was also traveling to Camp Ripley by CH-47 Chinook and UH60 Black Hawk helicopters. For most Sailors it was their first time in a helicopter.

“Seeing the Sailors faces light up by having that experience was incredible,” said Moulson.

For the Canadian Soldiers training consisted of personal weapons qualification on service rifles and machine guns. The 38th Canadian Brigade Battle School ran several individual training courses as well including a primary leadership qualification, basic military qualification courses for a Canadian high school cooperative program, and infantry-specific courses.

Canadian infantry candidates went through the individual battle task standard recruit level courses during part of the infantry-specific courses. These courses teach recruits the basic information and training that all Canadian Armed Forces members need to know before they attend their trades or specialized training. As Canadian Pvt. Meagan Clinton described, she was excited about this training event and hoped that other Canadian Armed Forces members could experience a joint training event such as this. Her favorite event of the weekend was the helicopter ride to Camp Ripley and to the ranges.

“Seeing the Black Hawks dropping in and then [flying] up and your stomach going with, it was amazing,” said Clinton.

This combined effort has allowed Canadian Reserve units and the Minnesota National Guard aviators to have longer and more unique training opportunities than a reservist or Guard member may experience during a typical training weekend.

For the Canadian Naval Reserve, the choice to train at Camp Ripley was a simple decision. Moulson described how the alternate ranges his unit could have trained at in Canada were seven to eight hours away from their home unit, much further than the trip to Camp Ripley – especially via helicopter.

The Canadian Sailors also highlighted that Camp Ripley ranges were significantly larger than anticipated, allowing many units to train simultaneously. Canadian Command Sgt. Maj. Jon O’Conner, the master warrant officer from the Canadian Army Reserve, commended the accommodations, hospitality, and various services that Camp Ripley offers during these types of training missions as a significant contributor to why this event is hosted at Camp Ripley.

“It was an exciting weekend for our reservists to experience something new by operating in the U.S.,” said Moulson.

By 1st Lt. Kate Sulzle
34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade
Minnesota National Guard