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A Life in ARMOUR

George Wallace

Army.ca Dinosaur
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Some very good examples of what life is like in ARMOUR explained below:

Tango2Bravo said:
Please note that the system is changing, and I went through the older version with Phases (I started as a RESO officer before joining the Regular Force, so my experiences are not necessarily typical).  I will avoid giving timelines and course progression, as it has changed, but I will try to give you an idea of what the training is like including the major pitfalls.

While the aim of training for OCdts/2Lts is to train them to be Troop Leaders (size of the Troop depends on unit role and is currently under review, anywhere from 4 to 8 vehicles), you will start with the basics. As Recce 41 states, Gunnery is the first major technical skill that you will be assessed on.  Some people catch onto Gunnery right away while others take longer. You will need to combine theoretical study (mostly memorization) with the ability to apply "hands-on" drills.

You ask if most people who apply themselves pass the course and I would answer that while you must apply yourself, sheer effort alone will probably not get you through. The art of crew commanding an armoured fighting vehicle is simple in theory but difficult in the application.  I've seen some great guys not pass Phase III/RESO III etc despite being motivated, fit and of excellent officer material (in my opinion).

When you get to the field you will receive practice and assessment on crew commanding a single vehicle.  In the previous years this was the major pitfall in my opinion.  Failure rates varied, but you could count on several candidates not being able to pass this phase.  The inability to navigate a moving vehicle is probably the biggest single cause of failure.  This is trickier than it sounds, as you cannot use a compass, the vehicle is moving, you are usually going cross country, you are trying to pay attention to the Tp radio net and you just dropped your map into the bottom of the hull/turret.  Now your drop cord unplugged and the driver cannot hear you.  You finally retreive your map and get your head out of the hatch and find your vehicle off on its own somewhere and you can't find a reference point.  Your DS is asking you to point out your position on the map with a fine tip pencil.  Oh dear... 

In addition, as mentioned earlier, the turret is stabilized and can cause your eyes to send misleading messages to your brain.  Perhaps this is the "spatial ability" they mentioned.  You also have to be able to translate your intentions to the crew (especially the driver) in a timely and accurate manner without hampering their initiative.  This is also an acquired art and the failure to obtain it can lead to problems (learned through personal experience).

Phase III used to be on Leopards which required an understanding of Tank Troop tactics. These are relatively simple but committing errors such as going broadside to the enemy, parking on top of the highest feature (the 220 feature was always a good one), cresting yourself (going "tracks-up") or moving beyond the support of the rest of the Tp could all lead to failing a trace.  Safety violations could also cause failure (not looking behind when backing up, hydralic safety violations etc).  Coyote tactics are perhaps more demanding as you will work in the Patrol context (two vehicles).  I'm not sure how this will be done in the School and perhaps some people on this board can help out here.

To be successful you should be able to navigate using dead reckoning, be able to look and think long range (good eyesight helps), participate in three conversations at once and be able to live and work in very tight confines.  Being in a tank or Coyote crew is an awesome experience and I certainly miss my old tank (my LSVW is just not the same).  I'm sure that others can add things I've missed.

You should find Armoured DP 1 Training challenging in both the physical and mental sense.  I think that your former Infantry OC was pretty much on the money in his description of the different trades in relation to each other.  Bear in mind, however, that Infantry, Armour, Artillery and Combat Engineers all have elements in common in their training.

Good luck if you choose to go Armoured!  Remember that finishing your formal training is only the first step and when you get to the Regiment the Troop WO, BC and OC will all round out your training (especially the Tp WO).


Tango2Bravo said:
Okey dokey, I'll give it a whirl.

I was an armoured officer in the Reserves (1st Hussars) for about seven years before component transfering to the Regular Force (RCD). 

The overwhelmingly most common first appointment for a newly qualified Armour officer at a Regiment is Troop Leader.  That being said, if you come in with a big crop (more than six or seven officers) you may find yourself waiting in the wings as an Liaison Officer (LO) or an assistant to someone.  This is never intentional, but sometimes it works out that way.  Its pointless to worry about it, so don't try to submarine course mates to avoid this.  Karma will punish you for this by reincarnating you as a donkey in Afghanistan .>:D

In theory, you should Troop Lead for at least two years.  Some do three.  Some do one.  Your going on deployment will depend on the tempo.  During my last three year tour at the Regiment practically all of the subbies who arrived deployed at some time.  Some waited two years, some waited six months.  Its luck of the draw.  After three years you should find yourself posted to either a Reserve Unit as RSS or to the School as an instructor.  If it all works out you will then come back after three years as a Captain.

You should get at least one secondary duty.  Take it seriously and do it well, since the grown-ups will notice when it isn't done (since you are often the only one doing it and they get nasty letters from Base when things get neglected).  Don't let it preoccupy your time, but if you are spending your workdays browsing Army.ca you could probably afford to do the Fire Prevention Inspection.  If you are at the RCD then you need to take your turn setting up coffee for your brother officers.  Do not screw this up.  Believe me.  Especially donut day.

I can't really comment on the difference between the RCD and LdSH(RC), having only served in the RCD.  I will generalize that the Strathconas tend to take being a "subbie" a little more seriously than we do.  Both have fairly active mess lives.  Both have traditions and share aspects of being in the Armoured Corps.  Beyond that cosmetic stuff the real difference is that as a Dragoon you will be Recce and as a Strathcona you will be Direct Fire Support (although they still had a Recce Sqn when I was in Edmonton this past fall).  You should be happy in either Regiment, although of course in private I would recommend that you go Dragoon (if I like you).

If you do get to be a Troop Leader in any of our three Regular Force regiments then listen to your Tp WO and Battle Captain.  Take it easy at first if you can.  Take care of your troops.  Don't worry about your career.  Have fun but be accountable for your fun.  Did I mention that you should listen to your Tp WO?  Don't take it hard when he counsells you behind closed doors.  He is doing you a huge favour.  While you are at it, listen to your gunner on a Coyote or your loader on a tank.  He is often a MCpl about to take a callsign of his own and has been picked for that jo.  On exercise he can be a wealth of ready information.

Best of luck!


Tango2Bravo said:
Some good points here. 

I am an armoured officer, so I will offer you the responsibilities of an Armoured Troop Leader.  A troop is the armoured equivalent of an infantry platoon (both are sub-sub-units) and is the first "command" for a qualified junior armoured officer coming out of the schools.  A troop can have anywhere from four to eight vehicles and sixteen to thirty soldiers depending on the organization it comes from.

From chapter two of the good book "A troop leader is responsible to the squadron commander for the command, control, organization, fighting effectiveness, training, discipline and welfare of his troop.  He understudies both the battle captain and the squadron liaison officer and replaces them when necessary."

While the troop leader is responsible for all those things, he is certainly not alone.  The troop warrant officer is the 2ic of the troop and has a wealth of training and experience (the troop leader has some training and usually no experience).  Together, the Tp Ldr and Tp WO are a command-team.  While the Tp Ldr is responsible for everything, the Tp WO is the one who has the focus on morale and discipline.  He is also the one who organizes the troop in the sense of assigning positions to the soldiers in the troop (manning is very much an SSM thing).  Fighting effectiveness involves things like maintenance and readiness, in which the Tp WO and Tp Maint Rep (often the Tp MCpl) have a huge hand.  Training is also shared.  The Tp Ldr may be the one drafting a troop training plan (if there is one), but the Tp WO and NCOs will all contribute and will the ones executing it for the most part. 

I think that as long as the troop leader consults with his troop warrant before doing things that have an impact on the troop everything should go OK.  For instance, when a task comes from SHQ for your troop to provide a soldier for something do not come up with a name on your own and give it to them.  Go to your Tp WO and ask him.  If you are tasked to run a rifle range do not cloister yourself in an office and come up with a plan on your own.  Go to your Tp WO to devise the way ahead.  In the field you may not be able to have a council of war with your Tp WO and other crew commander for every tactical decision, but if you have the time and opportunity it is never a bad idea.  When you start out you should be given some time in the field as a troop to "shake out."  Take this time to work out troop drills and SOPs as a group, so when you have to do it quickly you've already discussed with them the best way.  Crawl, walk run as opposed to our urge to run, stumble fall.

The Tp Ldr who tries to do everything and arrives breathing fire will often fail.  The thing to remember as a newly arrived officer is that you are still being trained.  Officer training at Gagetown is high-quality, but it is only the start point.  Your Tp WO and other NCOs will continue to develop you, as will the officers in your sub-unit.

During my time as reserve troop leader, in garrison I looked after paperwork (UERs etc) for the soldiers, attended meetings, passed on O Gp points to the soldiers, drafted training plans and read the odd Sentinel magazine in the Tp office when hiding from the BC.  I taught the odd class (troop tactics etc) and attended hands-on classes given by the NCOs (gunnery, comms, etc).  On weekend exercises I would lead the troop in the field, assisted of course by my Tp WO and my Tp MCpl who was also my gunner and or driver.  I was the course officer for several courses and attended other courses as well.

I apologize if I gave you too much and if it was armour specific. 


Tango2Bravo said:
As an Armoured Officer you will initially serve as a Troop Leader on either Coyotes in a reconnaissance squadron (Recce Sqn) or on Leopards in a tank squadron.  Both deploy now regularly and see combat.  A recce troop tends to be bigger (up to eight vehicles with thirty personnel) while a tank troop has four tanks with sixteen personnel.  You need to like being in big machines.  If watching Truckzilla wreck stuff doesn't appeal to you on some level then maybe look elsewhere. 

In both organizations you will be crew commander as well as the troop leader.  This is a big job, but you will be helped by several people (primarily your Tp WO and your own crew).  The training to get to that initial position is quite rigorous and you might find yourself in another branch if things don't go so well. 

In garrison you will look after the administration for your soldiers as well as planning/executing training.  You will do PT each day and will help out with maintenance on the hangar floor during Stables.  You will party in the mess on Fridays and drink coffee each morning with your fellow officers after Sqn PT.  You will get secondary duties and will also get extra duties when you foul up.  The BC will be mean to you unless he is in a good mood and the Sqn 2IC will play "good cop" unless you lost a PER or are late on an SI.  Garrison life is pretty similar for all officers in field units regardless of branch. 

In the field you won't sleep very much and being in an AFV is fatiguing (believe it or not).  You have to be able to think quickly and be able to pass your intentions on to others in a minimum of words over a radio or vehicle intercomm.  Recce troop leaders tend to be in a more independent role but are often separated from their troop.  Tankers get to be tankers with a bunch of other tankers!  Field exercises are the pay-off and you have to be ready to make the most of them.  Depending on the operational cycle for your unit you could be in the field a lot or not very much.

If you deploy as a troop leader you will have tremendous responsibility, but you have a long road to get there and you will be ready.

Best of luck. 

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