Gunners from the 56th Field Artillery Regiment are taking part in a NATO mission in Latvia.
Seven soldiers from the 56th, a primary reserve force that includes Brantford, Simcoe and St. Catharines, are serving alongside their regular force counterparts in Thunder Battery, the name given the artillery reconnaissance team in Latvia. The name of the mission is Operation Reassurance.
“The contribution being made by soldiers of the 56th Field Regiment to Thunder Battery is rather historic,” Capt. Mike Mathieson, of Brantford, said in a statement provided to The Brantford Expositor. “We are providing a reconnaissance detachment as a unit rather than as individuals filling in a few extra spots.
“This does not happen very often and we’re very proud of this achievement.”
Reservists are part-time soldiers with full-time careers outside the military who train on evenings and weekends. They are trained to the same standards as regular force soldiers.
The battle group was established in June 2017 at Camp Adazi, near Riga, the Latvian capital. It is part of a broader effort to reinforce the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s deterrence and defence stance against potential threats.
In addition to the Canadian contingent, the battle group includes soldiers from Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain working with the Latvian Mechanized Infantry Brigade. The battle group is Canada’s largest mission in Europe since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.
Mathieson, Sgt. Jason Long and Master Bombardier Nick Durrant, both of Brantford, Master Bombardier Jordan Jacob and Bombardier Nicolas Maletta, both of Simcoe are among the local reservists in Latvia. They have participated in Canadian-led training missions, as well as those led by other countries and are joined by Capt. Nathaniel Metherel and Bombardier Scott McCormick, of St. Catharines.
“It was exciting to train with the Slovenians on their mortars and equipment,” Long said. “This was something I have never done before.
“Although their language and equipment are different than ours, I learned that their drills are basically the same.”
During a multinational training exercise, Spanish, Slovakian, Czech, Montenegrin, Slovenian gunners were integrated on the Canadian gun line and used Canadian equipment, becoming familiar with M777 Howitzers.
“Being in Latvia is giving me the opportunity to work and interact with our international allies which taught me many valuable lessons to bring back with me to Canada,” Jacob said. “Working with other NATO nations has been an experience I will never forget.”
McCormick said he is grateful for the opportunity to work with other soldiers and contribute to a multinational initiative.
“We’re here to reassure the Latvians that if a conflict were to happen, they do not stand alone and, at the same time, we are making a point to stand with our NATO allies and friends in this operation,” he said.
Lt. Col. Lawrence Hatfield, commanding officer of the 56th, said he is proud of the contributions made by local soldiers to an international effort.
“To have our gunners deploy as their own detachment and integrate into a regular force unit is unprecedented.”