A new association between the 4e Régiment de Chasseurs (4ème RCh) of the French Army and D Squadron of the 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada (12 RBC) took shape during an exchange of units named Exercise CHEVALIER TRICOLORE from March 10 to 25.
Fifty lucky members of D Squadron (D Sqn) were the very first to be able to take advantage of the exchange. They had the opportunity to go to France to meet their counterparts in the 4ème RCh, stationed in the town of Gap in the Hautes-Alpes region of France. A town of 40,000 inhabitants, Gap is located 750 m above sea level. Its ideal geographical position makes it a crossroads of the major tourist routes in the Alps. The 4ème RCh is a reconnaissance regiment of the 27ème Brigade d’Infanterie de Montagne. It is made up of three armoured squadrons, one reconnaissance and anti-tank squadron, one headquarters and logistics squadron and one reserve squadron.
The splendour of the alpine vistas left D Sqn members in awe. They received a warm welcome—facilitated by a common language—from their French counterparts at Quartier Général Guillaume, the home of the 4e Régiment de Chasseurs. Strong cohesion quickly grew between the members of D Sqn and those of the 4e Régiment de chasseurs, thanks in part to a sports match that allowed everyone to demonstrate their abilities. Once the introductions were over, training began.
The first thing our French brothers in arms had planned for their Quebecois cousins was a demonstration of their duty weapons (FAMAS and PAMAS) and a firing drill so that we could try them out. D Sqn members took the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the weapons and also to demonstrate their firing skills. That was followed by a variety of presentations on the history of the regiment, stands to display their new weapon, a demonstration of their fire simulator and a practical gunnery workshop using it. D Sqn members also had a chance to operate French armoured vehicles, including their Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) and the Engin de Reconnaissance a Canon de 90 mm (ERC 90), a six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle.
At the end of the first week, D Sqn was able to attend lessons on more specific mountain methods and techniques, which were quickly put into practice during mountain training.
The second week started with a trip to the mountain military post followed by a ski evaluation, but not just any ski evaluation—one on a ski trail in the Alps. Once the initiation was over, there were lessons for refining skiing techniques.
The first cross-country skiing outing proved to be a tough physical challenge for D Sqn members. The approximately 10-km course, with a 500-metre difference in altitude, was a real shock for some participants, who were used to flatter terrain. A number of mountain excursions, of varying difficulty, were organized over the following days. The cross-country ski climbs, sometimes steep, sometimes over more hilly terrain, were always a stiff challenge for the members of D Sqn. Exercise CHEVALIER TRICOLORE came to an end on a note of camaraderie between the Canadians and French, who exchanged gifts, ranks and berets as souvenirs of their shared adventures.
The D Sqn members returned from France with new and enhanced skills and memories that will last a lifetime. They have already begun making preparations to welcome members of 4ème RCh to Valcartier next winter.
Written by Sébastian Lacasse, Battle Captain, D Squadron, and Samantha Bayard, Canadian Army Public Affairs