Local helps capture military skills crown
Bombardier Micha Gerber, a Fort Frances resident, won the T. Eaton Cup with his team from the 116 Independent Field Battery in Kenora this past weekend while competing in the 2013 T. Eaton Military Skills Competition at the St. Charles Range in Headingley, Man.
“We hoped for the best but did really expect [to win],” admitted Gerber, who has been with the brigade from two-and-a-half years.
“Having won this, it reflects good on our unit.”
Ten teams competed representing army reserve units from across 38 Canadian Brigade Group (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwestern Ontario).
Gerber’s team represented all the artillery units in the brigade, although it was mainly composed of members from 116 Independent Field Battery in Kenora.
The other members of the team were Capt. Jon Baker, Battery Commander for 116 (from Winnipeg), Master Bombardier Ryan Scott from 116 (from Kenora), Private Patrick Wall from 116 (from Dryden), and Bombardier Trent Campbell from 26th Field Regiment (from Brandon, Man.)
Gerber explained the idea of the competition is for five-person teams to complete a series of timed events based on basic military skills that are designed to test teamwork, decision-making, and physical fitness.
“Going into the competition, we didn’t know what we would be tested on,” he noted, adding they had to be prepared for anything.
“It was all a complete surprise.”
The teams also had to carry all their equipment with them throughout the competition, and dress according to the weather.
Since it was cold in Winnipeg that day (mid-minus teens C with a strong wind), they couldn’t overdress because they had to run with equipment and other weight on their backs.
At the same time, they had to stay warm when remaining static for several minutes at a given stand.
The teams completed in an obstacle course (team relay done on snowshoes), where they ranked third, marksmanship (rifle shoot), where they ranked fourth, rope bridge crossing (ranked second), map symbols (knowledge of map symbols used by NATO countries when planning military operations), where they ranked third, and construct a sandbag wall (ranked third).
They also competed in four more events, ranking first in each of them:
•explosive threats (i.e., recognizing mortars, artillery rounds, rocket-propelled grenades, mines, and other ordnance commonly encountered during combat operations);
•current events (displaying a general knowledge of the world in which soldiers on the ground have to make decisions with potentially strategic level consequences);
•hostage rescue (one member of the team was taken hostage and the remaining four had to enter a room, neutralize the hostage-takers, rescue their comrade, and exit the room as quickly as possible); and
•route march (overall time it took to travel the six-km course that included these various stands).
Their final percentage was 93 percent, which ranked first overall.
“We had to put to use all of the things we’ve learned up until now,” Gerber noted.
Their prize was the T. Eaton Cup, which was donated by Timothy Eaton (founder of the former retail store giant) and first awarded to militia units in the region for their military skills in 1907.
It was awarded almost every year afterwards (except for breaks during the two world wars) until 1983, when the competition was put on hiatus.
The trophy was resurrected again last year.
“The artillery is happy to take home the prize in just the second year of the revamped military skills competition,” enthused Capt. Baker.
“The last time an artillery unit won was when 116 Independent Field Battery from Kenora claimed the trophy back in 1976 just before the hiatus period.”
He added Bombardier Gerber was a real asset to the team.
“He previously demonstrated his high level of physical fitness [last] September when he was selected to represent 116 Independent Field Battery and 38 Canadian Brigade Group at the Army Run half-marathon in Ottawa,” Capt. Baker said.
Gerber plans to continue his work with the unit in the near future.
“I enjoy it and you learn a lot,” he remarked.
“It’s a neat way to serve your country.”