RHLI Exercises
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National Defence and the Canadian Forces

Joint Task Force Central & Land Force Central Area

31 Canadian Brigade Group


Exercise "Riley Raider" 11 - 13 May 2012

Story by Capt Tim Fletcher, RHLI
Photos courtesy Maj Robert Tremblay, RHLI

In 2010, the RHLI were given a special new ?specialty? tasking. As part of the overall army effort to provide Reserve units with expanded skill sets, the RHLI were handed a plum assignment ? learning the art of using inflatable assault boats in combat operations. Working with 31 Canadian Engineering Regiment (31 CER) from St. Thomas, the Rileys began training in this unique aspect of warfare.

Initially working on Hamilton Harbour to perfect embarkation, debarkation and recovery drills, the soldiers quickly moved up to the point where they could begin the assault phase of their training. The workup culminated with Exercise Riley Raider the weekend of 11-13 May 2012.

The army rifle range at Cedar Springs, which backs onto Lake Erie near the town of Blenheim, was the perfect location. A gently-sloping beach provided a perfect landing area, and as a rifle range, there was no problem with any noise from blank ammunition in the area.

Using a local park (with town permission), the soldiers refreshed their basic skills and then moved into the exercise. Boarding the boats in the pre-dawn darkness, the Rileys motored out into the lake, practicing careful navigation with their 31 CER coaches. Ashore, a small detachment of ?enemy? waited anxiously, weapons at the ready, hidden amid a ?village? made up of old shipping containers.

Coming out of the early morning mist at full tilt, the rubber boats grated up against the beach sand and as they stopped moving, the soldiers were out and launching their attack. Soon ?victorious? over the defenders, the attackers had again demonstrated the value of unorthodox tactics and as the Riley?s motto says, to be ?always ready? for the next challenge!


Members of the RHLI practice their embarkation and debarkation drills in full kit, with weapons, at the start of Exercise Riley Raider. While the inflatable boats are very stable, they do require specialized techniques for use in warfare.

As in helicopter assaults, each boat is assigned a ?chalk?, the army?s term for the group of soldiers assigned to an aircraft or boat. Each chalk forms up opposite their dedicated craft, ready to board.

Launching assault boats is an exercise in coordination, especially when loaded down with combat life vest, full assault gear and loaded weapons! Each chalk member has a specific position and moves their boat forward at a rush into the water, jumping aboard in turn and using momentum to launch. But you can?t worry about wet feet!

Launching assault boats is an exercise in coordination, especially when loaded down with combat life vest, full assault gear and loaded weapons! Each chalk member has a specific position and moves their boat forward at a rush into the water, jumping aboard in turn and using momentum to launch. But you can?t worry about wet feet!

With the ?safety boat? hovering offshore, the loaded boats moved some distance out on the lake, turned around, gathered into assault formation, and quickly moved ashore. The Riley soldiers moved quietly onto the beach, formed up and headed towards the ?village? farther inland at the Cedar Springs rifle range.

In the village, the ?enemy? (made up of Riley officers also acting as exercise observers) opened fire, forcing the attackers to use proper fire and movement, and command and control techniques to engage the defenders and win the firefight. Many of the soldiers involved, including officers, are Afghanistan veterans and the combat roles have been deeply ingrained into them.

In the village, the ?enemy? (made up of Riley officers also acting as exercise observers) opened fire, forcing the attackers to use proper fire and movement, and command and control techniques to engage the defenders and win the firefight. Many of the soldiers involved, including officers, are Afghanistan veterans and the combat roles have been deeply ingrained into them.

The ?normal? view of Cedar Springs as usually seen by the soldiers. The assault beach, coming off Lake Erie, is behind the mound of dirt which forms the ?butts?, or backstop? for the soldiers using the range for weapons practice.