Service battalion

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A service battalion (svc bn; French: bataillon des services or bon svc) is a unit of the Canadian Forces (CF) that provides combat service support to a brigade group and its elements.

It is able to fight in a defensive role as well as provide the vital logistical support to sustain the operations of the other units within the brigade group.

Sub-units[edit]

Service battalions are normally subdivided into:

  • a battalion headquarters (Bn HQ), concerned with overseeing the effective training and employment of all companies within the battalion. The HQ usually consists of the command staff, an orderly room, an operations cell, a training cell or platoon, and a signals troop.
  • a maintenance company (Maint Coy), which provides automotive, mechanical, electrical, weapon maintenance and support to the brigade.
  • a transportation company (Tn Coy), which provides transportation and movements support, both tactical and administrative, to the brigade.
  • a supply company (Sup Coy) which provides general supply support to the brigade.
  • a food services company which provides meals to the soldiers.
  • an administration company (Admin Coy), which provides internal service support (maintenance, transportation, supply, etc.) to the battalion and its elements.

Flag[edit]

The Unit flag of a service battalion is steeped with the traditions of its founding Corps. The flag is a tri-color with the top and bottom equaling 2/5ths of the height each and the centre equaling 1/5th of the height. The official colours of the unit flag are Oriental blue (top) and Marine Corps Scarlet (bottom) with an intervening gold stripe. Then it has a large white Arabic numeral representing the number of the Service Battalion emblazoned on both sides in the flag's centre. These regal colours have a long history of association with army services. The Oriental blue colour of the flag is reminiscent of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC) flag while the gold colour can be found on the former banners of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC), the Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers Corps (RCEME), and the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps (RCAPC). The Scarlet colour may have some reference to the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC); the Militia Medical Companies were, for a short period in the early 1970s, incorporated into the Service Battalion organizations. More correctly it refers to the Scarlet accoutrements’ on the RCOC and RCEME dress uniforms earned through its close association with the Royal Canadian Artillery in the early 1900s. This flag was designed by Chief Warrant Officer Phil Raven during his time as regimental sergeant major of 2 Service Battalion in the 1970s.

Service battalions of the CF[edit]

The following are the current service battalions in the CF, by brigade:

Regular Force[edit]

Historically, 3 Service Battalion was located at CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick, in support of 3 CIBG until disbanded in the early 1970s. 3 Svc Bn served as the "Experimental Service Battalion" from 1963, when brigade-level combat service support resources were pooled under a single commanding officer and headquarters. This model has served the Canadian Army, albeit with some changes, since being adopted by the other brigades in 1968. Based in the Federal Republic of Germany, 4 Service Battalion was created at CFB Soest in 1968 and moved to CFB Lahr in 1970 in support of 4 CMBG until the close out of Canada's NATO commitment there in 1993.

Service battalions were part of Canadian mechanized brigade groups (CMBG) but have been transferred to area support groups (ASG).

Reserve Force[edit]

Operational Employment[edit]

Although Canadian service battalions were a product of the Cold War and were expected to operate as complete units in support of Canadian Army brigades and brigade groups in the field, the recent[when?] move to fourth generation warfare has altered their role. Combat service support to ongoing operations, e.g. in Afghanistan, is now generally provided by 'national support elements', tailored to the task at hand and not necessarily formed of just one service battalion. This change has made service battalions largely force-generation units, which admittedly also provide essential support in garrison.

LCol John Conrad bleakly described the evolution of Canadian logistics in his book, What the Thunder Said: Reflections of a Canadian Officer in Kandahar. He deployed to Afghanistan with an establishment capped at 300 all-ranks that almost failed to fuel, fix and feed troops during Op Medusa in the summer of 2006. The doctrine, he describes, was unprepared for the intensity of mobile 360° warfare. At one point the planners lost count of LAV III cannon ammunition just as the battle group was firing much more ammunition than any tables predicted. In another section, he wrote about his own command group hitting an improvised explosive device west of Kandahar City, conducted the response drills then summoning his administration clerk with mock gravity to draft CF52 General Allowance Claim to replace the underwear he soiled. Conrad's book is surprising but rare glimpse inside the logistics function in battle.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Book:"To Kill A Battalion: The Regimental History of 32 (Moncton) Svc Battalion" by Paul E. Belliveau and J. Darrach Murray, 2010