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Working together

By Sgt. Peter Fitzgerald
First published in
SFOR Informer#123, October 3, 2001

Some 250 soldiers from the United Kingdom Battle Group (UKBG) gathered for a five-day field training exercise last month at Manjaca Range in Multinational Division Southwest (MND-SW). The exercise tested the skills of the soldiers in a combined arms environment, putting tanks together with infantry, artillery and combat engineer troops.

Manjaca Range - When the troops arrived here Monday, Sept. 10, it was slow going. Wet weather conditions, unfamiliar terrain and the task of putting several battlefield elements together all made for a challenging week. As the week progressed, however, the troops adapted to conditions and became more comfortable working with each other. By Friday the weather had cleared and the final troop battle run was a smooth operation, with all elements taking to the field in perfect co-ordination.

"This gives us great confidence we can work together well," said UKBG Regimental Sgt. Maj. Pete Bullard. "(The soldiers) co-ordinated very well and were comfortable working together."
The goal of the exercise was to give the soldiers experience working together in a combined arms environment, said Lt. Col. Henry Worsley, UKBG commander from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets (RGJ).

"It's also a rare opportunity to experience a major exercise," Worsley added.
Taking part in the exercise were infantrymen, artillery gunners, combat engineers and armoured troops. With the RGJ were the Queen’s Royal Lancers and the Queen’s Dragoon Guards. The impressive display of equipment included Challenger tanks, Warrior armoured personnel carriers and CVRT light-armoured reconnaissance vehicles. Combat engineers had bridging equipment on hand and the artillery had AS90 guns. During the week, vehicles and equipment had to be vigorously maintained because of the wet and muddy conditions.

"It was a hard time the first two days because of the rain. We just had to grit our teeth and bear it," said Rifleman Miguel Caldron, 10th Platoon, RGJ.
The training exercise was progressive in nature, starting at platoon level, advancing to company level and culminating in a final, live-fire, troop battle run on the last day.

Soldiers were faced with three major objectives during the last phase of the exercise: a mounted assault; an obstacle crossing; and a dismounted assault. To put everything together, the troops had to co-ordinate their communications and battle run procedures to control all the extra movements.

After the armoured troops mounted the initial assault, engineers went into action. They dealt with the challenging terrain by laying bridges across ditches and streams so troops and vehicles could cross. One bridge was made of drainage pipes, bundled together and placed in a ditch.
"It's good they get a chance to work on different terrain," Worsley said. "They're not used to it so they have to apply all their skills."

Once the obstacles were crossed, the troops prepared for the final dismounted assault and live-fire run. Supported by artillery fire, infantrymen took to the field. Manoeuvring over several hundred metres in sharp, short bursts, they took down targets along the way before reaching their final objective.
"They've done very well," Worsley said of the exercise. "The proof is in the final battle run. They're much better practised at working with other elements."

Sgt. John Addison, 10th Platoon sergeant, agreed, and said he was pleased with how his soldiers did.
"Considering they've never worked together before, they've performed really well," he said.
The soldiers from this battle group are returning to their home units. Next April they will be part of a demonstration battalion.

They will have to play different roles in the battalion, requiring knowledge of a combined arms environment.
"We have to be practised at this," Worsley said. "That's why it was a good opportunity for us to make use of this training. It was very much worth it."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK
Training and Exercises