Soldiers from 7 Regiment RLC have begun training for a six-month United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.
The 250-strong deployment will include soldiers from RLC reserve regiments 150,158 Regiment and 159 Regiment RLC. They will deploy on Op TOSCA in Spring 2017, replacing the 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who are currently deployed.
The United Nations has been in Cyprus for 52 years and the British contribution is known as Op TOSCA. It involves keeping the peace along the United Nations imposed ‘Buffer Zone’ that separates the Turkish Forces in the North of the Island and the Greek Cypriot Forces in the South.
It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island.
The 180km buffer zone is patrolled by UN troops and neither opposing side may enter it. 7 Regiment RLC will be responsible for a 33km long section of the Buffer Zone around Nicosia and will also provide a quick reaction force. They will patrol by vehicle, foot and mountain bike talking to the local people of the island and helping to ensure that the UN mandate is maintained.
Pictured: Public Order training for troops of 7 Regiment RLC
Diplomacy and negotiation
The soldiers have already received briefs on the history and ground briefs on the terrain. This week saw them complete public order training. The next three months will see training continue, including night training, before a validation exercise in March whereupon they will receive their UN blue berets.
7 Regiment RLC Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Cornell, said: “Our role will be to keep the buffer zone stable and act as the eyes and ears on the ground. The troops will be out on foot patrol in a sensitive area so they will face situations where they need to use diplomacy and negotiation.
“Whilst deployed they will be under UN command. Reservists and Regular soldiers will work in a completely integrated way, after all they are all soldiers and this will be a great learning experience for all.”