Soldiers from the 1st The Queen’s Dragoons Guards have recently returned from Sierra Leone where they were training and exercising alongside the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).
Exercise Guma Sun saw 88 soldiers from the regiment’s B Squadron spend five weeks training alongside a platoon of soldiers from the RSLAF as they learnt how to live and fight in the Sierra Leonean jungle.
The regiment, also known as The Welsh Cavalry, had already spent 2016 building a strong relationship with the RSLAF as it trained the nation’s army in peace support operations. The long term training plan is to develop the RSLAF capability of carrying out United Nations (UN) Peace Support Operations and its contribution to internal and regional stability.
Major Ollie Braithwaite, Office Commanding B Squadron, said: “This was the first time members of the RSLAF had been integrated into our force on an exercise rather than being taught by us. It was a significant step forward and is a clear demonstration of the strong defence relationship the regiment has with the RSLAF as a result of the military skills training we have been delivering.”
Troops conducted the first phase of training at the Sierra Leone Jungle Training School where they had a chance to acclimatise and were taught how to survive, navigate and patrol in the jungle. It was the first time the school has been used for training since the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
The second phase of the exercise included a live firing package that culminated in a final 9-day training exercise which completed a total of 24 days in the jungle environment.
Pictured: British soldiers take orders alongside Sierra Leone troops.
Major Braithwaite continued: “It was a new experience for the soldiers who were supported by a 38-strong team of opposing force, medics, logisticians, signallers and chefs. It was a real test and the experience will last a lifetime.”
The soldiers were led by the regiment’s own jungle warfare instructors. Aside from the exercise pressures, they faced oppressive heat, the risk of dehydration and the constant noise from insects, birds and animals.
Trooper Samuel Nookie said: “It was a really new experience. I’d heard stories about training in the jungle but I’d never been in the jungle environment before. It’s a really different place to adapt to. The weather is constantly changing. It was usually humid. One day it reached 38 degrees, but then it could hammer down with rain when you least expected it.
“I really enjoyed it. We learnt a lot from the RSLAF. It was an eye opener to see what they can do with the little equipment they have; quite remarkable really. How they survive off the land is incredible.”
'A great experience'
Training for the exercise started in the forests of STANTA Training Area in Norfolk where the soldiers received briefs on the health risks they would face and they also trained in the forest where they were taught some of the basics of jungle operations.
“The skills we practised in Norfolk definitely prepared us,” said Samuel. “It gave us a head start, but you couldn’t match the environment we were going into. It was a great experience and the Sierra Leone troops couldn’t do enough to help us. It started raining in the middle of the night and I woke up to find them building a shelter around us to protect us from the rain. We didn’t even ask - they just did it.”
The 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards is the Calvary Regiment of Wales and the border counties (Shropshire, Herefordshire and Cheshire). Its role is primarily reconnaissance, finding the enemy, and understanding the area in which they operate. It is one of the most operationally-experienced regiments in the British Army.