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Royal Welsh exercise in Canada

28 June 2017

Nearly 1,000 troops formed the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Battlegroup on the BATUS (British Army Training Unit Suffield) in Alberta, Canada, for Exercise Prairie Storm.

The Battlegroup deployed to BATUS from its base in Tidworth, Wiltshire, to demonstrate its ability as a lead armoured infantry battlegroup, illustrating large-scale combined arms training along with 10 supporting units, including the King’s Royal Hussars, who use the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.

For 1 R Welsh Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Clayton, it’s all about reaching a highly efficient level of operability alongside the 10 supporting British Army units of engineers, communications specialists, medics, artillery and others.

He said: “The soldiers arrive here at basic platoon level training but we build that up to a collective level, which is battlegroup training within a brigade context, to be part of a NATO brigade in Estonia.

“The UK Armed Forces contribution is all part of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence.

“On return to the UK from Canada we will continue our mission-specific training for our role in Estonia."

The 1 R Welsh Battlegroup will deploy on Operation Cabrit to Estonia this November, which has placed a greater emphasis on the BATUS deployment. Operation Cabrit is the British Army’s contribution to reassuring its NATO allies of an enduring commitment to collective defence, playing a lead role as part of wider efforts to defend European security.

Lieutenant Colonel Clayton said: “It’s all about being at the peak of readiness and this puts us on the front line and in a position to deploy when needed.”

Lieutenant Mark Jones, 27, from Margam in Port Talbot, started his training in the Army 18 months ago and has been with 1 R Welsh for seven months.

Mark said: “The job for me is to ensure integration of the Warriors with our supporting capabilities such as artillery and engineers to ensure we complete the mission. Our infantry capability will allow us to clear and push through.

“Being able to train on an area that’s roughly the size of Wales allows us to test ourselves in a different way to how we can back home in the UK.

“It can get a little cramped in the turret but that’s where cohesion comes in and building camaraderie. Ultimately, we’ve got to transfer our integrated capability to provide that assurance to the Estonian defence forces.

Major Wayne Roberts, from Corwen, Denbighshire, is the Battlegroup’s Quartermaster and oil in the Battlegroup machine, so to speak, ensuring the troops have everything they need to operate effectively.

“During the time we’re out here there are five maintenance days, essentially, windows in which to replenish the troops with what they need - ammunition, vehicle parts, water: anything they need really,” said Wayne, who joined the Army in 1987 and commissioned through the ranks.

“There’s a lot to think about because you have to ensure up to 1,000 soldiers are looked after and myself and other members of the QM department fly out well in advance to lay the foundations.”

Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, Warrant Officer Second Class, Neil McGuinness, 37, from Rhyl, said it was all about being reactive on a daily basis to the Battlegroup’s requirements.

“Its constant replenishment to keep things ticking over,” said Neil, who has 20 years’ experience with the Royal Welsh.

“We come out a few weeks ahead of the troops to make sure the accommodation and infrastructure is in place.

“Then there’s the 400 vehicles we use on the deployment, the ammunition for the Warriors, 120mm HESH (high explosive squash head) rounds for the KRH (King’s Royal Hussars) Challengers; 7.62mm rounds for the chain guns; plastic explosives, and many other things.

“It’s a day-to-day thing and we have to deliver."

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