Regiment deals with armed gang in training exercise
Regiment soldiers were besieged by gun-toting hostile forces during a major exercise at a US Marines Corps base in North Carolina on the weekend.
A mixed group of Regiment soldiers and battle-hardened US Marines played the opposition force in a scenario designed to test the Regiment’s internal security and public order capabilities to the limit.
The scenario called for Regiment troops to bring relief to a town hit by natural disaster — and deal with an armed gang and the local strong man, who called himself the Mayor and aimed to steal aid supplies.
Training Officer Major Martin Wyer said after the three-day exercise ended: “The Mayor wanted to take control because it was his town, while our job was to make sure desperately needed food, water and medical supplies got to the people who needed it.
“From our point of view, it went well. There were one or two hiccups, but the soldiers involved performed. It’s about having the ability to lead and command and have an air of authority.”
Major Wyer said that the training in North Carolina would not only produce soldiers better-equipped to deal with their public order role, but give them skills transferable to civilian life.
He explained: “It helps give our soldiers the experience of being calm under pressure, whether they are in an office environment or a teacher or whatever may be their role in society. It helps them find the space in their brain to think logically when everything is going wrong.
“They made mistakes but it’s how they learn from that — that’s what we want to see. We learn a lot about ourselves when we have to react under pressure.”
The scenario was designed to escalate over the three days, culminating in serious public unrest involving firearms with the Mayor and his paramilitary force, followed by an angry demonstration outside the Regiment’s forward operating base.
Pte Dante Durham, 18, a mechanic from Pembroke, and the third generation of his family to serve, was on the front line as the mob attacked the Regiment HQ.
He said: “I wasn’t really stressed out — but it’s a learning experience for everyone. It’s my first trip — I just started in the Regiment in January, so it’s definitely been a learning experience for me.”
Pte Durham added: “I’ve had the occasional problem in my job when you’ve been told to do one thing and then pulled off it to do another job. Just being in the army, you learn a lot about dealing with stress.
“You might not know it, but it all comes in handy. I’m definitely better at handling stress and pressure because of this.”
Pte Frederick Swann, 30, also from Pembroke, said: “I was handling it the best way I could, in a calm and respectful manner. There was a lot of tension but sometimes you just have to deal with it. Being in the Regiment, that’s something you have to do — and since I joined, I can do that better. It’s been an enjoyable experience.
“It teaches you discipline and it’s not the discipline you expect. I notice the difference in myself — it’s self-discipline more than anything else.”
St John’s Ambulance Advanced Medical Responder Deidre Rice, 26, from St David’s, joined the Regiment overseas with the honorary rank of corporal to offer real-time medical support and play a role in the relief operation exercise.
The American-born manager at the Buzz chain of restaurants, added that she was convinced the Regiment experience would help her interpersonal skills at work.
She said: “What I’ve learned means I will always make sure my surroundings are safe and that I’m alert — and it will make me more patient with my customers and staff. You learn a lot about people’s body language and by how they talk to and interact with other people.”
“I’ve also been encouraged to build more skills and advance my medical training.”
Lieutenant Kris Dakin, from Smith’s, was in charge of setting up and running communications for the exercise.
Lt Dakin, a 29-year-old systems engineer for Endurance, said: “Communications are absolutely crucial in a situation like this — the joke we use is ‘no comms, no bombs’.
He added: “It allows us to put into practice all of our training in establishing communications networks, identify weak spots in our equipment and plan improvements.”
Earlier, the troops were airlifted into action by a US Marines Super Stallion helicopter and an Osprey vertical take off and landing transport plane.
Lance Corporal Benjamin Martin, 24, an IT consultant from Sandys, said: “It’s really lifted the spirits of the private soldiers this morning. It was fun. The whole exercise has been great — really tiring, and lots of hard work, but good. The flying was definitely my favourite part, though.”
Private Bryan Turner, 27, on a break from studying network systems and administration overseas, added: “It was my first time on one of these and I was really looking forward to flying. It’s been really interesting overall. I’ve never been to North Carolina and to see how everybody here moves and operates, it’s a great learning experience. You meet new friends and learn a lot.”
Staff Officer Major Joe Carnegie said the safety training and flights were useful experience as the Regiment has a history of flying into disaster-hit Caribbean islands to help with relief operations.
He added: “They have learned very important skills because if we ever have to go overseas to assist, we would be supported by other assets like helicopters.”
Regiment Adjutant Ben Beasley said that Lt Col Brian Gonsalves, the Commanding Officer, was pleased by the commitment and discipline shown by the 180 soldiers under his command at Camp Lejeune.
He added that the soldiers were moving into their final phase of training, which is the live firing package. Using the specialist ranges is the talk of the troops at the moment. It requires a lot of concentration on their part, but I am sure they will all thoroughly enjoy honing their marksmanship skills. At the end of the package, they will all compete — in teams of five — in a forced march and shoot.
“In the competition they will have participate in what we call a tactical advance to battle, or TAB which will be roughly six miles, on foot, with all their kit on their backs, and carrying their weapons, probably totaling about 40lbs. Once they arrive at their destination, they will move straight into a shooting competition: the team that has the best balance of fitness, shooting skills, and most importantly, teamwork and cohesion will come out the victors. The troops are tired, but there is a lot of boasting — I can’t wait to see if they can put their money where their mouths are!”