UK — Iron Fist Brigade in huge Canada army exercise

20th Armoured Brigade (The Iron Fist) is cur­rent­ly tak­ing part in a huge army exer­cise in Cana­da, to help pre­pare them for their deploy­ment to Afghanistan next year.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, part of 20th Armoured Brigade, taking part in Exercise Prairie Thunder in Canada
Sol­diers from 1st Bat­tal­ion The Princess of Wales’s Roy­al Reg­i­ment, part of 20th Armoured Brigade, tak­ing part in Exer­cise Prairie Thun­der in Cana­da
Source: Cpl James Williams, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The three-month-long Exer­cise Prairie Thun­der is held at the British Army Train­ing Unit Suffield (BATUS), locat­ed in the heart of the vast plains of Alber­ta in the west of Canada. 

The brigade is due to deploy to Afghanistan next year and Exer­cise Prairie Thun­der forms part of their prepa­ra­tions lead­ing up to their mis­sion spe­cif­ic training. 

Sur­round­ed by end­less bar­ren prairieland it’s not hard for the 1,200 sol­diers tak­ing part to imag­ine they are actu­al­ly in the mid­dle of a gru­elling tour in Helmand. 

They make up a bat­tle group head­ed by 1st Bat­tal­ion The Princess of Wales’s Roy­al Reg­i­ment (1 PWRR) — the first of three bat­tle groups from the Ger­many-based brigade to be put through their paces in the exercise’s fic­tion­al state of Pokharistan. 

Includ­ing Pash­tu-speak­ing Afghan actors who live local­ly in Cana­da, the sce­nario is incred­i­bly real­is­tic, with mocked-up vil­lages com­plete with shops, eater­ies and schools. 

The bat­tle group is able to train in the kind of envi­ron­ment they will face in Afghanistan, con­duct­ing counter-insur­gency oper­a­tions, patrols and deal­ing with locals. 

The con­di­tions are also harsh and change­able, with tor­ren­tial rain turn­ing the prairie into a mud­dy swamp on one day and then swel­ter­ing sun and high winds the next. 

The con­di­tions have been par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult for the Army mechan­ics and engi­neers who have to keep the armoured vehi­cles, trans­porters and tanks going no mat­ter what. 

Lieu­tenant Han­nah Adams, aged 23, com­mands a recov­ery vehi­cle pla­toon with 3 (Close Sup­port) Bat­tal­ion, Roy­al Elec­tri­cal and Mechan­i­cal Engi­neers, who are sup­port­ing the bat­tle group. She said: 

“The recov­ery assets are used to recov­er, unbog and reroll vehi­cles as they move through harsh ter­rain,” she explained. 

“It’s a tough job but our role is so impor­tant — with­out us the exer­cise would grind to a halt. As an Engi­neer­ing Offi­cer it is quite dif­fi­cult to make those engi­neer­ing deci­sions with­out a real sce­nario, so this train­ing is excellent.” 

The exer­cise includes a live fire stage fea­tur­ing mul­ti-pur­pose machine guns, heavy artillery AS90 guns, Chal­lenger 2 tanks and War­rior armoured vehi­cles, before switch­ing to a dry phase in which sol­diers use a state-of-the-art com­put­er-backed sys­tem where their weapons and vehi­cles are fit­ted with the tac­ti­cal engage­ment system. 

The laser-quest-style sys­tem records every detail of an attack, show­ing sim­u­lat­ed injuries from gun­fire, shrap­nel or mor­tar attack dur­ing a mis­sion. Any­one des­ig­nat­ed a casu­al­ty has to be car­ried out of the com­bat zone by their comrades. 

At the end of each day exer­cise plan­ners based at the head­quar­ters are giv­en an after-exer­cise review, often fea­tur­ing video footage to pass on to sol­diers so they can learn from any mistakes. 

Per­son­al admin­is­tra­tion in the field over extend­ed peri­ods also tests the sol­diers’ hygiene and abil­i­ty to live and oper­ate with lit­tle access to the lux­u­ries of home. 

Sleep­ing bags, pon­chos, a bowl to wash and shave in, and ration packs are just some of the hard­ships the sol­diers face. Added to this is the con­stant main­te­nance of kit, equip­ment and vehicles. 

Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of 1 PWRR, Lieu­tenant Colonel Char­lie Sykes, spent some of the exer­cise also liv­ing on the prairie, shar­ing the hard­ships of his men. He said: 

“It’s tough out here and will only get tougher when we deploy to Afghanistan, but it’s excel­lent prepa­ra­tion and I am enor­mous­ly proud with the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of my reg­i­ment and how well they have faced the chal­lenges of the exercise. 

“We are lucky as a bat­tal­ion that we have a chance to come to Cana­da and do this. There are only five bat­tle groups that come out here each year and to be one of them is very fortunate. 

“We have the free­dom out here because of the space and resources — it’s very dif­fi­cult to repli­cate this any­where else. 

“There is no doubt that we are expe­ri­enc­ing the best of British Army train­ing and at the end when we sit down for our first beer, there will be a lot of rem­i­nisc­ing about high points as well as the chal­leng­ing moments — which is what peo­ple join the Army for.” 

In pre­vi­ous years mil­i­tary exer­cis­es in Cana­da have been con­duct­ed with a cold war men­tal­i­ty, deal­ing main­ly in con­ven­tion­al heavy artillery war­fare. Exer­cise Prairie Thun­der has evolved train­ing to also take account of mod­ern war­fare and mod­ern oper­a­tions, includ­ing engag­ing with locals and fight­ing an ene­my in the shape of insur­gents which can often blend in with communities. 

Lieu­tenant Colonel Kev Copsey, Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of 35 Engi­neer Reg­i­ment, who are sup­port­ing the bat­tle group, said: 

“I am extreme­ly envi­ous of the train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties the sol­diers get now. 

“I have done BATUS eleven times at dif­fer­ent stages — from troop com­man­der up to being on the brigade staff. This is the first time I have come back as a com­mand­ing offi­cer since it’s changed. It now reflects how we real­ly do busi­ness in Afghanistan and oth­er oper­a­tional theatres. 

“The sol­diers and offi­cers are bet­ter men­tored, bet­ter equipped and bet­ter ser­viced from the per­spec­tive of range infra­struc­ture and tech­nol­o­gy that sup­ports an indi­vid­ual sol­dier that can be analysed, assessed and approved by using remote elec­tron­ic sys­tems. It is cer­tain­ly very hum­bling to see how quick­ly they learn in a very short peri­od of time.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twitter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →