UK — Riflemen practise a 24-hour worldwide deployment

The 4th Bat­tal­ion The Rifles (4 RIFLES) Bat­tle Group has under­tak­en a last minute exer­cise to test their mobil­i­sa­tion pro­ce­dures for their new role as the UK’s Spear­head Lead Ele­ment (SLE).

Troops from the 4 RIFLES Bat­tle Group test their mobil­i­sa­tion pro­ce­dures for their role as the UK’s Spear­head Lead Ele­ment [Pic­ture: Sergeant Gary Kendall RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

This role, which they took up in Octo­ber, means they are on 24-hour notice to deploy any­where in the world if UK mil­i­tary assis­tance is required. 

Exer­cise First Thirst saw the troops from Bul­ford, Wilt­shire, receive an order late at night, telling them that they had 24 hours to get to the Joint Air Mount­ing Cen­tre (JAMC) at South Cer­ney, in Glouces­ter­shire, and plan for immi­nent deployment. 

Major Jon Coomber from the Army Head­quar­ters Com­mit­ments Direc­torate explained that the next call could be for real: 

“Poten­tial­ly there are a num­ber of volatile coun­tries to which the SLE might have to deploy, should force be required for con­tin­gency oper­a­tions, such as non-com­bat­ant evac­u­a­tion,” he said. “This call-out exer­cise is just a prac­tice, to test their readi­ness and procedures.” 

It’s a reminder that, for the British Army, oper­a­tions are not just about Afghanistan. There is also a need to main­tain a range of forces, ready to react to trou­ble any­where in the world. 

The alert mes­sage came through at around mid­night on Sat­ur­day. This meant that sol­diers had to can­cel their week­end plans, but for most the antic­i­pa­tion of an immi­nent deploy­ment was thrilling. Cor­po­ral James Cook, Sec­tion Com­man­der in 1 Pla­toon, A Com­pa­ny, said: 

“I think that’s the excite­ment, it’s the unknown; one minute you can be at home doing what­ev­er and the next you’re on a plane to any­where. You don’t know what you’re going to be doing, it could be absolute­ly anything.” 

The Rifles were joined by just over 130 troops from attached arms, includ­ing engi­neers, medics and sig­nallers, bring­ing the total involved in the exer­cise to around 270, plus JAMC staff. 

The main aim of the exer­cise was to get every­one to the Air Mount­ing Cen­tre with all the nec­es­sary stores, vehi­cles and equipment. 

This meant check­ing scores of ISO con­tain­ers, con­tain­ing every­thing from ammu­ni­tion and spares to rations and office sta­tionery, and get­ting some 47 vehi­cles ready for air trans­port to a glob­al trou­ble spot. 

The 4 RIFLES Motor Trans­port Offi­cer, Cap­tain Andrew Pem­ber­ton, said his sol­diers have been work­ing hard but that they’re part of a wider effort: 

“It’s encour­ag­ing to see the state of the vehi­cles, many of which are new. How­ev­er, to get this par­tic­u­lar part work­ing prop­er­ly, the RLC [Roy­al Logis­tic Corps] and RAF movers have a sig­nif­i­cant team in place here at South Cer­ney and it’s those guys that make the smooth tran­si­tion for us.” 

With the troops arriv­ing on Sun­day evening, the bulk of the work was done through the night. The troops went through the mobil­i­sa­tion con­trol process too, being issued with their dog tags, hav­ing pass­port pho­tographs tak­en and med­ical doc­u­ments checked. 

By mid-after­noon on Mon­day the job was com­plete, lessons learnt and reports filed. Once the equip­ment and stores were sent back to the stor­age depots, the troops returned to Bul­ford and their home bases. 

The Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of 4 RIFLES, Lieu­tenant Colonel Nick Thorn­ton, was very impressed by his unit’s response, say­ing some of his logis­tics staff were work­ing until four in the morn­ing to check all of the equip­ment onto the com­put­er sys­tem. He said: 

“It’s been a real­ly good oppor­tu­ni­ty to test where we are and to work out where we can get bet­ter. But we all got here with­in the allot­ted warn­ing time, we have our equip­ment, we would be ready to go. Now we go back home, and wait for the bat-phone to ring again!” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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