WEEK 21: The Beginning of Defensive Operations

· Defensive Dream
· Defensive Actions TEWT
· Ex Normandy Scholar Brief
· Ranges

Week 21 is the beginning of defensive operations. This marks the beginning of an entire new set of doctrine regarding defensive operations. At first glance many of us stupidly thought that the British Army has not been on the back foot for decades. Personally, I could not think of a time since Dunkirk when the British Army, instead of going out to close and kill the enemy, has instead had to prioritise their own defense over attack. Well, I thought that until I took some further reading, not just into situations such as the Imjin river in Korea, but in Afghanistan and Iraq, coalition forces have been in a defensive role on a multitude of occasions.

We had a series of lectures regarding the theory, doctrine and historical context of defensive ops. I was sat on in some of these lectures thinking how time consuming it is to build up a defensive position, and then I realised what comes at the end of this module: Ex Slim’s Stand, formally Ex First Encounter, otherwise known as the sleep deprivation exercise. This kind of took the fun out of the learning factor knowing that the summarative assessment is going to involve no sleep!

After the lecture phase our Colour Sergeants took us on Exercise Defensive Dream, a simple couple of hours where we go through how to build a defensive position – everything from trench systems to barbed wire, mine fields to standing patrols. There was a lot to consider! We also began doing TEWTS (Tactical Exercise Without Troops) on how we would defend a position. We were covering the theory of construction and the theory and mental rehearsal of how we would defend a named area of interest against anything up to an armoured battle group. All that was left now was to actually do it on the ground.

Intermediate term also continues a lot of range work; we are spending on average two days a week on the ranges, honing our marksmanship skills and we are now being introduced to different weapon systems such as the Glock 17 pistol. Fundamentally I learnt one thing, all weapon systems, rifle, pistol, machine gun are all relatively similar; learn one, learn mostly all. I will say one thing however, it is difficult to curtail my inner-child when holding the pistol, the urge to try every pose from the James Bond films, quote famous film scenes, shout “desk-pop” or other lines. Of course, we are a professional outfit and passed our weapon handling tests flawlessly.

The week was also interspersed with lectures for Exercise Normandy Scholar, these I have enjoyed a humongous amount! I studied History and Middle-East Philosophy at university, so many of the lecturers who teach us I have heard of before and to be taught by them is a nerd’s dream! Currently we are covering the German forces in Western Europe. And when I say covering, I do not mean to the level that one may find on a TV documentary or even on the internet. We’re looking at minute details such as daily food consumption, the orbat of different battle groups, what regiments were in the region, where they were recruited from, what their doctrine was. I currently feel like I understand the German Army in 1944 more than I do NATO! These are tremendously exciting lectures for anyone who takes our profession seriously. I think Normandy Scholar will be the icing on the cake that is Intermediate Term.