WEEK 5: Rain, Recces and Regular Force Support

As an Officer in the Army Reserve, you get a huge number of opportunities offered to you – some to train, some to be trained and others to have fun. This week we hear from 2Lt Joe Prior-Jones about his time away acting as the ‘enemy’ for a regular army unit in the north of England.

Acting as the enemBlog 5 - 2Lt Prior-Jonesy forces or ‘civilian population’ for the Regular Army may not be particularly glamourous work, but it is a great opportunity to support their training and pick up some tips. In this case we were supporting a cadre for Recce Troop, 23 Para Engineer Regiment.

The exercise support was split into two parts, a 24-hour field exercise in Otterburn and a 5-day final field exercise in Catterick. My team consisted of myself and 3 other Reservist soldiers during each part.

By the end of the week I had learned how to use various sighting systems, been in a sub-surface Observation Post (OP), and seen (or more to the point didn’t see) the Regulars in Recce Troop conducting their observations and Close Target Reconnaissance (CTR). The Reserve soldiers who came with me also had the chance to practice some of their skills in a field environment and learn more about reconnaissance.

Otterburn provided us with its typical weather, incessant rain and fog. The scenario was for the Regulars to observe a hut which was being used by the enemy to store and distribute weapons to a terrorist group. Our task was to act as members of the terrorist group.

We helped set up the HQ and then took advantage of our time sleeping before starting the night time activities. At around midnight the four of us would be acting as friendly forces occupying a subsurface observation point (OP) before the students arrived to take it over. This would allow them to go through proper handover procedures.

While two of us remained in the OP and the other two, which included me, patrolled off into the rain. Although I had initially thought that being in the OP would have been a more comfortable option on our return 2 hours later, the two in the OP emerged caked in muddy water and shivering. The heavy rain had begun to collect inside and there was now around 2-3 inches of water at the bottom. Unfortunately for the students they would be spending the next 24 hours partially submerged in the OP while our team had the relative comfort of a shed floor. The serials ran well and the Regular staff had factored in some lessons on the equipment which benefited us as well. After the exercise had finished despite knowing where the OP was we never actually saw it from the hut, even when we were closer to it.

Catterick was a far more pleasant experience for both ourselves and the students of the cadre, sunshine and warm temperatures. In this scenario all four of our team were acting as a terrorist cell with a mission to train our soldiers and dominate the ground. This provided a lot of freedom on what we could do as the enemy forces and granted me the opportunity to cover lessons which the soldiers would not normally receive. Personally I was able to talk in detail with the Recce Troop commander and learn valuable lessons on Recce orders and procedures. After taking over our hut on the first day, we set into a routine for the next three days of physical training, lessons, and clearance patrols. All our activities were observed and reported on and despite our efforts, we were still unable to find the student’s OP or spot them on a recce.

Providing support to this Regular Recce cadre was an interesting experience and one which gave me a unique opportunity to use new equipment and see how a Recce patrol functions from the point of the HQ and enemy.

2Lt Joseph Prior-Jones
Troop Commander, Royal Engineers
Student at Hull University