Week 12: Sand, Bombs and Robots

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Lead First gives an opportunity to complete an intensive leadership development course before spending up to a year gaining experience in a variety of Junior Officer roles with the British Army. Successful Lead First applicants will be trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and will be awarded an Officer’s Commission in the Army Reserve. They will then be responsible for leading and managing soldiers, whilst completing up to 12 months on a programme of varied activities and experiences. Think of it as your own graduate leadership training scheme: a gap year with a difference or a taste of life in the Army, but with the responsibility and challenge that comes with being an Army Officer.

2Lt Greville-Smith is currently serving on the Lead First programme and talks to us about his recent deployment in Exercise Shamal Storm.

Exercise SHAMAL STORM saw nearly 100 personnel from 33 and 101 Engineer Regiments deploy to southern Jordan to support the Vanguard Enabling Group rehearsing to deploy, sustain and recover soldiers for large-scale contingency operations. It was also an opportunity for us to practice how our Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Search capability should be conducted in a different context to our recent experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The size, scale and duration of the exercise allowed us to not only capitalise on the opportunity to better understand how Bomb Disposal and Search teams conduct their business, but also work with key external partners. These included military working dogs, Military Intelligence, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, infantry and “ISTAR” assets, conducting Intelligence, Surveillance, Target-acquisition and Reconnaissance. We were also fortunate to train with three explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) teams from the US and meet delegations from Lithuania and Germany.

Training was notionally broken down into ‘crawl’, ‘walk’, and ‘run’ phases with early stages focusing on refreshing basic soldiering skills. One of the most popular days consisted of patrols and section attacks in an area of vast sandy valleys overlooked by the King of Jordan’s viewing platform. EOD and Search training was gradually incorporated across the weeks, as the Training Wing’s plan for the exercise was formed.

The final Field Training Exercise was the culmination of all that we had learned. Living out of our vehicles in the arduous conditions of the Arabian Desert, the exercising Squadron conducted EOD and Search tasks, occupied compounds and fought off ambushes and assaults. The Squadron’s heavy teams became very aware of how cramped living out of Mastiff vehicles can be, but came up with valuable and ingenious solutions to make their lives easier. The troops in top cover also learnt to shoot back at an enemy if they were shooting at them. The Squadron’s light team’s flexibility was particularly apparent; and was able to use routes of its own choosing to tackle tasks from unexpected directions. This included scaling a small mountain on foot to complete a search task when time was tight, the road was blocked and the light was fading. The light team, along with the US EOD contingent, also provided support to an infantry company assault on a village, which had been specially constricted to practice Fighting in Built Up Areas. The rear echelon may have abandoned us on occasion, but we were reliably informed that the Jordanians were glad to have us.

In amongst the training the Squadron was also fortunate to go on a number of cultural visits and better experience a part of the world that is both geologically impressive and historically significant. Visits included exploring the ancient city of Petra and the trekking on camels amongst the epic scenery of Wadi Rum. A visit to Aqaba, where Lawrence of Arabia led soldiers during the Arab Revolt, also revealed that the city had an intriguing fondness for Coronation Street.

Exercise SHAMAL STORM certainly left an impression on everyone that participated in it. The vast training potential of 6 weeks in the desert should never be underestimated and the opportunity to work alongside key supporting elements and the infantry was invaluable.

2Lt. Greville-Smith
Troop Commander, 33 Engineer Regiment, 821 Squadron
On Full Time Reserve Service via the Lead First Scheme