FRESH from playing an important role in supporting the military response to the multiagency flood relief effort in Dorset, it has been back to Salisbury Plain Training Area for army reservists.

Reservists from the Old Sarum-based Royal Wessex Yeomanry (RWxY) have been taking part in one of their most dynamic weekend exercises in recent years.

Not content with once again getting their hands on the controls of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, these civilian volunteers, who spend the working week as window cleaners, shop assistants or company directors, have been working with the most powerful helicopter in the RAF's fleet during an intense weekend training mission called Exercise Spring Warrior.

For the first time in more than a decade the unit teamed up with the RAF.

Their joint mission with air crew from 27 Squadron from RAF Odiham was to co-ordinate the delivery by air of personnel and their Wolf Scout Land Rovers - with the vehicles under-slung from the giant Chinook aircraft. Like all of the training they do, it was about preparing them to do it for real while deployed on operations in support of the regular army.

On any normal Friday, 23- year-old Harry Waddington, from Salisbury, would be selling computers at PC World, but in the Army Reserve, he is a gunner on the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.

He has been a reservist for more than three years, but this exercise saw him do something he has never done before in his life - fly in a helicopter, and a Chinook at that.

“Where else are you going to have the chance to do something like that?” he said.

“Before I joined the Reserves I was a musician, and I decided to just do something completely different. I haven’t regretted a second of it; it has been amazing.”

The majority of the 50 or more reservists who took part in Exercise Spring Warrior are based at B Squadron in Salisbury and were supported by their colleagues from C Squadron in Cirencester.

Their job is to crew the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.

It is a job that will play a vital role in military operations in the future.