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Reserve soldiers train on Challenger
SOLDIERS from Old Sarum based B Squadron The Royal Wessex Yeomanry have just completed their Annual Camp which culminated in them operating the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank on Salisbury Plain.
Until the new plan for the Army Reserves was introduced, the squadron’s role was to provide individual reinforcements for regular units, but now they are being tasked with providing a fully trained crewed troop of Challenger tanks.
The Royal Wessex Yeomanry will be one of only two combat reserve units to be part of the British Army reactive forces, which are held at a state of higher readiness and are prepared to deploy anywhere around the world.
This year’s camp began with a visit to the battlefields of Normandy, then on to Westdown Camp where they trained on simulators for a week before collecting their Challengers from the King’s Royal Hussars in Tidworth and beginning the field training phase.
Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Chris McGregor said: “This is the first time the regiment has been out on exercise with Challengers on Salisbury Plain so it's a learning experience for us.
“We're doing what we call ‘return to’ roll training - although we have ex-regulars, we need to get them back up to speed and revise safe procedures for operating with a complex and inherently dangerous piece of equipment.”
Salisbury trooper Charles Ellen, 29, who works in Army Recruiting at Upavon, said: “I joined the TA about a year ago and I have done two, two-week courses on the Challenger.
“Driving a Challenger is incredible - it is a lot of fun but also a lot of responsibility because it's heavy and big, so you have to know what you're doing. “The largest thing I driven before was a Land Rover, so it took a bit of getting used to.”
Captain Damien Thursby, 31, a civil servant at Larkhill, said: “Since the Future Reserves 20 announcement we are actually getting to see the tanks more and having more opportunities for all the guys to get out on exercise with Regular units, which is great.”
The last time reserve soldiers worked as a group with Challengers was a short trial in 1996, but before that it was during the Cold War in the 1960s when there were National Servicemen who had to complete three years with the TA and kept their skills alive.
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