Exercise FOUGASSE RETURNS 14-2
The second half of September saw 42 Engr Regt (Geo) deploy on a ten-day exercise to Stanford training area (STANTA). This was to be the second and final regimental level training exercise of the year and the first time the Regiment had deployed together from their new home at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire.
It saw contingents from all four squadrons taking part, including the reservists, 135 Geo Sqn (V). The exercise was split into two parts; first, a technical phase designed to develop technical trade skills, and second, a green phase in which section level skills were to be refreshed and tested in the field.
Report by Spr Pike, 1 Tp, 13 Geo Sqn
13 Geo Sqn set out from Wyton in convoy and arrived at FOB Oakwood on STANTA, where a GSG (Geographic Support Group) formation was set up within the walls of the FOB. The FOB was centred on old abandoned farm buildings, which provided us with accommodation; tented wash facilities and a deployable field kitchen completed the set-up.
After our vehicles were positioned, ‘cammed up’ and technical equipment set up, the intelligence picture was briefed. The scenario was based in a third world country, with a group of militants fighting local government and regional based troops. The scenario was developed with British troops deploying to the third world country as part of a UN peacekeeping force, including a GSG comprised of personnel from 13 Geo Sqn.
The role of the GSG was to produce mapping and analytical products in support of UK forces. The geographic products generated included country and route briefing maps for initial strategic planning, as well as more detailed and tactical-level products such as cross-country movement overlays, deadground studies and town plans, which were created as the intelligence picture developed.
For many of the new soldiers to the Sqn, this would be the first time they had experienced how work was conducted in a GSG, and for some, it would prove to be a steep learning curve. The GSG was broken down into day and night shifts so as to enable a 24-hour geo capability. This tested all those involved, as hand-overs and data management became more complex and the night shift hours proved long! In spite of this, some very good technical work was produced from both shifts.
Having built on the lessons learned from our previous Regimental exercise, drills were clearly slicker, taking us far less time to set up our IT systems in readiness for work. The technicians gained valuable experience on our new Field Deployable Geographic (FDG) systems; how they worked, and resolving teething issues in their application. Trade skills were improved across-the board and areas for improvement were highlighted for future training and development.
Report by Spr Lowes, 1 Tp, 13 Geo Sqn
The second week of the Regimental Exercise was the ‘green phase’, one we’d all been looking forward to. The Sqn was split into sections; a ‘Junior’ section led by JNCOs or a senior Sapper and a ‘Seniors’ section led by the Troop Commanders and consisting of Officers, Officer Cadets and SNCOs.
Prior to deployment on the Sunday, all sections were issued with signals kit before conducting refresher training on both the VHF/HF radios. The exercise then began in earnest, with all sections boarding the TCV’s and deploying from Wretham camp onto the training area. The sections were dropped off 200m from the first bergen cache, and although in high morale, this rapidly deteriorated at the sight of Sgt ‘Pob’ Huish and rumours of the ‘endless tabbing, horrendous sleep deprivation and sheer volume of people going man down’ from the previous week’s efforts.
The stands included Mine Clearance, BCD, CBRN and REME, coupled with the usual military skills elements thrown in. The BCD stand in particular showed some heroism from 1 Section who, instead of driving the casualties in the already running Land Rover, decided to put them on a stretcher and run for, what must have felt like an age, to the HLS. Only on completion was it made clear by the DS, that the Land Rover could have been used!!! The CBRN was conducted over an entire day, consisting of refresher training on the new GSR in ‘the chamber’, as well as training on various pieces of CBRN kit. The day culminated in a gruelling section attack followed by CASEVAC in dress state 4 Romeo. The third day followed a similar pattern to the first, with sections rotating through five serials.
The highlight of the day was a FIBUA stand taught in Eastmere Skills house by Cpls Cox and Whitcher. This was particularly good and very much enjoyed, as very few of the exercising personnel had ever conducted training of this nature before. This was made yet more entertaining by the heroic act of Spr Petrie who propelled himself headfirst into a support beam whilst attempting to clear the first floor!
The tempo increased as the exercise came to a close. After a final recce on the last night, we began a savage tab to the final Bergen cache, which after 36 hours of no sleep, felt like it was on the other side of the world. A traditional ‘final attack’ and run in took place, before we concluded our exercise with an assault course. The winning section came from 16 Geo Sp Sqn. However, as they were the Sqn running the serials, the question of foul play arose! Despite this, it was just good to have finished.