Following their recent role in supporting the multi-agency flood relief effort in Dorset, Royal Wessex Yeomanry (RWxY) Reservists have returned to Salisbury Plain for a dynamic training exercise.
Not content with once again getting their hands on the controls of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank – one of the most sophisticated and complex Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the World – these civilian volunteers, who spend the working week as window cleaners, shop assistants and 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 RAF. Their joint mission with air crew from 27 Squadron 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 whilst 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.
Harry has been a Reservist for over three years, but this Friday was something special as it saw him do something he has never done before in his life; fly in a helicopter, and a Chinook at that.
“You feel the heat behind you and the exhaust,” he said, “It was all so quick; I got [taken] off my feet a bit when it came into land because the down-draft was incredibly powerful, and I was knelt down and I got knocked over a bit. I did not expect it to be that powerful,”
“Where else are you going to have the chance to do something like that? Hop in a Chinook and dive ou, if anyone is on the fence, just jump in.
“That is what I did,” he added, “I mean before I joined the Reserves I was a musician, a long haired musician, you know, and I decided to just do something completely different and I have not 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.
Over the next few years the Royal Wessex Yeomanry will become one of only a handful of Reserve units to be a part of the British Army Reactive Forces.
This means they will be held at a state of higher readiness compared to other Reservists and prepared to deploy anywhere around the World to protect Britain’s interests and national security.
Major Richard Morgan the Officer Commanding B Squadron in Salisbury said: “We are using tanks for the first time this weekend as proof of principal to see if it is possible to take tanks out on a weekend, given the amount of time it takes to get a tank ready to move and hand it back afterwards.
“We use the Wolf Scout Land Rovers as surrogate training platforms given the complexity of cost and getting tanks out all the time, we can practice with living-off vehicles in the field, communicating on the radios and practising troop movements using the Land Rovers before moving on to using the tanks.”