A 30-year-old Army Reserve soldier from Worle, Weston-super-Mare, has a double reason for celebrating a recent promotion.
Kevin Gunner, who is attached to Bristol-based 266 (Gloucestershire Volunteer Artillery) Battery, was always referred to in the traditional Army way by rank and surname – “Gunner Gunner”.
“Inevitably, it led to all sorts of banter as well as confusion on parade nights,” he said.
But now Kev has moved up in the world – to Lance Bombardier Gunner – which has come as quite a relief. “I thought I was unpromotable,” he joked. “Fortunately, I must have impressed the right people.”
These are exciting times for 266 Battery, which has pinpointed North Somerset as a key area for a “recruitment surge” which includes a visit to Weston by a recruiting team on Sunday (30 March).
The unit needs up to 40 recruits to meet its demanding new surveillance role handling the Army’s miniature unmanned air system (UAS).
The hand-launched, battery-powered Desert Hawk II, which provides battlefield troops with an ‘eye in the sky’, is controlled from a lightweight, portable ground station.
It operates within a 15km radius while streaming live video images, day or night, to an Xbox-style touch-screen laptop. It has been used to ensure safe routes for patrols, pick up on any suspicious activity and help deploy support for troops in need of assistance. It carries no weapons or munitions.
More than 20 personnel from 266 Battery are heading to California in May to train on the equipment. Kev will take his turn at a later date.
The plumbing and heating engineer joined the Territorial Army, now Army Reserve, in 2010 – “I wanted a new challenge rather than filling time at weekends on Playstation and have never looked back,” he continued.
“It has boosted my confidence massively, helping to develop my man-management skills. I’ve made a lot of new friends, too.”