‘Blue skies in Brecon!’

The Exercise Premise
In November 2020, soldiers from 4 Regiment AAC’s Headquarter Squadron and the REME Workshop Vehicle Platoon deployed to SENTA on Ex BELLATOR STALLION. This was a Battlecraft Syllabus and Live Firing Tactical Training package that was designed to assess and enhance their basic soldiering skills, as well as nurturing and developing leadership, self-confidence and camaraderie.
Live Firing is a vital part of the Aviation Battlecraft Syllabus. It ensures that our ground troops refresh their field skills, maintain their tactical edge and, ultimately, remain prepared to deploy globally as part of British Army’s Very High Readiness (VHR) forces.

The Sergeant Major’s Perspective:
“This training mechanism is invaluable for ensuring our soldiers are prepared for and able to maintain readiness for any future global operations expected of our VHR Attack Aviation Regiment.” – Squadron Sergeant Major (WO2) Matthew Jones AAC

Unit Based Virtual Training (UBVT)
Headquarter Squadron and the Workshop Vehicle Platoon soldiers used the innovative UBVT in preparation for Live Firing at SENTA in Wales. Complementing rather than replacing field exercise, this sort of training enables troops to practice tactics and techniques in an immersive, synthetic environment. It was the first time that soldiers had utilised the system at Wattisham, which was provided by an external company sponsored by the MOD.

The Section Commander’s Perspective:
We started the Exercise in the best way any exercise could start, on a cold November Sunday morning arriving at Sennybridge’s infamous cattle grid. However, to my surprise the sun was out! We began by issuing kit and briefing the exercising troops for the next few day’s activities.
Day 1: Starting with ‘Preparation for Battle,’ it quickly sank in, not only to me, but the Section that it was going to be several fast and furious days. With ammunition issued, radios working (which always helps) and cam cream donned, it was time to do a ‘round robin’ of stands. We began with a patrol to another farm for the first stand of the day. By this point the Section had the cobwebs blown out and they were genuinely excited about the week ahead. That evening led into a tactical night navigation course and Close Target Recce (CTR). It was inevitable that a few of the Section disappeared up to their waist in bogs and ditches (it is Brecon after all), but it was valuable training, nonetheless.
Day 2: Began with contacts (encounters) with multiple enemy positions. After clearing one of the positions, we were contacted by one enemy soldier who then surrendered, leading us into a Captured Persons (CPERS) training serial. Once the CPERS details passed over the radio, we handed them over to the Sergeant Major and his Quick Reaction Force (QRF) at a designated Collection Point. With what seemed like 30 mins having passed since we left our Patrol Base (PB), to my surprise we had been on the go for 2-3 hours, putting into practice all that was revised the day before. Patrolling back to the PB with rumbling bellies and the thought of food in our heads, I heard “CONTACT REAR” and then “CASUALTY”. With this emerging situation unfolding, we effected a withdrawal with the casualty, whilst my Delta Fire Team gave covering fire.
Day 3: Live Firing (LF) started quite literally with a bang – and big bangs at that – with High Explosive grenade throwing. This was the first time I had thrown a live grenade, as it was for many in the Section, and there was a certain nervousness, albeit coupled with confidence from the dry training received beforehand. Soon we found ourselves in the range hut which was made of thick blast walls and we heard the first grenades detonate with a dull yet powerful thud; the trepidation quickly changed to exhilaration. It was time to earn my money leading my section onto CHARLIE Range. After the initial contact with the enemy, we formed a Base Line and then went on the attack to take the enemy position. Hastening through a typical ditch, which sapped the power out of our legs, this was followed by a hill – well of course it was… Myself and my Point Man are soon up the hill and ready to post the grenade into the enemy position. I posted the grenade, with my point man and Safety Supervisor swiftly taking cover while awaiting the thud of the grenade. As soon as it went off, we fought through the position. With a couple of seconds to catch my breath, it was soon back down the hill to the Base Line to begin a withdrawal back to the PB.
Day 4: Commenced with another Fire Team attack, progressing to Section Attacks. With the Section reunited, it was time to put all the previous days’ training into practice. With wet feet from patrolling through streams in the dead ground, we were contacted from the front. With the previous practice completed, it all fell in to place with a slick Fire and Manoeuvre into a Base Line. I took a condor moment and came up with a plan, earning my Section Commander pay! With the Section 2IC briefed and cover provided by smoke grenades, Delta Fire Team suppressed the enemy and Charlie Fire Team simultaneously moved to a right flanking position. Through a ditch and up the standard hill to the enemy position, we engaged it with a grenade and rifle fire. Once Charlie Fire Team called position clear Delta Fire Team joined us and the re-group began. However, Section soon received IDF contact from an in-depth position. So, it was time to withdraw back down the hill AGAIN! Once into our Base Line, our remaining smoke was ‘popped’ and the Section withdrew back to the good old ditch, then proceeded to peel out of contact.
Utterly drenched and totally exhausted, but with beaming smiles and heads held high, we knew what we had achieved over a testing week. The time away from barracks was much needed and our skills had been sharpened to a fine point. When it comes to soldiering, this type of training is what makes the difference on the Battlefield.

Corporal Darryl Abbs AAC