As operations in Afghanistan draw down, and the Army prepares for future possible operations, soldiers are relearning their urban warfare skills in a new course launched this week at Copehill Down, Salisbury Plain.
The new Urban Operators Instructors Course will train close to 100 military instructors a year across all arms, who can then go back to their units and teach the tactics at platoon and section level. Designed specifically for soldiers who are already instructors, the course is the first of its kind to give a formal qualification.
SO2 Infantry and the Field Training Unit Major Mark Suddaby, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, explains:
"As we move beyond Operation HERRICK, as we are going to be doing in the next couple of years, and start moving back to contingency operations where forces are waiting to be used as required rather than dedicated to a specific mission in Afghanistan or Iraq, we need to start considering how we could be employed over the next decade and train towards that. We've never lost our urban skills, but it seemed a good idea to bring its training to the fore.
"We've run courses like this in the past for some time but what makes this different is that it is an all arms course, and I am a firm believer that urban warfare is an all arms skill, and that the course also offers a qualification at the end of it.
"We provide students with all the information they need, and then we train them in the second week how to teach that themselves, so when we qualify them they can take that knowledge back to their units to instruct their soldiers. That way we are able to train soldiers exponentially in urban operations in far greater numbers than we can teach here."
'Back to basics'
For the soldiers, more versed in Afghan specific fighting, the course reintroduces the hazards of operating in a conventional urban environment where buildings have multiple floors and rooms are configured differently.
"My experience is from Afghanistan, which is different when it comes to things like room clearance in compounds where normally there is only one level to the buildings. So it's been good to practice things we haven't done since training and go back to basics," said LCpl Keil Appleton of 59 Commando Sqd, Royal Engineers.
"The Low Level Urban Skills Trainer (LLUST) package on the course has also been really useful as you get to go through everything afterwards and it shows you, if you are going wrong, where you are going wrong."
There are currently only two LLUST systems in the UK at the moment, one at Catterick, and one at Copehill Down in Wiltshire. The electronic system monitors the soldiers as they go through a training drill in a building siege, which is then digitally displayed in an auditorium to talk though the development points.
Urban Operations Instructor Sgt Daniel Miller, of 1 Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, said: "The advantage of LLUST is that it gives live feedback after the exercise so the soldiers can see what they need to work on and what they do well, which is far better than a formal feedback session.
"We have got very good at operating in Afghanistan, so the most difficult thing for the soldiers on the course is getting them out of that comfort zone of working in compounds to operating in an urban environment of concrete structures with cellars, multiple floors and sloped roofs.
"And if you look at the world in general, most people are moving into urban environments like that so we need to train for those environments."
The course is two weeks long, and will run twice a year.