Reserve soldiers will play a prominent role in protecting the Olympic venues this summer in one of the most high-profile UK mobilisations they have been a part of.
More than 1,600 Reserve soldiers are to be mobilised ahead of the Games, with 200 already mobilised this week to work alongside 6,000 Regular soldiers for the duration of the Olympics. The soldiers will be providing venue security for the Olympic Park, and other Olympic venues.
As part of their mobilisation, the Reserves are also undertaking a five-day, military-run course to prepare them for the potential threats and dangers of such a high profile event, as well as how to search and manage conflicts in a civilian environment.
“For us this is Operation Olympics, but we are not training soldiers for an operational tour so there are differences,” explains Cpl David Dice of 1 RRF who is instructing the Reserves on Conflict Management and Guarding.
“It’s still military orientated, but it is more low key, which is important to consider when you think that the last time some of these Reserves were mobilised was to deploy to Afghanistan. But they are all volunteers, and just looking forward to getting on to the job.”
One of those Reserves is Pte James Wallace of 202 Squadron, 158 Regt RLC, who is a Class 1 truck driver in his civilian life. James deployed to Afghanistan (Op HERRICK 14) from March to September 2011 with 2 LSR as a tanker and low-loader driver on combat logistic patrols.
“This is the only time the Olympics are going to be in the UK during my lifetime, so I’m really glad to be a part of it,” said James from Ipswich who volunteered for the job as soon as he could arrange the time with his employer.
“A HERRICK tour and this are extremely different obviously, but you soon get used to it and working with other agencies. So, where we would normally be reacting to situations, now we are not because we have other people to do that for us. It’s purely for us to do the labouring if you like, and let the other agencies do their part.
“The hardest bit has been using the scanning machine to be able to spot possible problems that people could potentially bring in to a venue. You don’t want to let anything get by you, but the training that we are getting here, and what we will also get when we get to London will only make us better and better.”
The rapid scan device, much like the one your hand luggage goes through at an airport, is one of the potential bottlenecks for the Games, and something the organisers take very seriously. Using the scanning device takes intensive training to recognise suspicious items quickly and efficiently to allow the large numbers of spectators into the venues without delay.
“We are training to deal with large numbers wanting to enter the venues, so the soldiers need to be able to identify prohibited items quickly and without fuss,” explains Cpl Dice.
“We take the training very seriously spending a whole day just on recognising items going through the scanner. The soldiers then have to take a test, and if they fail they don’t qualify. It’s a hard job with a lot of responsibility so it’s important to get it right.”
Visiting the Reservist during their training, Deputy Commander Land Forces Maj Gen The Duke of Westminster KG CB OBE TD CD DL said:
“It is part of our present and our future that Reserves will serve alongside Regulars, so it is nothing new for Reservists to be mobilised for this – indeed I’ve met an awful lot who are enthusiastic to do the job. This is what FR20 and Army 2020 is based upon: an integrated Army that will serve together and do the job together.
"It’s not new as we have mobilised 26,000 Reserves since 2003 to serve on operations, this is just the most high-profile job we have done in the UK. But if you look over to Canada they ran their Winter Olympic security entirely with Reservists. Reservists bring an interesting military/civilian interface that makes them well suited to the job.”
On completing their training at Grantham the first batch of Reserves will go to London for specific venue training.