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Technical skills are tested during exercise

31 May 2017

Hundreds of British soldiers took part in a challenging Army exercise in Staffordshire where their field skills were tested alongside those of their counterparts from France.

Around 500 members of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) used the opportunity to hone their trade expertise on Exercise Griffin Spanner 2017 at the Army’s Swynnerton training area in Staffordshire.

Working in teams, REME soldiers from across the UK pitted their wits against a team from France to solve tactical problems and obstacles including fixing a range of broken down military vehicles, simulating the challenges they could face on operations all over the world.

During Exercise Griffin Spanner, teams of both reservists and regular units from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) competed alongside their equivalents from the French army to identify problems, fix and test vehicles and weapons, and make sure they were operationally fit for purpose and safe to use.

The soldiers had to think quickly on their feet; in one scenario for example, they had to administer battlefield first aid to a colleague affected by a chemical hazard while at the same time repair an armoured and tracked vehicle – all against the clock.

Craftsman Sean Hartnett, 23, from Earlsden in Coventry played the part of the soldier injured by a chemical spill. Sean, a recovery mechanic attached to 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (RHA), known as the South Yorks and Midland Gunners, based in Tidworth, joined the Army at 16, something he had aspired to since he was a child.

During his career Sean has been deployed to Canada for nine months and to Kenya in 2014 for six weeks when he provided real life support for troops based there.

In another test soldiers had to repair a 105mm field gun while coming under chemical attack.

Private Saydi Davison, 21, from Northumberland and a former pupil of Ashington High School, took part in this exercise. Saydi joined the Army at 16 and attended the Harrogate Army Foundation College. She is a supply specialist in the workshop attached to 4th Regiment Royal Artillery based at Topcliffe, Thirsk, in North Yorkshire.

Saydi said: “Originally I joined the Army wanting to be a nurse but when I was recruited they suggested I join in a logistics role initially and then that I could swap over, but I just never have.”

Lance Corporal Carl Leek, 26, from Charford, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, took part in an exercise where soldiers “cannibalised” parts from one armoured vehicle to ensure that another broken armoured vehicle was made roadworthy again.

Carl is a member of the Light Aid Detachment (LAD) attached to Stafford-based 16 Signal Regiment, has been in the Army for 8 years.

He said: “The most important thing I’ve learned from this week is the importance of teamwork. It’s been tough at times but in the end really rewarding to get a vehicle in fit and proper shape and fun to work with colleagues on such a challenging task.”

Captain Morgane Joseph –Teyssier, 27 years old, is a member of 8e regiment du materiel (Le 8e RMAT) a French REME battalion, which is based in Mourmelon - le-Grand, near Reims.

Her home town is Lanveoc, Brest, and she joined the French Army in September 2009. She said: “I joined the Army because my father was a Gendarme and I wanted to serve, too.”

She has two brothers, one in the French Navy and the other in the French equivalent of the Royal Air Force, the Armee de L’Air.

Captain Joseph-Teyssier, who headed up the French Army’s team at Exercise Griffin Spanner, added: “This is the first time all of us in the team have worked in the UK alongside our British counterparts and I will be recommending it as an excellent experience to my colleagues when I return to France.”

Morgane first came to the UK aged 14 on a high school exchange trip with the Dover Military School. The French officer has previously served on operations in the Central African Republic in support of French forces and also in New Caledonia; she attended a military school in Aix-en-Provence from the ages of 15 to 20.

Major Will Johnson, Training Major at Force Troops Command, said: “The REME are a peculiar beast, they are geographically dispersed throughout the Army. This exercise is massively important to us because it enables us to bring together and concentrate REME training in one place to provide quality assured and Corps specific REME training.

“The REME puts the punch in the Army’s fist ensuring that vehicles, weapons and equipment are in perfect working order before being deployed and fixed as soon as possible when damaged on operations. We maintain all the Army’s equipment including helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and even dental hygiene kit and cooking utensils. Without this equipment the Army would not function.”

Major General Tyrone Urch, General Officer Commanding Force Troops Command, said: “This exercise has been a great opportunity to extend an invitation to the French equivalent of our REME.

“They have sent a team over and joined in with one of our Regiments, in fact their General was here yesterday as well, singing the praises of the exercise.”

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