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Wood work

The US might be the world’s most powerful military – and this spot in southern Germany might be very familiar to its troops – but that hasn’t held the Brits back from facing-off their opponents with ferocity and class during Exercise Saber Junction.

The superpower has thrown everything at The Queen’s Royal Hussars battlegroup during its time on the Hohenfels Training Area, from chemical weapons and UAVs to long-range artillery and special forces.

And the aim? To take them and their prized Challenger 2 main battle tanks down once and for all.

And if proof were needed that the resulting clash has helped push the Brits on to new levels of brilliance, just ask Cpl Andrew Shaw (QRH).

“I’d literally just come back from my crew commanders’ course when I deployed here,” he tells Soldier.

“For the first time, and for real, having to manoeuvre the vehicle under contact and get out of the killing area, while at the same time controlling the driver, controlling the gunner, looking behind me and seeing crazed Americans running everywhere, and trying to move in and out of them. That literally put all my training together in one moment and it has got to be the hardest thing I’ve done.

“Just ask the driver,” he sniggers. “He got a bit of a screaming from me.”

It’s all a far cry from the open prairies of Canada, where the regiment usually undertakes this sort of battlegroup exercise.

Instead, this package has seen them deploy as part of the US Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

“There is a lot of freedom of manoeuvre at Batus, so the addition of high features and woodland blocks over here has added a complexity that we’re not used to,” says Lt Jonathan Nice (QRH).

“Having a completely live enemy has also brought a challenge; the fighting has been pretty intense.

“I also think the boys have really enjoyed being given the opportunity to try new things and test ideas they have about camouflage, placing vehicles and how best to use the equipment.

“It’s given them initiative.”

Not unusually, the battlegroup’s Bavarian experience has been characterised by rather a lot of waiting around followed by long periods of high-intensity fighting, something the senior members of the regiment are keen to flag up as being realistic.

“This is the most testing exercise I have done,” continues CO Lt Col Nick Cowley. “It really reflects the complexity of the modern battlefield.

“Within 24 hours we had been in consistent contact. We then had an entire Stryker brigade flow through us, six days of defence with multiple layers of attack and now we’re going into an offensive op.

“The amount they have thrown at us, the aggression of the enemy and the terrain has all been demanding.

“But when it feels so real and testy, that keeps it extremely motivating for everyone.

“Often you have an enemy that has restrictions put on them, but this one has been snatching people, taking friendly forces, they are everywhere.”

Being American, the foe is also incredibly well resourced. But according to the senior officer, that has simply spurred his personnel on.

“They definitely want to beat us, but we want to beat them more,” he explains.

“It’s a challenge and the mechanics are working extremely hard to keep us on the road.

“So far everything is holding up and I’m proud of how the battlegroup is doing.

 

See the June issue for the full story.

 

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