While Britain has been gripped by the ‘Beast from the East’ for the last few days, soldiers from Balaklava Troop of the Light Dragoons have been living and working in even more challenging conditions on deployment in Eastern Europe.
As part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in the Baltic region known as Operation CABRIT, the Light Dragoons are supporting a US-led battlegroup, working alongside Romanian and Polish forces in Poland, to reassure our allies and deter our adversaries.
The troops recently completed cold weather training comprising extended periods of time operating in sub-zero temperatures, conducting simulated battlefield tactics alongside their multinational counterparts.
Vehicle commander Corporal Callum Richardson shares a personal perspective with his crew including driver and gunner, in their Jackal vehicle, as they live and work in temperatures around -10 degrees centigrade. He says: “The running of the vehicle is done by the crew; the driver, gunner and commander working together to ensure that vehicle stays serviced, stays on the road,”
Teamwork and close collaboration is vital in such a tough environment and each member of the three-man team works hard to support his colleagues and keep the vehicle moving. “We definitely are close knit, 100 per cent,” says Cpl Richardson. “The driver is not just the driver, he’s there to assist with observation. The commander is sending things up to higher and the gunner in the back is not just on the gun, he’s also got the heating vessel which heats up all of our warm water and heats up all of our food. So, he’s constantly passing you hot food, and making you the hot brews to keep you warm.”
At very low temperatures, even the most fundamental tasks like cooking, washing and shaving become extremely challenging. Equipment needs special care and attention to remain fully functional and daylight hours are shorter, resulting in less time available to perform certain tasks.
Dense woodland provides additional challenges for vehicle navigation as there are few landmarks to aim for and local maps can be confusing as they use different symbols from the British.
It definitely improves you as a soldier. Cpl Richardson
Cpl Richardson says: “It definitely improves you as a soldier. You’re not just having to look after yourself, you’ve got to think about others as well. You’ve got to ensure they’ve got hot scoff and a hot brew when they come off sentry.”
Watch the video, which demonstrates the British Army’s extremely high level of preparedness for these difficult environmental conditions and underlines how the Army is able to adapt its training from the hot, dry and dusty conditions experienced in parts of Afghanistan and Iraq to a new area of operation much closer to home.
Top tips for combating the tough conditions from Corporal Richardson: “Ensure you’ve always got a dry set of clothes, wear the kit you’ve been issued and always have hot drinks whenever you can.”