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Pathfinders lead the way for airborne forces

The patrolling and tactical live-firing skills of Pathfinders (PF) has been honed in the rugged terrain of Sennybridge in South Wales.

PF is the advance force for 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force. PF soldiers are trained in specialist airborne insertion techniques and capable of conducting offensive action tasks at very short notice.

PF operate behind enemy lines in small, self-sufficient patrols, finding and relaying vital information back to Brigade HQ to enable it to plan and execute missions. A key role is identifying drop zones and landing zones where the main body of troops can be parachuted or landed by helicopter.

A PF soldier said: “We are the first on the ground and our main role is to set the conditions for the insertion of the main fighting force. We work in small teams away from support, so we need to be self-sufficient to be able to get ourselves out of trouble - if we get seen by the enemy or come under fire we want to shoot back and get out of there as fast as we can.”

Fast-moving tactical scenarios on the ranges are the culmination of a six-week selection process for soldiers looking to join PF, with the highest standards of fitness and soldiering skills expected from the outset.

“A soldier looking to join Pathfinders has to be robust, very physically fit and highly motivated. It’s a very arduous course and I was very proud - and excited – when I passed.”