More than a thousand soldiers from the British Army and 37 international armies across the world are preparing themselves for the world’s toughest patrolling test, taking place in Mid Wales.
Exercise Cambrian Patrol is an annual event organised and run by 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales, based in Brecon.
The exercise is unique, world class and the largest of its kind with some foreign entrants having to claim the right to take part in the UK by winning through their own domestic competition.
This year 137 patrols have entered, including six overseas armies taking part for the first time with soldiers from Nigeria, Macedonia, Cyprus, Belarus and Finland having their first crack at completing the patrol and aiming to navigate their way through the arduous terrain of the Black Mountains of Mid Wales.
Exercise Cambrian Patrol itself began in 1959, when a group of Welsh Territorial Army soldiers designed a weekend training event, featuring long distance marching over the Cambrian Mountains, culminating in a shooting match on the Sennybridge Training Area.
This year’s exercise runs from Friday, October 12, through to Sunday, October 21.
On arriving at the Patrol Base teams, made up of eight soldiers, will be subjected to a thorough check to ensure that they are in possession of the correct kit, equipment and clothing required for the exercise.
Patrol commanders will then be given a set of orders based on a specific scenario involving enemy forces for onward briefing to members of their patrol. They must battle prep and map out a designated route, along which they must navigate through, day and night, and deal with a set of stands: these include casualty evacuation scenarios, dealing with mock improvised explosive device finds, intelligence gathering, seeking protective measures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, a water crossing, close-target reconnaissance and others.
The two-day patrolling mission is a mind-and-muscle sapping 60km, carrying full personal kit and equipment weighing in at 32lbs. At the completion of the exercise each patrol faces a comprehensive debriefing session.
Depending on how they have dealt with all those challenges they are awarded points, for which they will either gain the top gold medal, a silver, bronze or certificate finish. A patrol can complete with five soldiers, taking into account any injuries or other issues which depletes the team, but they can only be awarded a certificate in that instance.
On average, only five per cent of patrols gain the top award while about a third fail to finish, indicating just how arduous Exercise Cambrian Patrol is. Patrols find out how they have done at the presentation ceremonies, which take place daily.
The exercise is mentally and physically demanding and tests all the basic military skills of a modern-day soldier, enhancing leadership ability and levels of endurance and determination.
Split into eight phases, Reserve and University Officer Training Corps patrols will set off on Phases 1 and 8, with Regular and international patrols setting of on Phases 2 to 7.