The Royal Engineers from Brompton Barracks in Chatham, Kent were in the vanguard when it came to confronting coronavirus and now, as the British Army begins to resume training, they are once again forging ahead.
Today, 1 Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment (1 RSME Regt) is reintroducing its trade training programme with several changes in place to ensure the safety of both the students and their instructors. Things will be very different in the workshops, classrooms and training facilities. There is an enhanced hand washing regime vigorously in place, all desks and work benches are set 2m apart, there is a one-way system to navigate through the buildings and meal breaks are staggered to ensure the canteen is never full.
1 RSME is effectively the Army’s apprenticeship centre of excellence and is where Royal Engineer recruits embark on their subsequent trade training following initial trade training at Minley. Trainee engineers can learn a range different trades: from fabricator to welder, electrician to plumber, or in air conditioning and refrigeration. All these trades equip recruits with skills and qualifications that will serve them through their military careers and beyond. These transferable skills are all valuable in the civilian world and make the soldier highly employable when they eventually leave the Army.
Many of these skills came into use when the Army stepped in to support the health service with the roll out of COVID-19 mobile testing units. The unit was asked to help design a vehicle that could safely transport the equipment between locations. The design was the brainchild of Royal Engineer Major Ben Foster, who would be later praised by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter; however it was the team trained at 1 RSME and more importantly their skills that took that design and made it a reality.
Sergeant James Cronin, an instructor at 1 RSME Regt, was one of the team that helped build the first prototype. He said;
“We had to take a basic van and remove the seats. Then, the whole of the rear was then lined with a vinyl flooring that could be sanitised after each use. Additional power supplies were built in and refrigeration units installed.
“We had carpenters building the frames, electricians fitting out the refrigeration and power supply, and fabricators to install shelving for additional PPE storage. The range of skills within our unit crucial to the Army’s capability. We are proud to have done our bit in the fight against coronavirus and we’re now looking forward to getting back to training.”