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Mercian Regiment Reservists test their marksmanship in Northumberland

Reservists from 4 Battalion The Mercian Regiment have been on Exercise Saxon Shield to maintain their soldiering skills.

The ten-day exercise at the Otterburn training area in Northumberland, is designed to make sure the reservists maintain a high standard of skill and readiness to deploy with regular units. It saw the soldiers complete their Military Annual Training Tests.

The troops took part in their Annual Combat Marksmanship Test, various scenarios to test their skills on the range, and completed their navigation tests during the day and night.

Last year approximately 300 reservists from 4 Mercian were deployed to support the COVID-19 test sites in the North West of England, meaning some of their training was delayed. The troops became one of the first reservist units to be called to support Operation Rescript.

Last week’s training exercise came as a welcome break for some of the reservists from their civilian jobs.

Private Harry Lymer, a physiologist dealing with respiratory patients during the pandemic, said,

“It has been a tough last year so it's really good to get out and do something completely different to the civvy job, sort of switch off a little bit. I love working with the NHS patients but it's something completely different so I can leave that behind when I come here."

As well as the live-fire scenarios at Otterburn, Combat Medical Technicians (CMTs) from 4 Mercian oversaw troops who carried out simulated casualty evacuation drills.

Sergeant Faye Shotton, a CMT who has deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Uganda and Cyprus, said,

“Our main role is to ensure our fighting troops are fighting fit. The training is so good you don’t have to think too hard about what you need to do. It’s just second nature.

“My best experience was serving on Op Herrick 10 in Afghanistan. I was only 18 but I was given this huge responsibility and grabbed it with both hands. I grew up fast and learned a lot about life which propelled me into what I am now.”

Sergeant Shotton said her experience as a reservist gave her the confidence to join the West Midlands Ambulance Service and for the last five has been part of a Hazardous Area Response Team, specialist paramedics who are trained to operate in challenging and dangerous situations.

Exercise Platoon Commander, 2nd Lieutenant Emile Mackney, from C (KOHIMA) Company spoke about the troops.

“This exercise has not been without its challenges, all soldiers have really stepped up to the challenges presented. They have adapted to the strict COVID-19 measures in place,” he said.

Commanding Officer, Lt Col Rob Spalton, said,

“This training ensured that 4 Mercian are well trained and ready, both to support the national effort in combating Covid-19 and to ensure that we can continue our support to operations at home and abroad.”