Airborne Sappers build their skills in Cyprus

Woodbridge’s airborne sappers have been building up their trade skills in Cyprus.

As well as their combat engineering skills, all sappers are qualified in a trade, such as plumbing or bricklaying. Exercise Pinestick is a regular deployment by a Royal Engineer squadron to build and renovate infrastructure used by British military personnel based on the island and the wider Cypriot community. This time, it was the turn of 9 Parachute Squadron, 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment (23 Para Engr Regt).

On Cyprus for six weeks from late January, the sappers have planned and carried out upgrades to RAF Akrotiri’s force protection; built a new hut and repaired a track at the Dhekelia Scout Wood; and worked on the renovation of the Episkopi Families Centre. In a task close to the airborne soldiers’ hearts, they built a new manifesting shed at Kingsfield Parachute Club and marked the completion of the job by doing freefall parachute jumps.

I’ve learnt a lot and it has made me feel more confident in my trade skills. It has been nice to see all our hard work over the weeks come together and take shape. Spr James Hill, 22

With the 72 sappers returning to Woodbridge this week, 9 Para Sqn RE’s Lieutenant Jake Fountaine said: “This exercise has been an extremely important experience for our troops. It allows us to exercise the trade skill our soldiers pride themselves with and they’ve done quality work that they can be proud of. It is an opportunity for the Squadron to experience a deployment to a foreign country and all the challenges that come with doing so. The troops have relished the chance to deploy overseas and of course enjoy the fantastic weather and wider experiences Cyprus has to offer.”

Sapper Richard Wrigley, 30 from Oldham, is a plant operator who has been working on block paving, drainage installation and concreting at Kingsfield Parachute Centre.

“It’s been a valuable experience to really test my skills, working to exact specifications and designs,” he said. “I worked on construction sites doing block paving before joining the Army, so this task has been a great opportunity for me to pass on these skills to my colleagues. And with my experience I’ve been a task leader, which has really helped my leadership and management skills because I’ve been selected for promotion to Lance Corporal.”

When not working, Spr Wrigley has done a tandem skydive and been snorkelling.

I worked on construction sites doing block paving before joining the Army, so this task has been a great opportunity for me to pass on these skills to my colleagues. Spr Richard Wrigley, 30

Sapper James Hill, 22 from Buxton in Derbyshire, has been working as a carpenter and joiner to build the Scout hut and enjoyed sea kayaking in his down time. 

“I’ve learnt a lot and it has made me feel more confident in my trade skills,” he said. “We’ve had to build all the stud partitions and the roof trusses, learning new things along the way. It has been nice to see all our hard work over the weeks come together and take shape.”

Throughout the deployment troops have followed appropriate guidelines to manage the risk of COVID, including a quarantine period on arrival in Cyprus.