The Desert Rats Ready Their Skills for Peacekeeping Mission

The second UK taskforce to deploy to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in Mali is undertaking its final mission rehearsal exercise before deploying.

The Desert Rats follow in the footsteps of The Light Dragoons-led taskforce who received a welcome reaction from the local population, with some of the locals asking them “to stay forever”.

Lieutenant Colonel Will Meddings, the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment who will lead the second deploying taskforce said: “The first taskforce is already showing the positive impact the British Army can have. The Royal Anglian taskgroup will deliver even more - patrolling further, and for longer, than most other nations in Mali.

“This month we’ve proved we can operate for weeks in the field, and I’m proud to be bringing such a capable taskgroup to join the United Nations, building stability and helping protect civilians from violence.”

The role of the UK taskforce is long-range reconnaissance. The infantry and cavalry soldiers will deploy out on patrols to speak and engage with the local population to help the United Nations and the Malian leadership plan and deliver intelligence-led operations and help do its job of protecting the people and responding to threats from violent extremism. 

The United Nations Peacekeeping Operation is known as MINUSMA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission). Its aim is to protect civilians and build a sustainable peace.

The troops are not there to take the fight to the extremist enemy but, if required, the taskforce is well-experienced and equipped to react to threats and defend themselves.

Also deploying with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment are troops from 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards. Both units are part of 7th Infantry Brigade (the Desert Rats). Specialist support includes an Explosive Ordinance Disposal capability provided by 35 Engineer Regiment and medical support from 3 Medical Regiment.

The Mission Rehearsal Exercise tested the future UK Peacekeepers on a variety of life-like scenarios they may face in-country. This included meeting with villagers to understand the situation and gather information.

One exercise scenario saw the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and medics demonstrate their skills when they arrived at a compound that had been attacked by a violent extremist organisation. The QRF quickly secured the area, allowing the team from 3 Medical Regiment to attend to the civilian casualties.

Lieutenant Colonel Will Meddings concluded: “We are all proud to be wearing the blue beret of the United Nations, as generations of British soldiers have before - for example, I will be wearing the beret my father-in-law wore when he deployed to the Balkans with the UN.

“The young men and women of the taskgroup are absolutely looking forward to the challenges of the tour. Peacekeeping missions such as this require skills such as diplomacy, tact and mediation - skills they wouldn't ordinarily use in a warfighting role. So, for many this will be a new experience. It will be a challenge environment and it will be a hard six months. Mali is a dangerous country and the environment itself is tough, but I know our soldiers are well-trained, ready and committed to the UN mission.”