Army Reservists prepare vehicles for a major NATO exercise

A team of 29 Army reservists from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) have successfully completed Exercise Iron Horse Europe in Germany ahead of a major NATO Exercise planned for later this year.

The reservists from Portsmouth-based 28 Divisional Support Company REME, part of 103 Battalion REME, deployed on the two-week exercise tasked with inspecting, repairing and maintaining Army vehicles stored there as part of the operational and training fleet.

The mechanics represented a cross section of civilian backgrounds, including: 

  • refuse collectors
  • tree surgeons
  • aviation engineers
  • research scientists
  • business owners

They worked long hours to prepare the vehicles for a major NATO exercise, Defender Europe 22 later in the year. The situation in Eastern Europe however, added a sense of realism to the exercise.

“It’s making a real difference. With the current situation going on, I think everybody realises this and feel that this is lot more than just an exercise,” says Corporal Nick Green. 

“I think it has enabled the soldiers to embrace a sense of urgency” says Major Abi Brown, Officer Commanding of 128 Coy, “and the longer hours of working have been done without question.”

It's making a real difference." Corporal Nick Green, 128 Divisional Support Company REME

Exercise Iron Horse Europe was designed to trial a new concept, to see how well reservist REME mechanics can support 3 (UK) Division, a formation held at continual combat readiness.

“Part of our mission to come out here to Germany was to integrate us into part of the war fighting division and we absolutely feel part of that” said Maj Brown, “and the current political climate really reinforces this.”

If the British Army needs extra vehicles ready to move, it is up to units like 128 Coy to increase numbers available.

“I’ve been to Canada numerous times, fixing vehicles for training purposes but here and right now, this is direct input into operational effectiveness of the British Army, ramping up and making sure things are ready and set to go,” says Lance Corporal Nick Wright.

“We’ve been working a lot of long hours, long days and just one day off,” says Craftsman Druhti Shah, who works at Lockheed Martin, “but we are just getting on with it and see how many vehicles we can get through.”

The REME mechanics were initially given just 10 weeks notice to deploy which in reservist terms is a particularly short turn-around, especially when employers need to be consulted. But this was a joint effort and the Portsmouth volunteers deployed on time and have met all targets and surpassed work quotas.

The Army is moving quickly to deliver key Integrated Review (IR) direction so that it can better support the Government’s Global Britain Agenda and quickly saw the creation of the Land Regional Hub (LRH) in Germany. A prime mission of the LRH is to store and maintain military fighting and supporting vehicles to equip two armoured Battlegroups and at short notice if required.

The LRH includes the NATO Forward Holding Base (Sennelager) (NFS) that will provide us with a near permanent presence in Europe. Reinforcing our position at the heart of the NATO alliance and demonstrating our commitment to our European partners post-Brexit.