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Chilly challenge for Royal Anglian troops in the arctic circle

Infantry soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment ‘The Poachers’ have represented the UK as they join forces with Norway and other NATO partners on an international military exercise.

C (Northamptonshire) Company have deployed to The Allied Training Centre in Northern Norway for Exercise Thunderbolt that will see them having to move, fight and operate effectively in the region.

Inside the Arctic Circle, the High North is an unforgiving mountainous region where temperatures can drop as low as minus 31 degrees Celsius.

Major Mark Garner, Officer Commanding C (Northamptonshire) Company said: “This is a great opportunity for the company to conduct joint training with fellow NATO members. It certainly tested our capabilities and challenge us, both as individuals and as a team."

It certainly tested our capabilities and challenge us, both as individuals and as a team." Major Mark Garner, Officer Commanding C (Northamptonshire) Company

“We spent the first week acclimatising to the cold conditions and training with our NATO allies prior to conducting the final exercise, alongside multiple partners, from Norway, the Netherlands and the USA.”

The Norwegian-led exercise running through May and June is a CALFEX (Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise). The CALFEX is a very fast-paced strategic exercise that sees units coming together on one battlefield to employ a vast array of weapon systems - including small arms, tanks, artillery, aircraft and naval gunfire - all at the same time in the most realistic of fighting scenarios.

Using Foxhound vehicles, the Rutland based troops operated as a Light Mechanised Infantry Sub-Unit within the Norwegian 1st Armoured Battle Group for the duration of the Exercise.

In the final three days of the exercise, the soldiers had to combat a fictitious enemy force that will see them fight their way through enemy positions.

“It’s going to be tough training,” said Major Garner. “For some of our soldiers, this will be the first time they have worked with our allied partners and the first time they will have worked in such extreme temperatures. It will give them a sense of their own strengths and weaknesses when under pressure in an extremely harsh environment.”

While on the exercise the soldiers were presented with their Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal and took the opportunity to celebrate with a dinner on Thursday 2 June 2022, in Setermoen, Norway, in honour of HM The Queen.

Exercise Thunderbolt is part of a series of exercises known as Project Unified Stance that has seen troops taking part in Exercise Defender in Poland, with 1,000 soldiers from the King’s Royal Hussars Battlegroup and C Squadron of the Light Dragoons deployed alongside troops from 11 partner nations including Poland, Denmark and the United States.

This exercise involves Challenger 2 tanks and other armoured vehicles deploying from the NATO Forward Holding Base in Sennelager, Germany. The deployment is supported by 104 Theatre Sustainment Brigade operating from the UK and in bases in Europe. 

Exercise Swift Response saw elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team and 1 Aviation Brigade Combat Team operate alongside French, American, Italian, and Albanian counterparts in North Macedonia. There were 4,500 personnel on the exercise including 2,500 British troops. The exercise involved parachute drops, helicopter-borne air assaults with a company of French paratroopers integrated into the 2 Parachute Regiment Battlegroup and an Italian battlegroup working to a British chain of command. 

These exercises showcase the scale and significance of the British Army’s contribution to the defence of Europe and highlight the continued importance of the leadership role which UK plays as a member of NATO and the JEF (Joint Expeditionary Force). 

In addition to the Army’s programme, the UK deployed a major headquarters to the Baltic region, in support of the JEF. The Standing Joint Force HQ (SJFHQ) established three linked nodes - in Latvia, Lithuania and the third at their home base at Northwood HQ in London, the first operational deployment for the headquarters.

The UK is the framework nation for the JEF, a coalition of like-minded partners, able to respond rapidly to crises in the High North, North Atlantic, Baltic Sea region and further afield. Over 200 military personnel are involved in the operation, including specialists in cyber, space and information operations.