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Jungle masterclass for airborne signallers

Airborne signallers have tested their skills in the jungle, to be ready for operations as part of the British Army’s global response force.

216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron, Royal Corps of Signals have deployed to the jungles of Belize on Exercise Mercury Canopy. The troops lived in the jungle and learnt how to tailor their communications and soldiering skills to the demands of the jungle’s weather, vegetation and wildlife.

As part of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army’s global response force, the Colchester-based signallers must have the skills to operate in any environment.

The only time that you’re dry and half comfortable is at night in your hammock, and you’ve just got to focus on pushing through the day to get there. Signaller Matthews
216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron

The exercise finished with a five-day-long mission that saw troops tasked to support counter-narcotics operations, using the advanced skills and technology of British soldiers to support local security forces.

The signallers deployed into the jungle to established a Mobile Ad-hoc Network (MANET) to support the specialist reconnaissance troops of Pathfinders. Live video surveillance of a drug cartel’s base was relayed back over the MANET, and then by satellite link to the BCT’s headquarters in Colchester for analysis. The intelligence gathered allowed local police - a role played by troops from the Belize Defence Force - to raid the base and arrest a cartel leader.

Signaller Lewis Matthews said the jungle was “a tough place to be a soldier”.

“Moving over steep terrain and through thick, wet vegetation while carrying the full weight of rations, water, radios and field kit is very hard,” the 21-year-old network engineer said. “My takeaways from this experience are the importance of doing the basics well - looking after your feet, dealing with any little scratches or blisters, and keeping yourself hydrated.

The jungle strips soldiering back to the basics of navigation, movement, fieldcraft and communication, and lessons learnt here can be adapted to anywhere a soldier has to operate. Lieutenant Colonel Dave Crimmins
British Army Training Support Unit Belize

“You’ve also got to develop the mentality to cope when conditions are grim. The only time that you’re dry and half comfortable is at night in your hammock, and you’ve just got to focus on pushing through the day to get there.”

Belize is one of the British Army’s network of Land Regional Hubs, with troops and facilities based at key locations across the world to provide opportunities for joint training and operations and an understanding of shared security interests.

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Crimmins, Commander of British Army Training Support Unit Belize, said: “We provide a platform for units to deliver their own training in what is the most arduous environment for a soldier to operate in. The jungle strips soldiering back to the basics of navigation, movement, fieldcraft and communication, and lessons learnt here can be adapted to anywhere a soldier has to operate.

“The close relationship BATSUB has with the Belize Defence Force and Coast Guard gives units the experience of working with a partner force that really adds to the training they can do.”