Just two weeks after becoming a fully qualified soldier William Ferguson was catapulted straight into the action as a Troop Leader on Europe’s largest military exercise of 2023.
William, a Second Lieutenant with The Light Dragoons (LD) took on the crucial role on Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia.
The 25-year-old from Bovington, Dorset, was with one of two LD squadrons which, combined with members of 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, made up around 400 personnel from a total British contingent of more than 1,000 under the command of 7th Light Mechanised Brigade Combat Team on the NATO exercise.
...this saw us attacking them in their defensive positions." Second Lieutenant William Ferguson, The Light Dragoons
Speaking in Estonia, William explained: “Our role is to enable training of 1st Estonian Brigade. We’re here to prepare them for if NATO had to defend against Russia.
“We began with an integration package with our Polish and Danish partners, and this saw us attacking them in their defensive positions. We moved through obstacles, across rivers and through to an advance, clearing through the terrain we had in front of us.
“We then swapped around, so we screened their advance and looked to delay and defend against them.”
In addition to Poles and Danes, LD worked alongside the Estonian 2nd Brigade as well as Italian and French troops.
On the differences between how UK and partner nations work, William said: “At the lowest level, we are more used to having mission command, so we let our subordinates delegate and give them their freedom more than other nations.
“Also, on the equipment we have brought out, we’re operating on a much lighter policy, so we’re dismounting a lot more than, for example, our Danish recce which has much more in the way of armoured vehicles.”
I was amazed that the whole air strip was completely full of different nations."
William said it was only when he got to the training area that he appreciated the scale of the exercise.
“When I first arrived at the assembly area, I was amazed that the whole air strip was completely full of different nations. Although I anticipated working with them, I didn’t realise just how many people were here.”
Exercise Spring Storm saw 14,000 land, sea, and air personnel from 11 NATO countries demonstrating interoperability in multi-domain training scenarios in the second half of May.
I think it’s the best possible way I could hope to leave my Phase Two training,"
“It’s certainly a step change,” said William. “It’s been fantastic. I think it’s the best possible way I could hope to leave my Phase Two training, by going straight into a NATO exercise overseas.
“Not many troop leaders get to do that straight out of the door as early as week two and I’m extremely fortunate to do so.
“At first, I was a bit nervous. There are quite a few new people looking up to me now. I have a group of 12 who I’m in charge of and it’s a lot of responsibility but everyone has been extremely welcoming and are there to help me along so we can all get the most out of this exercise and I can get the most from my troops.”
William, who attended Bristol University, commissioned from Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in August last year and completed his Phase Two training for infantry and cavalry at the end of April.
No two weeks are the same.
He said: “I decided to join the Army when I was halfway through university. I was studying for an engineering degree at the time, and I realised I was more a people person than a numbers person.
“My cousin and uncle have served, one currently, the other previously, and they suggested it would be a fantastic place for me.
“The people you get to work with, the places you get to go and the way it challenges you, both mentally and physically, were things that made me think it was definitely a place I could work.
“The biggest draw is that it’s a very varied career. No two weeks are the same.
“I really love solving problems, which drew me to the Army. You still get to solve problems but in a much more high-pressure environment.
“Engineering is a very interesting field. I love it. But getting to work with a platform like Jackal is extremely satisfying.”
The UK rehearsed the reinforcement of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP) Estonia to Brigade-level strength alongside its French allies.
Participating countries were UK, Estonia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and USA.
The British Army is recruiting right now to fill 10,000 jobs across the UK with more than 200 roles to choose from, covering everything from frontline combat and cyber security to helicopter pilots, chefs and support roles. If you’re aged 16 to 50 and if you want to find out more about a career in the Army, click here.