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Troops demonstrate their ability to rapidly deploy in NATO exercise

Troops with a lead role in NATO’s high-readiness land forces have practised their rapid response capabilities.

More than 160 Army vehicles could be seen on Rutland’s country roads recently when 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment (2 R Anglian) practised a NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) call out.

Rutland-based 2 R Anglian is part of the spearhead NATO VJTF land forces - the alliance’s highest-readiness element. It can deploy within days anywhere in the world in support of NATO allies.

NATO created the task force in 2014 after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. It was first deployed in 2022 for the collective defence of the Alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

7th Light Mechanised Brigade Combat Team HQ (7LMBCT), otherwise known as the ‘Desert Rats’, took command of the ‘spearhead force’ on 1 January 2024.

The multi-national land force comprises of approximately 6,000 troops and over 600 armoured and protected mobility vehicles.

“‘The Alert exercise simulated being called out as NATO’s Spearhead Battlegroup to deploy anywhere we are needed. For 2 R ANGLIAN, the exercise was a real success." Major Frank Atkins, Second in Command, 2 R ANGLIAN

The alert procedures exercise saw NATO send a signal to 7LMBCT to activate the VJTF Land Component.

The Brigade HQ then ordered the VJTF units, including Rutland-based 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, to prepare to move.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Chapman, Operations Warrant Officer 2 R Anglian said:

“I’m really proud of all our soldiers. They have been training so hard, getting their equipment and kit into the best condition, and working some really long hours. The exercise brought a lot of separate strands together.

"It was great to crash out the entire Battalion, for everyone to be able to look to their left and right and know that we are good to go when the call comes."

The alert exercise was a very small part of the Battalion’s preparations but an important step to show that it can meet the demanding timelines NATO has set.

It has been training for the VJTF Land Forces role for the least two years and is now held at extremely high readiness to deploy as required to deliver rapid effect.

Major Frank Atkins, Second in Command, 2 R Anglian said:

“The Alert exercise simulated being called out as NATO’s Spearhead Battlegroup to deploy anywhere we are needed.

"For 2 R Anglian, the exercise was a real success. It was an excellent rehearsal for us and we learned a lot of small things that we can improve on next time.

"The Battalion has been preparing for this role for a long time, and to call out all our vehicles, people, and equipment rapidly like this shows us that we are ready."

The 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, nicknamed ‘The Poachers’, will now make final preparations to deploy on Exercise Dragon which takes place in Poland in March.

Exercise Dragon is one of 11 exercises that form NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender, one of NATO’s biggest military exercises since the Cold War.

More than 40,000 troops from across the NATO alliance will take part in Steadfast Defender, which will take place across 11 different countries, from Bardufoss in the Arctic Circle to Georgia on the Black Sea. 

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps MP said:

“Enhancing the coalition between the UK and her NATO allies, ‘Steadfast Defender 24’ will bring NATO nations together and deliver on promises made at the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius.”

The British Army’s existing commitments to NATO include UK leadership of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) mission in Estonia. 

Around 1,000 UK troops are persistently deployed to Estonia as part of the eFP mission – known as Operation Cabrit.  

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