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Global response force’s readiness for operations tested

From drawing stores to checking passports, the readiness of the British Army’s Global Response Force to go on overseas operations at a moment’s notice has been put to the test.

16 Air Assault Brigade was put through a no-notice practice mobilisation to check that troops are ready to respond to global crises. Exercise Totemic saw the brigade’s very high readiness battlegroup - currently built around 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR) - alerted for a simulated mission to evacuate British citizens in danger overseas.

At their barracks at Shorncliffe in Kent, the Gurkhas conducted a check of their documents and personal kit – as did gunners, engineers, signallers, logisticians, medics and military police based at Colchester, Woodbridge and Catterick - before getting on the road. 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps loaded up supplies that are kept ready at the brigade’s base at Merville Barracks in Colchester for short notice operations.

All the soldiers, vehicles and stores came together at the Joint Air Mounting Centre at South Cerney in Gloucestershire for final airworthiness checks, with planning for the mission happening simultaneously.

“Being a very high readiness force isn’t just about tactical skills, it’s having the admin and logistic processes in place to get to the battlefield." Major Andrew Emerson
2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles

To complete the exercise, C (Tamandu) Company, 2 RGR’s lead company, moved to RAF Brize Norton and took off in an RAF A400M transport aircraft. The troops and vehicles landed at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk, representing an overseas airport held by friendly forces that would be the starting point for their mission.

Major Andrew Emerson, Officer Commanding C (Tamandu) Coy, said: “Being a very high readiness force isn’t just about tactical skills, it’s having the admin and logistic processes in place to get to the battlefield. We have to ensure our soldiers have the right documentation, are medically fit and meet all the training requirements, and that our kit and vehicles are ready to fly.

“Once we got alerted, we hit the ground running and met all our timelines so that we were ready to leave Shorncliffe in a matter of hours. When we got on the plane at Brize Norton, we were in the right condition and mindset as if we were flying out on an actual operation.”

2RGR’s Private Hiren Rai said: “Because of our role, our bags are always packed and we are ready to go. It’s been a busy few days, with a lot of paperwork to check and travelling around, but it’s important to rehearse so we know what to do if something happens for real.”

Bombardier Adam Basnett, from Catterick-based 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, deployed with a team operating the Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar (LCMR), which is used to detect where enemy artillery is firing from.

“As soon as we got the call, we got moving.” Bombardier Adam Basnett
5th Regiment Royal Artillery

“As soon as we got the call, we got moving,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve practiced deploying with LCMR by airlanding. We’ve learnt a lot about the processes that we need to follow, and we’re taking away a lot of confidence that we have proved that we can do it.”

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