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We own the night

For  all the challenges the British Army faced in Iraq and Afghanistan, technologically it had the upper hand over its enemies.

But in the post-Telic and -Herrick era there is the very real possibility that UK troops may encounter an adversary whose capabilities match, or even outperform, their own.

In that scenario skills and drills could make the difference between mission success and failure, so the Service is ensuring its personnel are at the top of their game Ð by day or at night.

"It's hard to over-emphasise the difficulty of doing anything in the dark", said Lt Col Jim Kennedy, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.

"Imagine 1,000 people and 300 vehicles moving around in the middle of the night, with no lights, across tough terrain it's a huge challenge, and then you overlay the enemy on top of all that and it becomes even trickier."

The 43-year-old was talking to Soldier as his troops approached the end of their month-long deployment to British Army Training Unit Suffield (Batus).

Dug-in in a defensive position, the Servicemen were bracing themselves for an assault by a well-equipped, brigade-strength opposition force, who under the exercise storyline had invaded a neighbouring country.

The serial was just one of an increased number of nocturnal missions built into this year's Prairie Storm.

"When you consider what we might come up against as an army in the next few years, it's likely that we will be facing a peer opposition," continued Lt Col Kennedy.

"Not only is the enemy not going to sleep at night, he may think he has parity, or that he has the edge and he will use that against us if he possibly can."

With a high-profile stint as the UK's lead armoured infantry battlegroup looming in 2018, the package was the collective training level four certification for the formation and its attached arms, which include C Squadron, The King's Royal Hussars, 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment and 28/143 Battery, 19 Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Lt Col Kennedy added: "This exercise is absolutely pivotal to make sure we're ready to go anywhere and do anything on behalf of the Queen."

"It is part of the journey on the way to operations, be that in Estonia or other parts of the world."

Somewhere out in the dark, the enemy (played by 1st Battalion, The Mercian Regiment) was preparing its attack.

Designated a 'peer plus' opponent (military speak for an adversary who is superior in capability or numbers) they were more than capable of decimating the defending friendly force.

As an added challenge, the 1 Yorks soldiers would have to differentiate between insurgent fighters entering the fray and groups of local civilians, all in the pitch black. But for 2nd Lt Chris Bailey (Yorks), who recently completed his platoon commanders course, the scenario was a familiar one.

"I'm fresh out of the factory and night training is a big focus throughout Sandhurst and Brecon now," he explained.

"Yes, part of it comes down to the kit but it's also down to the skill of the soldier and anything we can do to perfect that will give us an advantage."

 "In the dark you can't switch off and get away with it. If you switch off even for a minute you might split your call sign, so you have to make sure everyone, from commanders down to private troops, knows what they're doing."


Read the full story in the August issue...


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