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Active Eagle puts Paras through their paces

From helicopter assaults to dealing with public disturbances, the British Army's rapid reaction force is ready for action.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Paratroopers dismount from a Chinook helicopter [Picture: Corporal Obi Igbo, Crown copyright]
Paratroopers dismount from a Chinook helicopter

Exercise Active Eagle has seen the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA) battle group undergo demanding and varied training at the Stanford Training Area (STANTA) in Norfolk.

The exercise saw the Air Assault Task Force (AATF) deploying to extract European citizens from a fictional country with long-standing frictions along sectarian lines, and dealing with a terrorist threat.

Paratroopers launch an assault on a compound
Paratroopers launch an assault on a compound during Exercise Active Eagle [Picture: Corporal Obi Igbo, Crown copyright]

The 2 PARA battle group is based around the airborne infantry of 2 PARA, with the attached artillery, engineering, signals, aviation, logistics and medical support from 16 Air Assault Brigade needed to conduct operations.

The 2 PARA battle group is currently serving as the AATF, which is ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice to conduct the full spectrum of military operations, from non-combatant evacuation operations to war-fighting. Active Eagle helped to provide a run out for the battle group, ensuring it is ready to deploy, and provided refresher training on key skills.

Paratroopers receive a tactical briefing
Paratroopers receive a tactical briefing using a map of the area of operations [Picture: Corporal Obi Igbo, Crown copyright]

The battle group converged on Rock Barracks in Woodbridge to mount for the operation before being inserted into STANTA by parachute and helicopter. Scenarios the troops had to deal with included protecting an embassy against a rioting crowd who bombarded them with abuse, petrol bombs and missiles, and assaulting a village to free local police under siege from insurgents.

The 2-week-long training concluded with live fire battle runs that saw troops manoeuvring across hostile countryside by day and night, with fire support from 105mm light guns, 81mm mortars and Apache attack helicopters, and surveillance from RAF Tornado GR4 fast jets.

Paratroopers dismount from a Chinook helicopter
Paratroopers dismount from a Chinook helicopter [Picture: Corporal Obi Igbo, Crown copyright]

Lieutenant Colonel Adam Dawson, Commanding Officer of 2 PARA, said:

This exercise is designed to corral within 1 scenario the multifaceted challenges that the AATF may face. It gave the opportunity to run out the planning team’s functions within the headquarters and access a broad range of assets. Combined with challenging and enjoyable training, it has resulted in a confirmation of our readiness for any challenge that may require our intervention.

Corporal Dan Bradley, aged 27 from Droitwich, is a member of the Patrols Platoon which parachuted in to set up covert observation posts to monitor movement at an insurgent position.

Battle group commanders pore over a map
Battle group commanders pore over a map during Exercise Active Eagle [Picture: Corporal Obi Igbo, Crown copyright]

Corporal Bradley said:

We work ahead of the main body of troops to establish where enemy forces are and what their pattern of life is to inform the commander’s planning. Our role is all about seeing without being seen and is a real test of the basic soldiering skills of living in the field and camouflage.

I’ve been on 2 tours of Afghanistan and this is a very different style of working – we move on foot carrying all our kit and supplies – but the experience of operations has put us in a good place to adapt.

STANTA is maintained by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), which is responsible for managing and maintaining MOD’s land and properties. At 35 square miles, the ranges cover 2% of Norfolk and are used 350 days every year by an average of 80,000 troops.

Lieutenant Colonel Tony Powell, Deputy Commander DIO Ops Training East, said:

DIO’s priority is to support our Armed Forces as they prepare for operations. STANTA is a large and diverse training area which enables troops to re-enact a number of real-life scenarios. It is perfectly suited to large scale, specialised and demanding exercises such as Exercise Active Eagle.

Lieutenant Tom Glinn briefs his men during a night operation
Lieutenant Tom Glinn briefs his men during a night operation on Exercise Active Eagle [Picture: Corporal Obi Igbo, Crown copyright]
Paratroopers fire an 80mm mortar round
Privates Craig Pott, Terry Little and Thomas Wike fire an 80mm mortar round [Picture: Corporal Obi Igbo, Crown copyright]
Published 8 October 2013
Last updated 9 October 2013 + show all updates
  1. Edited to include information about Defence Infrastructure Organisation
  2. First published.