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Army and RAF step up training for close quarters combat

Soldiers are relearning their urban warfare skills in a new course launched this week at Copehill Down, Salisbury Plain, while a newly built…

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Soldiers are relearning their urban warfare skills in a new course launched this week at Copehill Down, Salisbury Plain, while a newly built RAF training facility for recruits at RAF Halton has been officially opened, tried and tested by the RAF’s Assistant Chief of Staff (ACOS) for Training, Air Commodore Russell La Forte.

Army Urban Operators Instructors Course, Copehill Down

The new Urban Operators Instructors Course at Copehill Down will train close to 100 military instructors a year across all arms. The instructors can then go back to their units and teach the tactics at platoon and section level. Designed specifically for soldiers who are already instructors, the course is the first of its kind to give a formal qualification.

Field Training Unit officer Major Mark Suddaby, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, explained:

As we move beyond Operation HERRICK, as we are going to be doing in the next couple of years, and start moving back to contingency operations where forces are waiting to be used as required rather than dedicated to a specific mission in Afghanistan or Iraq, we need to start considering how we could be employed over the next decade and train towards that.

We’ve never lost our urban skills, but it seemed a good idea to bring its training to the fore,” he said.

We’ve run courses like this in the past for some time but what makes this different is that it is an all arms course, and I am a firm believer that urban warfare is an all arms skill, and that the course also offers a qualification at the end of it.

We provide students with all the information they need, and then we train them in the second week how to teach that themselves, so when we qualify them they can take that knowledge back to their units to instruct their soldiers. That way we are able to train soldiers exponentially in urban operations in far greater numbers than we can teach here.

For the soldiers more versed in Afghanistan-specific fighting, the course reintroduces the hazards of operating in a conventional urban environment where buildings have multiple floors and rooms are configured differently.

My experience is from Afghanistan, which is different when it comes to things like room clearance in compounds where normally there is only one level to the buildings,” said Lance Corporal Keil Appleton of 59 Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers. “So, it’s been good to practise things we haven’t done since training and go back to basics.

The Low Level Urban Skills Trainer (LLUST) package on the course has also been really useful as you get to go through everything afterwards, and it shows you if you are going wrong, and where you are going wrong.

There are currently only two LLUST systems in the UK at the moment: one at Catterick and one at Copehill Down in Wiltshire. The electronic system monitors the soldiers as they go through a training drill in a building siege, which is then digitally displayed in an auditorium to talk though the development points.

The course is two weeks long and will run twice a year.

Close Quarters Battle Lanes, RAF Halton

Meanwhile in Buckinghamshire, Air Cdre La Forte last week opened four new Close Quarters Battle (CQB) Lanes at the RAF’s Recruit Training Squadron (RTS) at RAF Halton.

The lanes are specially designed for recruits during their Initial Force Protection Training (IFPT) phase and are an improvement from the previous facility, which could only train a limited number of recruits at any one time.

The recruits are put through their paces as they have to tactically manoeuvre around obstacles, blank firing their weapons at a target. The lanes also test the recruits physically as they fire their weapons from a variety of different positions such as standing, kneeling and prone (lying on one’s front).

Aircraftman Smith, who is waiting to start his trade training course to be a logistician, said:

The lanes are really exciting. It is great to get outside to practise our skills.

After a quick demonstration by recruits, Air Cdre La Forte, who is a RAF Regiment Officer, tested the new facility for himself. He said:

I am delighted to be able to open the new CQB lanes at RAF Halton. Proficiency in small arms is axiomatic to any military organisation as the most fundamental of skills.

As the nature of modern operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown, all members of the RAF have to be fully prepared as war-fighters first and foremost, irrespective of their specific branch or trade, and this new facility will play an important role in instilling this war-fighter spirit in our new recruits at the very outset of their career.

Halton’s nine-week Basic Recruit Course provides RAF recruits with a solid foundation in the basic attitudes, knowledge and skills in order to meet the rigours and demands of the modern RAF. IFPT, which is run by the RAF Regiment, runs for approximately four weeks and teaches the recruits basic soldiering skills such as weapon handling and first aid.

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Published 24 May 2012