Personnel from 28 Engineer Regiment have taken part in a major military exercise in Germany using a variety of vehicles and specialist equipment to test their readiness to deploy to any emergency situation around the world.
400 men and women from the regiment, which is based in Hameln in North Germany, were confronted with a variety of tough military scenarios and tasks.
These included building a temporary land bridge strong enough for armoured vehicles and troops to cross, constructing a prisoner of war facility and well-camouflaged camps, clearing a minefield, fortifying an area with trenches to ward off an enemy attack, and using M3 Amphibious Rigs to establish a secure crossing over a river in a matter of minutes.
The skills they practised in the middle of the vast, forested German Army training area near the eastern German town of Klietz, just an hour’s drive from Berlin, are vital in ensuring the regiment’s ability to succeed on any mission they might be deployed on.
While many of these skills are hugely relevant to Afghanistan, the three-week exercise wasn’t Afghanistan-specific but was instead designed to drill the soldiers in both the basic soldiering and engineering skills needed in any situation.
Corporal Kevin Burgess, a member of the Territorial Army serving with 23 Amphibious Squadron, part of 28 Engineer Regiment, commanded one of the M3 Amphibious Rigs during the exercise. He said:
I am one of three people to operate the rig along with the driver and the pilot. It’s been a great exercise but very cold sleeping in the field at night, but it’s a great experience - it’s what soldiering is about.
The rigs are really impressive and fantastic to work on. We have to do exercises like this to keep our skills up.
23 Amphibious Squadron is made up of members of the Territorial Army and is the only squadron in the British Army to use the M3 Rig which can be driven into a river and used as a ferry or, when several are joined together from one bank to the other, act as a bridge capable of carrying vehicles as heavy as the Challenger 2 main battle tank.
The rig was first used on operations in Iraq where it ferried elements of 3 Commando Brigade across the Shatt Al-Basra waterway and in support of 16 Air Assault Brigade during a river crossing at the Ramallah oil fields.
For the exercise in Germany the British engineers teamed up with the German Army’s 2 Schwere Pionierbataillon 130 to link 14 M3 Rigs together to form a secure, stable river crossing.
Corporal Burgess added:
We like to work with other forces; it’s good to see how they operate and how we can improve on how we work and interact with our German counterparts.
It’s also good to maintain your basic soldiering skills and infantry skills. We have a large knowledge pool here and can learn a lot from each other, and it is of course fun to play soldier.
Many of the men and women taking part in the exercise either recently served in or may deploy to Afghanistan in the future. Recent 28 Engineer Regiment deployments include work to upgrade and build new forward operating bases and building and repairing military and civilian bridges across Helmand.
Lieutenant Colonel Chas Story, Commanding Officer of 28 Engineer Regiment, said:
All the skills we have learnt here are the same skills that we need in Afghanistan but are also essential no matter where else we might be asked to deploy to in the future.