Reserves hone fighting skills in Italy

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

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh (3 R WELSH) have been honing their fighting skills in Italy as the Army looks to ramp up its Reserve Forces.

Exercise Roman Star is a new training package arranged with the Italian Army providing a range of overseas conventional warfare scenarios that look to test the fieldcraft, fitness and attacking ability of soldiers, both new and experienced.

Soldiers from 3 R WELSH have been based in Gemona del Friuli in north eastern Italy and have been training on a flat, dried-up river bed sunk low beneath, and completely surrounded by, the Friulian Dolomites - the region’s highest peaks.

The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cleverly, said Exercise Roman Star was a significant step towards providing all the key elements needed to ensure the Army Reserves meet the demands required as a result of Future Reserves 2020.

He said:

First of all this is a short-term win for us and allows soldiers to gain experience of training in a different climate and culture so that we can start putting together the basic building blocks of our capability, so that we can grow that in the years to come.

Some of those training this week have been in the Army for 20 or so years, while others have only just joined us. We also have six regular soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, which is a sign of where the Army is going - becoming an integrated Reserve/Regular Army.

Captain Richard Smith joined the Regular Army via the Royal Regiment of Wales (now 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh) as a junior in 1984 and has also served as Regimental Sergeant Major with the Wales University Officer Training Corps.

He is now using all his 27-year military experience to ensure the latest crop of reservists with 3 R WELSH meet the standards required at a time when the Army Reserves are boosting their numbers from 20,000 to 30,000:

Being in Italy is a great opportunity for these guys,” said Captain Smith, who has completed tours of Kosovo, Northern Ireland, the Balkans and Afghanistan.

They get to train in an environment that tests all their basic skills. It’s about sharpening their fieldcraft, fitness and fighting ability.

The new training exercise follows the Government’s announcement on troop reductions and a greater reliance on reserve soldiers to integrate with the Regular Army.

3 R WELSH has been working with the 8th Alpini Regiment, a light infantry regiment of the Italian Army specialising in mountain combat. The Alpini is a mountain infantry corps that distinguished itself in combat during the First and Second World Wars.

Captain Smith said:

It’s been great to work with the Italians and build further on our relationship. I think it’s vital to enhance that bond and increase this kind of experience, especially for younger soldiers.

I came out of the Regulars in July 2011 and I’m a self-employed electrician based in Cwmbran.

But when I left I still had the bug, the camaraderie you get and the friends you make - there’s nothing like it.

I suppose the young lads coming through can look to people like me to give them advice and take them forward.

The Reserves are going to have a much bigger role to play, no question. Army reservists have to step up and make a difference. The Army has been on operations for so long now and that will soon change when we come out of Afghanistan.

3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh is the regiment’s reserve battalion. Its headquarters are at Maindy Barracks in Cardiff, with company locations across Wales in Swansea, Pontypridd, Aberystwyth, Wrexham and Colwyn Bay.