News story

Reservists train on Salisbury Plain

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

British Army reservists have honed their specialist skills on Salisbury Plain training area to prepare to support the regular army.

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reservists work to extract a vehicle from a lake [Picture: Shane Wilkinson, Crown copyright]
Army reservists work to extract a vehicle from a lake on Salisbury Plain

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) reservists received practical training on vehicles and equipment currently used on operations as part of Exercise Southern Bluebell on Salisbury Plain last weekend, 6 to 8 June.

The aim was to update their trade knowledge and competency skills so that, ultimately, they are able to be mobilised and support the regular army.

Using realistic scenarios, the soldiers honed their skills in the areas of vehicle recovery and movement, battle damage repair and vital backroom skills such as metalwork and welding. There was also an opportunity for reservists from other trades to obtain an insight into something different by getting hands-on experience in disciplines wildly different from their own.

Army reservists during a recovery exercise
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reservists during a recovery exercise [Picture: Shane Wilkinson, Crown copyright]

During the training weekend, REME reserve trades and employers were given the opportunity to learn about the breadth of trades undertaken, from armourers learning to repair a whole range of operational weapon systems to vehicle mechanics working on the latest armoured vehicles.

Commanding officer and exercise director, Lieutenant Colonel Lex Agathangelou, has served in the reserves for 17 years. He said:

Exercise Southern Bluebell is one of 2 national REME exercises aimed at providing specialist training for our troops. Carried out on behalf of Headquarters Support Command, the aim is to provide special-to-arm training and this is the number one event for such training in the south of the UK; the other taking place in the north of the country.

This exercise gives personnel an opportunity to work on equipment that they would not normally be able to work on. It is about increasing trade proficiency to enable our soldiers to be fit for mobilisation.

We invited employers located in the same regions as our sub-units to join us and gain an insight into what the soldiers and officers do at the weekend. This would give them better understanding of Army Reserve life. I hope that this has given them the opportunity to be impressed by the character and quality of our REME personnel.

Reservist army vehicle mechanics fit an engine block
Reservist army vehicle mechanics fit an engine block to a tracked military vehicle [Picture: Shane Wilkinson, Crown copyright]

As part of the exercise, recovery mechanics were set a challenging woodland scenario using a 30-tonne recovery vehicle to rescue another support vehicle that had become stuck in difficult ground conditions.

With the heavy recovery vehicle unable to get closer than 50 metres to the stricken truck due to weight restrictions and surrounding trees, a complex system of wire rope, blocks and pulleys was used by the team of 4 to get the vehicle to safety and on the move again.

The same team were later put to the test when they had to extract a semi-submerged tracked vehicle from a lake on the training area near Tidworth.

Craftsman Lee Gofford was the winch operator on the tasks, but works as a gym equipment engineer in his civilian life. Craftsman Gofford said about the training:

We need to be competent at our recovery skills and this weekend serves as a refresher. I am a class 3 recovery mechanic and am working towards my class 2, and the training I do here will stand me in good stead to move up.

Being a reservist has made me much more confident and at the office they have noticed that I am more willing to get involved and military disciplines have made me neater; I no longer leave my tools everywhere.

Army reservists work to extract a vehicle from a lake
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reservists work to extract a vehicle from a lake [Picture: Shane Wilkinson, Crown copyright]

Salisbury Plain Training Area

Salisbury Plain Training Area is maintained by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, which delivers the training service, enabling defence training users to live, work, train and deploy at home and overseas.

The UK reserve forces play a vital part in our nation’s defence. Find out how you can get involved and what is on offer for reserves.

Published 10 June 2014