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After a delay due to ongoing operations in Libya, soldiers of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment (RG) finally made it to the UK for their annual Exercise Jebel Tarik.
Various transport aircraft allocated to take the RG soldiers had suddenly been diverted to operational tasks and there was almost a week’s delay before the RG troops were able to travel.
When they got underway, Tarik Company immediately deployed to the rifle ranges in Folkestone where the Officer Commanding, Major Juri Williamson, was keen to make up for lost time
The ranges, run by the training cell under Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) James Gracia and his training team, consisted of both static and moving targets designed to test the troops in all applications of firing, and from individual to group-sized practices.
The exercises tested the personal drills of each individual as well as the command and control of the platoon when under pressure. The men of Tarik Company soon found themselves firing at all manner of targets, running from cover to cover on individual battle ranges, fighting in sections of eight in the attack, and as a platoon of nearly 30, from purpose-designed buildings much like the forward operating bases used in Afghanistan. WO2 Gracia said:
The aim is not only to test the troops but, within safety limits, to create as much realism in the training as possible. There was a lot of hard work put in from the men trying to gain as much as possible from the ranges and making up for lost time.
This year, for the first time, we introduced simulation ammunition. Nothing has ever given our training this level of realism, allowing the troops the ability to see how their skills, drills and tactics work against a real enemy, where both sides are capable of shooting each other.
After ten days of intensive firing in Lydd and Hythe ranges, Tarik Company moved to South Wales for phase two of the exercise. Back in the home of infantry training, the RG troops practised their platoon and company level attacks.
As the RG’s Regular soldiers left Folkestone, the regiment’s TA troops arrived: “We are fortunate to be here,” said the Officer Commanding B Company, Major Tito Danino. “This training is not only mandated but imperative, and without it the company’s quality line would not be the same.”
B Company made full use of their exercise, covering all aspects from fieldcraft to platoon-sized live fire attacks over their two-week deployment.
With many fresh faces amongst the young Private Soldiers, this deployment was a new and exhilarating experience for many of the men. For some it was, without doubt, a shock to the system compared to some of their day-to-day jobs back in Gibraltar.
The final element of the training programme for Tarik Company involved a Final Test Exercise (FTX), which allowed the troops to stretch their legs over the training area, and the commanders to practise and test the platoons’ standard operational procedures and tactical mechanics.
The FTX was tailor-made to achieve the goals of the Officer Commanding and it gave the platoon commanders the time and space to test and develop their own skills. Sergeant Dellipiani, from 2 Platoon, said:
It was just right. It had all the aspects that put the company under pressure from the start, from fighting in built-up areas to company advance to contacts. We fought constantly for three days straight, as the enemy was relentless. This gave the FTX battle tempo a very realistic feel.
With the successful UK deployment now behind them, the RG soldiers can look forward to Exercise Jebel Sahara, an overseas exercise in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where they will be able to build on their progress in field firing, and practise in a very different operating environment:
It is not often we get the opportunity to deploy to the UK. This training is essential for our infantry soldiers and it’s of paramount importance if we expect to undertake external operations, and for the security of Gibraltar.