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Salisbury Plain hosts largest military exercise in 10 years

7th Armoured Brigade has completed its final training exercise, the largest on Salisbury Plain in 10 years, before heading to Afghanistan.

One of the final brigades to deploy in a combat role, Germany-based 7th Armoured Brigade – famously known as the Desert Rats – put 6,000 servicemen and servicewomen, from all 3 Services, and 300 armoured vehicles through vigorous paces this month as the brigade prepares for the drawdown of British troops from Helmand province.

The tour itself will be like no other, with soldiers deploying for about 8 months instead of the usual 6. One of the primary roles of the tour is to bring home equipment from Afghanistan.

Private Danny Greenhalgh and military working dog Amy
Private Danny Greenhalgh of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps with military working dog Amy [Picture: Richard Watt, Crown copyright]

Brigade Commander Brigadier James Woodham spoke about how the Afghan forces are fully in the lead for security and how part of the brigade’s role will be to close down the forward operating bases and redeploy equipment back to the UK and Germany.

Operation Herrick 19 runs from September 2013 until June 2014, with the initial 6,000 soldiers being reduced to 5,200 by the end of this year.

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

Troops from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment on a foot patrol
Troops from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment on a foot patrol [Picture: Richard Watt, Crown copyright]

Commenting on the exercise, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Hiskett, Principal Training Safety Officer, DIO Ops Training South West, said:

DIO’s priority is to support our Armed Forces as they prepare for operations. The size and nature of the Plain means that it offers excellent training facilities, ideal conditions and the perfect backdrop for large-scale exercises such as these.

At over 38,000 hectares, or 94,000 acres, Salisbury Plain is the UK’s largest training area and offers first-class and diverse training facilities to enable the British Army to meet its training requirements to prepare for operations worldwide.