154 Troop Diary Week 18
Having been given the lectures and taught all the theory and tactics behind Section and Troop level attacks the previous week, we were all now eager to put it into practice. Exercise SECOND EMPIRE would be our chance to do this and we were all excited. After weeks of meticulous ironing and folding into the small hours of the morning we were now doing what we had joined up to do.
Monday morning of week 18 started with a short sharp session on the Bottom Field assault course to “warm us up” before we deployed on Exercise. Our destination for the exercise was Braunton Burrows Training Area, a sandy, dune covered piece of land in North Devon. The weather was good and in stark contrast to what we had experienced in the field over previous exercises. The combination of sand and a little bit of sun made it feel more like training in the desert rather than the arctic we have become used to.
When we arrived in the area we wasted little time and went straight into practicing the section attack, our bread and butter. Though we were still a little rusty we soon improved with practice and by the end of the first day each section had conducted a number of decent attacks. This was helped by the section corporals going through each evolution step by step, coaching us and explaining everything slowly so it was not missed out. Tuesday consisted of more section drills where we would advance towards enemy positions before coming engaged and having to fire and manoeuvre our way to the target and the enemy.
The next day the scenario changed and the real tactical start of the exercise began. We would now be conducting section and troop attacks against a ‘real’ enemy. As we had been briefed before we deployed this enemy had chosen North Devon as a base for training their terrorist cell ready for an attack on the homeland, naturally 154 Troop were not about to let this happen.
With a warning order given and then a full orders group to explain what we would be doing we got ourselves ready for a troop advance to contact. We moved towards the position we expected the enemy to be in with 1 section spearheading the advance just ready to be attacked by the enemy. As the whole Troop moved across the area we were contacted and we had to work as sections to close on to the position and destroy them. This was enjoyable but a lot of hard work as we moved positions and helped each other out. Being our first experience of troop level actions we were not expecting it to be picture perfect but we were able to stay disciplined and thanks to some good communication we kept an element of surprise and easily defeated the enemy though a number had escaped.
From this attack we managed to gain some intelligence which launched us straight into a night time ambush onto an area of road that the enemy used. We lay a deliberate ambush and with us all in position the only thing to do was wait. It took a couple of hours until the distinctive bob of head torches approached just as we had hoped. Luckily the clear night dropped the temperatures below freezing so there was little chance of us sleeping on the job. Enemy approached and as they came into the killing area we set off trip flares and simulated claymores before opening fire. Confident that we had maintained surprise and destroyed the enemy we were happy with our performance, however this was not the end of the story for our enemy.
We gathered intelligence to suggest that the enemy were going to make an amphibious landing South East of our position on to a spit of land with a small light house. Two sections of the Troop were immediately deployed to the area to occupy Observation Posts (OP’s) so they could report back any possible enemy activity. Under the guidance of their relevant section commanders they constructed OP’s that even the most skilled of recce operators would be proud of. Working throughout the night, by morning they were completely concealed with even the training team claiming they had difficulty finding them amongst the dunes. The concealment was not good enough for a Labrador however who found himself falling through the roof of an OP and into the laps of four section.
The final attack took place before first light on the Friday and after a successful move into position by all sections we attacked the enemy position under the light of para-illumination flares. With fire support being provided, two section swept through the target objective and destroyed the remainder of the enemy force but not without cost. They suffered a number of casualties which caused the supporting section to conduct a gruelling casualty evacuation which brought home the importance of what we were practicing for.
Overall we found the week and Exercise SECOND EMPIRE a satisfying learning curve and it has highlighted our area of strength and the areas of weakness. It is all of our goals to ensure that these specific areas are maintained or improved upon before our next exercise in only a few weeks. However, we can all rest assured that any enemy threat tries to have a go at the coastline of North Devon again then 154 Troop have got it covered.