North-east Reservists test skills in major exercise

Action from Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.
Action from Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.

Army Reservists from the North East have been honing their skills on the battlefield, as part of a 400-strong training exercise.

Soldiers of the Newcastle-based Command & Support Squadron of the Queen’s Own Yeomanry (QOY) joined Exercise Wessex Storm for several days on a bitterly cold and waterlogged Salisbury Plain to work alongside full-time soldiers of The Light Dragoons.

Captain Alan Jobes, from Seahouses, took part in Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.

Captain Alan Jobes, from Seahouses, took part in Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.

The QOY is a light-armoured reconnaissance regiment, which acts as the Army’s eyes and ears on the ground. Wessex Storm created a dramatic and realistic test for the soldiers involved, complete with Apache attack helicopters, light artillery guns and mortar fire.

Captain Alan Jobes, 44, of Seahouses, is a training officer who joined the Army Reserve three years ago following a 22-year career as a full-time soldier, during which time he served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Kenya and Germany.

He said: “I’d been in the Army from aged 16 and had reached a point where, along with my business partner, I wanted to set up a central heating engineering business. It’s demanding juggling the two jobs because these machines break down at inconvenient times, for example at the weekend when I am on Reserve service or when I’m taking time off with my family. But I’m in the Army Reserve because the Army’s been such a big part of my life and I don’t want to leave the comradeship behind.”

Sergeant Michael Dunworth, 34, and from Newcastle, is a pipe-fitter in civilian life. He is also an ex-full-time soldier and he has served in Bosnia and Iraq. His role on the exercise has been to supply food, ammunition, water and fuel to the soldiers on the ground.

I’m in the Army Reserve because the Army’s been such a big part of my life and I don’t want to leave the comradeship behind

Captain Alan Jobes, from Seahouses

He said: “Reservists are expected to perform just as the Regular soldiers are; we do everything Light Dragoons do. I’m in a good civilian trade, but I’m also paid for the time I give as a corporal here. Being a Reservist gives me the best of both worlds.”

On operations, the QOY often deploy well in front of other friendly forces to gather intelligence on the enemy and this exercise tested their ability to do just that.

It saw them using the powerful and agile Land Rover RWMIKs (Revised Weapons Mounted Installation Kit), which are equipped with the General Purpose Machine Gun, the Browning .50 Heavy Machine Gun and the latest digital battlefield communications and surveillance systems.

Captain Jobes said: “This is the first chance we have had to work with the Light Dragoons; our four squadrons of 45 Reservists have formed a composite reconnaissance squadron to perform collective training.

Action from Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.

Action from Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.

“We’ve been clearing areas, crossing obstacles and, when we find enemy, we remove them. Our day starts at 4.45am and the personnel need to be ready to move 30 minutes later so they can be given battle orders and begin moving out of their safe place on to the exercise area.”

The aim has been to test the ability of Regular and Reserve units to mesh together on the battlefield under the Army 2020 reforms.

Major Alex Mallin, Officer Commanding of the QOY Squadron, said: “This has been an opportunity for us to deploy a formed squadron into the field for the first time and work alongside the Light Dragoons; an important stepping stone in our own training. My personnel have all delivered exactly what I had hoped at this stage. They’ve been working hard, performed well and learned something too.”

The Light Dragoons, known as England’s Northern Cavalry, recruits from the North East of England and Yorkshire.

Action from Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.

Action from Exercise Wessex Storm. Picture by Shane Wilkinson.

It isn’t the first time that Reservists from the North East have worked alongside Regular soldiers on exercise. Last year, the North-East-based Fifth Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (5RRF) worked alongside Regular soldiers from Edinburgh-based 3 Rifles, as well as members of the Croatian Army.