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NAVY NEWS, MARCH 2009 23
front-line
MR Bristol straddle two worlds
heart a rifleman. periods between phases (the ‘RiP’ and regulars helps, with regular
This distinction marks the or Relief in Place), when troops are units extending their pastoral
Corps as different from all other swapping over, that figure can rise role to the families and friends of
infantry and has been tested on to more than 40 per cent. embedded Reservists.
operations as recently as Herrick Bristol has suffered its share of One element of life in the RMR
5 in Afghanistan when India casualties. is entirely down to the individual
Coy was stood up from the waifs One, L/Cpl Nick Clarke, was – that of returning to civilian life
and strays of CSG; it included shot through the shins, and after a deployment.
BRF, chefs, drivers,s, although he is wa orking Having risked life and limb on
clerks, VMs – the list t hard to regain his the front-line, having to deal with
was almost endlesss fitness (and he piffling ‘problems’ on Civvy Street
and it performed with h intends to deploi y can take some adjustment.
distinction as a fighting ng again),a apparently the Mne Dave Snell does not find
company. sight of the wsigi ounds it difficult: “You leave it behind,
Ongoing skills training niing after a full-on joggafte ing put your civvy head on and just
carries on throughout the rest thhe rrest session,sessiono when his trainers crack on.”
of a career, and there are ere are rruub against the scarb aag s, is one Maj Dare demurred: “I found it
opportunities for specialistecialist to be ato beto avoided. difficult to get back to civilian life,”
training, foreign deplooyyment ymene t t Similarly the wSimS ounds he said, adding that he did not
and deployments alongside the suffered by Mne (now L/Cpl) have a high regard for some civvies
regulars. David ‘Fletch’ Fletcher have who have closed minds (okay, I
“Immediately there is a lot of passed into legend in the unit (see had to paraphrase that…).
respect for the Reserves,” said Lt below). But the fact that most do cope
Col Herring. But even while recovering in the is helped by the calibre of the
“The comment we will get is UK these part-time warriors do troops.
that they are doing a full-time job not stray far from the fold. “Generally the quality is very
and this as well, often followed by Both Fletch and Clarke, who was high – Royal Marines and Royal
‘I couldn’t do that!’ injured in the same attack, work at Marines Reservists are very
“It is a tough ask – our guys are the unit while they build towards bright.
often more mature, but they have their next deployment, and to keep “The reason we can settle
families and jobs to think of.” themselves out of mischief they back is because we can think it ● (Above and below) The appliance of science... Royal and budding teacher Mne David Snell on patrol
Officers are ‘grown’ from the thrash the life out of Zapcat boats through.” near Sangin
ranks, and will be expected to have (they wore out their last one, so if
got a tour of duty under their belt anyone has one spare they would
before they seek to take that step. like to hear from you…).
RMR units have their own The support provided by the
specialisations, and one of Bristol’s unit is manifest in many ways, Give ’em hell, Snell
fortes is heavy weapons (heavy according to Bristol detachment
machine guns, Javelin anti-tank OC Maj Cliff Dare.
MNE David Snell, a member skills which you can take back to
missiles), skills which are much in “The Corps learned lessons on
any workplace.
demand in combat. the long sail back from the Falklands
of RMR Bristol for eight years,
“I am a marine but you get
“It’s great because the guys are – being with your mates and talking
manages to combine soldiering
given the opportunity to present
in a front-line role,” said Lt Col about things that had happened
with training to be a science
to recruits, to take lessons – all
Herring. helped with the normalisation
teacher – he is due to qualify in
these great interpersonal and soft
“They do not sit around in the process,” said Maj Dare.
the summer.
skills an employer looks for.
rear echelons – it is what they “We know the key signs to look
“I should have joined when
“This has more than lived up
joined for and if we did not send for in people when they return.
I was younger, and joined the
to expectations – I have had great
them they would quit.” “The modern Corps is a ‘market
regular Corps, but for various
opportunities in my time here
Other specialist qualifications leader’ in the TRIM (Trauma RIsk
reasons…” said David.
– not just travelling but seeing
(SQs) which Reservists can learn Management) process.” “At the moment things are not
locations and places that would
mirror the regular Corps and But the camaraderie and too bad. I am a marine, but the
have been difficult to get to, and
include landing craft, mortars keeping busy does not have the workload is reasonable. Got to
doing things a little out of the
and the art of the sniper – one same effect back home, where balance personal life with this and
ordinary.
of the toughest roles in a tough wives, girlfriends and families run work life.
“I came back in March of last
organisation. the risk of feeling isolated.
“This gives you more confidence,
year having spent six months in
“Two men from this unit Again, the high degree of
and makes you more rounded.
Afghanistan, just north of Sangin.
passed the regular course recently integration between Reservists
It gives you greater interpersonal
“I was on patrols – as a marine
and both are with 42 Cdo in
you become part of a fighting
Afghanistan now as snipers,” said
Lt Col Herring.
“It just demonstrates the
staggering quality of the RMR,
and it is real integration.
‘I will deploy again...’
company. You fully integrate with
the regular Royal Marines.
“It was pretty much a question
of slotting in. You have to adjust in
your own mind to going away to a
“On Operation Herrick 7, out
difficult situation and family and
of 44 RMR with 40 Cdo, just one
L/CPL Fletch Fletcher joined the Cardiff we were on.”
was a ‘Mr Fixit’ to the rear of the
my left leg. They replaced that with one from friends have to accept that.
line, while 30 per cent of Recce
detachment of RMR Bristol in 2001, having Fenwick was injured as he was blown off the my arm, and some of the muscle was damaged “But it was very easy to slot in.
Troop were Reservists.”
left the regular Corps part of the way through roof, but Fletch bore the brunt. on that leg too. The guys you work with; okay,
Bristol has a trained strength
training. “The blast sent me back six or seven feet, “The doctors gave me a prognosis in early they give you a bit of banter about
of around 115, of which perhaps
He left for a couple of years, but rejoined and smashed the gun up pretty good – and December, and told me if I was lucky I might it but after six months you have
two-fifths are ex-regulars.
in 2005; within a couple of years he was in me with it. be walking by May. worked with them for 24 hours
As well as integrating into
Afghanistan with 40 Cdo.
“I was stunned to begin with, but then I “By May I was running three miles, because a day.
fighting formations, the unit also
“We were operating out of a forward
looked down to see a s**tload of blood, and I that was my aim. I’m not going to be a normal “Regulars just accept us.
provides up to eight recruits to the
operating base, FOB Inkerman – or FOB
thought ‘That’s not good.’ person doing the rehabilitation as a normal “I was at Fort Inkerman, and
regular Corps annually, as well as
Incoming, as we knew it because of the number
“I realised I needed some help and called for person would – I’m going to push it. that was the most contacted
four to six young officers in the
of contacts – with 40 Recce Troop near Sangin
my oppos – and my mum as well.” “It’s the Royal Marines ethos – I’m not location in the province. It was
YO batch.
in Helmand,” said L/Cpl Fletcher.
Fletch does not recall his colleagues dragging going to lie down and take it slowly. interesting...
With the Naval Service currently
“We were out on a routine foot patrol on
him from the roof – he faded in and out of “Fitness is not a problem, nor is strength, “You have a job to do, and the
dominating affairs in Afghanistan,
November 9 2007 as we had been doing since
consciousness as the gun battle raged around but I have skin grafts and they do open up, CO at the location has a job to
including the current deployment
September.
him. because it is thin skin, probably because I fulfil, so consequently you have
of 3 Cdo Brigade RM, more than
“It was my first deployment to Afghanistan,
“The Alpha Company medics tourniqued didn’t take things slowly. got patrols to carry out.
a quarter of the trained strength
but then if I had wanted to sit on my hands
my leg and gave me morphine – four of us had “But I will deploy again – hopefully in an “After seven patrols you
could be mobilised, and in crossover
and do nothing I would have joined a unit that
been injured there. anti-tank role, in fire support capacity from a probably had a day or two off –
did that.
“I was told that one of the medics did a static point or vehicle. but there’s a job to be done and
“I joined the RMR for a reason, and that is
bang-up job – I have never actually met the “I have unfinished business.” you have got to do it.”
skills
because they go out and do a bit of stuff.
bloke but I know his name was Oggie [press
“We were the last section in a troop snake
reports at the time named the medic as Mne
– the fire support section – and I was the
Gary Ogden].
Corps and the Maritime Reserve
machine gunner.
“There were more explosions and big bangs.
was not as close when he first
“We had interpreters and radios with us,
They couldn’t take us out the same way we
joined as it is today.
scanning known Taleban frequencies, and we
went in because the fire was coming from that
“The Reserves have changed,”
heard they were moving up to surround us and
direction, so they had to blow a hole in the rear
said Pat, a technical supervisor in
ambush us.
wall using a bar-mine.
civilian life.
“We weren’t that worried because it was
“Just before that went off my mate and
“When I joined, deploying with
pretty much a daily occurrence.
section commander lay on top of me and told
the regular Corps was something
“They would pop up, shoot at us for a
me there would be a loud explosion but I was
that generally didn’t happen, and
bit and then disappear down trenches and
not to worry.
the RMR didn’t get roles that they
ditches.
“I don’t remember going through the wall or
going to the helicopter – but I do remember the
wanted.
“It does keep you focused knowing at any
rear door gunner saying ‘Okay, mate?’ and me
“Young lads joining now are
time anything could happen.
asking for a glass of water.
deploying and joining regulars –
“We got contacted from about 50 metres
“Then I passed out and woke up in Selly
it’s a shame it didn’t happen ten
away, from some long grass.
Oak Hospital five days later.”
years ago.
“We immediately identified where the fire
“When I woke up, Mum, Dad and my sister
“I could still be deployed as a
was from – it was mainly small arms fire.
were there, and my CO and AO.
marine in a fighting company up “We laid down some fire from behind a
“Doctors told me what they had done. I had
to the age of 45 – and I have got natural defence by a stream.
lost quite a bit of muscle from my leg.
no problems being deployed. “Because I had the machine gun, me and my
“It is unlikely, but it doesn’t mate Mne Fenwick got it up to a compound
“I lost three teeth, and that really p**sed
make me feel any different about roof – basically the top of a mud hut – to lay
me off more than anything else – I had a
the Reserves. down some suppressing fire to pin the Taleban
nice smile up to then, now I have to do
“The Corps has done a lot for down.
a side smile.
me as a person – it made me a “We got up there and I managed to get a “I was injured in both legs – I lost the
more confident person, which I couple of rounds off, but at that point a rocket- majority of the muscle from my right thigh
wasn’t before.” propelled grenade hit the roof of the building down to the knee, and ruptured an artery in ● Bunker mentality... L/Cpl Nick Clarke poses in a forward outpost
NEW 022-023_NN_mar.indd 2 19/2/09 11:54:17
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