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Training Support Office TSO: Maj P McNicholas YORKS


TSWO: WO2 M Collacott/ WO2 D Naylor RRF


The Tour and the Rôle


3 MERCIAN assumed the rôle of the lead Infantry Battalion within the Land Warfare Centre Battle Group in March 2008 relieving 3 YORKS (Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) who had been based in Warminster, on the western edge of Salisbury Plain. The Land Warfare Centre Battle Group is an all-arms unit with an integral Squadron of Challenger 2 tanks plus a Royal Engineer Troop. The Battle Group’s mission is to provide training and development support for LWC-sponsored individual and collective training in order to prepare individuals and Units for current and future operations. Effectively, the Battle Group provides manpower, equipment (mainly crewed armoured vehicles) and advice to the schools and branches which operate from Warminster to enable their training and instruction to actually take place. Many people will know the rôle by one of its many former names - that of Demonstration Battalion.


Who the Battalion Works with


Several different Units come under LWC sponsorship but the main customers for the Battle Group’s support are courses run by Land Warfare School including Formation and Close Recce, Armour and Armoured Infantry courses, dismounted Infantry Recce and the Combined Arms Tactics Division, which runs the Company Commanders’ course. Other commitments come from the Collective Training Group to support training of units of Battle Group size and above including pre-deployment training for Op Herrick and Op Telic and from Support Weapons School, which runs the Mortar and Anti-Tank courses. The Battle Group supports all non-Brecon career courses which any JNCO in the Battalion is likely to attend: both A and C Companies have been able to welcome their newly-arrived OCs to the Battle Group after seeing them as students on Ex Lions’ Strike, the culmination of the Company Commanders’ course.


Core commitments – what the


Battalion actually does The training which the Battle Group supports is either individual or collective. Individual training focuses on personal skills related to equipment and rôle. Collective training brings separate groups together and ensures that the overall effect they deliver is harmonised and therefore maximised. The scale of the training also varies from three men demonstrating how to operate a mortar


The Mercian Eagle


from the back of a 432 vehicle to the full Battle Group being deployed in an unscripted exercise, providing an opposing force, an OPFOR, equipped with the laser “shoot and be shot” simulation equipment TES being deployed against what might be another unit preparing for operations. Most training is armoured and involves all-arms activity with the tanks from the Armoured Squadron and the mobility and counter-mobility vehicles of the Engineer Troop playing key parts in most major deployments and being tasked in their own right for more specific training support. Most individual training is for student commanders – at all levels of command. Mercian soldiers have often been involved in mentoring: it has not been uncommon to see JNCOs briefing relatively senior officers on ways in which they should command their Platoons or deploy their vehicles.


Non-standard commitments


The Battle Group is often volunteered by very senior military officers to host groupings involved in Defence Diplomacy. Sadly, other Units usually get the benefit of being hosted by other nations in far-flung exotic locations! By the end of the tour, 3 MERCIAN will have organised and hosted separate Company- size groups from Jamaica, India and Poland, all being significant undertakings, and also all being opportunities to train with overseas forces and assess their competence. There have been no Mercian applications to transfer to any of the three nations’ armies. The Battle Group has had continuous involvement with the Defence Academy Intermediate (for newly-promoted Majors) and Advanced (for newly-promoted Lieutenant Colonels) courses. The Close Operations stand of the Land Combat Power Demonstration saw a very large static display of current and emerging equipment and a Combined Arms Firepower demonstration, known to many as the Firepower Demo. This is a signature event for the Infantry and was attended by around 4000 people over three days. Royal interest in the Battalion’s role has continued with visits to deployments on exercise. Other commitments have seen Mercian personnel acting as film extras in Defence training films and assisting the Infantry Trials and Development Unit in their assessment of potential new equipment, including trials in Nevada and Australia.


Focus throughout the Tour


There have been many key features of the tour. The time has been something of a long slog with a very high tempo of activity and nights out of bed and associated domestic disruption approaching levels only experienced on operations. The requirement has been to remain committed, fresh and professional. No-one should pretend that


the rôle has been particularly popular: there has been much repetition of what has been, on occasion, mundane activity. However, there has also been a unique opportunity to train with the real estate, vehicles and other resources necessary to practise all-arms deployments. 3 MERCIAN have deployed in the field as a Battle Group more than any other non-operational Infantry Unit and, possibly, more even than most Units on operations. This opportunity extends to training internally. As Whole Fleet Management imposes training restrictions on the wider Infantry, the increased holdings of armoured vehicles enjoyed by the Battle Group has provided the chance to train additional Warrior drivers and commanders and those for other “A” vehicles and this opportunity has been seized enthusiastically.


Another key feature has been the devolvement of training responsibility to a low level. Very many commitments see support to training being provided at Platoon level with that particular Platoon Commander or Sergeant (or JNCO) representing the Battalion. This, and the understanding of how courses are run, should stand the Battalion’s commanders in good stead for the future. If nothing else, most NCOs and officers now know Salisbury Plain like the back of their hand. However, responsibility brings obligations. The oft- quoted adage that the Battalion is “only as good as the last commitment” is very true: hard-won reputations can very easily be lost and one late RV arrival by a single commander can undo much of the good work of others.


The Future


The rôle of the Land Warfare Centre Battle Group is to be taken over by 1 RRF, a direct swap of Tidworth with Fallingbostel. This Battle Group rôle is one of the very last to be subject to the Arms Plot and remains a short-term tour, with 1 RRF due to hand over to 2 R WELSH. This rotation, whilst the remainder of the Infantry adopts a more permanent approach to rôles, is a clear sign of the pressure and tempo of life for the Battle Group. Once we have moved, the currently familiar Battle Group exercise names will come to mean little to Mercians other than evocative memories of hard work and moments of intense activity followed by periods of frustrating boredom, all compounded by an awareness that, if students only did things a little differently, things would be so much better. Despite the challenges of the tour, the Mercians leave with their heads held high. The reputation of the Battalion has been enhanced and exceptional training support has been provided to very many individuals and Units.


October 2009 85


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