Operation TOSCA

165 Port Regiment RLC

My name is Cpl Symmans. I’m an ArmyReserve from 165 Port Regiment RLC and I’m currently based at Ledra Palace Hotel (LPH) in Nicosia, Cyprus, serving with 17 Port and Maritime Group as a section commander on Operation TOSCA. I’ve been here a couple of weeks now and I have over 5 months to go before I complete this tour.  4 months ago I was Matthew John Symmans, working for a NHS hospital as a pharmacy technician. One day I arrived home back from work to find a large white envelope lying on my door mat. Convinced it was something to do with the general pharmaceutical council, I unenthusiastically opened the envelope expecting to find some paper or study I that I was expected to read. What it was however was quite the opposite. I had just received my call up papers.

Ledra Palace Hotel (LPH) in Nicosia

Ledra Palace Hotel (LPH) in Nicosia

As this is the second time I have been mobilised, I wasn’t as dumbstruck as I was the first time I received call up papers.  I was given a good 8 weeks notice to report to RTMC Chilwell and it seemed at the time a long amount of time, but as always it soon passed by. Before I knew it, I was packing my gear and heading off to RTMC Chilwell. For some reason I didn’t seem to feel any anxiety on my last day of work, knowing full well it would be another 9 months before I see any of my works mates again. It all felt very routine.

The 2 weeks at Chilwell were very straight forward and well organised. All I had to do was turn up places at certain times and do MATTs, filling out forms, get issued kit, or listen in on briefings. For anyone due to go through RTMC Chilwell I can assure them it’s really nothing to worry about. The middle weekend I managed to shoot off back home and see my other half, and did the same thing again at the end of the two weeks. Once the Chilwell episode was over, I attended training at Nescliff training camp near Shrewsbury. The aim of these two weeks was to get us working with the rest of 17 Port and Maritime Group in order to get us up to speed with our duties out on OP TOSCA. The training teams worked closely with representatives from 101 Regiment REME, who at that time were based at LPH. Mock ups of the buffer zone were made on farmer’s fields, so that we could get a rough visualisation before we got to Cyprus. As well ourselves, 4 Mercian were also at Nescliff doing their training for when they take over the Mobile Force Reserve (MFR). The final 3 days at Nescliff saw a culmination of everyone’s new skills put into practice under exercise conditions whilst being validated by members of 101 Rgt REME. The end event was a parade where we ceremoniously replace our normal headdress with that of the blue UN beret, the beret that we’ll all be wearing for the next 6 months.

The Reinforcements Training and Mobilisation Centre (RTMC)

The Reinforcements Training and Mobilisation Centre (RTMC)

After Nescliff, I had 3 weeks of pre-deployment leave before I flew from RAF Brize Norton to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. I spent as much time as I possibly could with my family and close friends, but as always, the time went by all too quick and before I knew it, I was frantically packing my bags for 6 months deployment in Cyprus. From the moment the plane landed at Akrotiri it has been systems go. With not so much as a “hello and welcome to Cyprus” we were being thrust into our rotation at LPH hitting the ground running, so to speak.

At present, I’m a couple of weeks into the tour now and things seem as though they are settling down in terms of our work. This is my first tour as a section commander, as I was only promoted a couple of months before I was mobilised, so I’m having to learn the ropes quickly in terms of my responsibilities as a section commander. So far, my section has been brilliant and have all worked together really well, despite being made up from both TA and regular soldiers from a total of four different regiments. Now we’re becoming familiar with our jobs, boundaries and lifestyle out here and the fact that adventure training is on the near horizon,  things are beginning to look rosier.

For more information please visit http://www.serfca.org/en-gb/reservists/ta/266southamptonportsquadronrlc.aspx


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