3 PWRR In Kenya
Following a two year career break from the Army Reserve (AR) I returned to 3 PWRR in Feb 2013. Although I was unable to deploy on Op TOSCA with the Battalion (Bn) I was able to complete an intensive training year which culminated in leading a AR Platoon (Pl) in an Integration Pilot Exercise with 1 R ANGLIAN.
As part of the Army 2020 programme 3 PWRR are to be ‘Paired’ with 1 R ANGLIAN and our initial integration began with a visit by OC, A Coy, 1 R ANGLIAN to our Annual Training Event (ATE) in Sennybridge last summer. It was during this visit that it became clear that we would be required to provide a Pl, trained to Live Fire (LF) Section Attack, to attend the ‘VIKING Battlegroup’ Ex ASKARI STORM 5 in Kenya. This was to occur during January and February 2014. In Army Reserve terms the six months lead time given was not a lot and due to heavy Bn commitments including our Annual Training Exercise in June, training could not start in earnest until mid October last year.
Our initial training began with a Transition to Live Firing (TTLF) / Selection weekend followed by a week of LF in Warcop with A Coy, 1 R ANGLIAN during mid November and a combined exercise at the end of that month (this was a mix of Fighting in Built Up Areas (FIBUA) and Fighting in Woods and Forests (FIWAF) tactics). I was then invited to 1 R ANGLIAN CAST Ex in Catterick in December; thus allowing a further chance to integrate with both Bn and Company (Coy) Command teams. Our final training came just a week before the Pl was to deploy to Kenya with the soldiers completing a LF Section Attack range at Lydd.
I deployed to Kenya with the Advance Party on the 14th Jan, with the remainder of my soldiers and some key enablers following some four or five days later. On arrival in Kenya we were processed through an accelerated Reception, Staging and Onward Integration (RSOI) package and moved to the A Company enhanced Coy harbour location where we embarked upon a ten day training period. This phase was called EX ASKARI WARRIOR and included further acclimatisation and familiarisation shoots using the latest night vision systems before completing day and night shoots and attacks at Team, Section and Platoon levels. During this period of training an integrated Coy level attack took place using the Deployable Tactical Engagement Simulation (DTES) kit. This involved preliminary moves the afternoon before by the various Platoons to a hasty Company harbour location followed by a night move to the Line of Departure (LD). As this phase used blank ammunition we had the benefit of a ‘live’ enemy. Almost needless to say the enemy didn’t quite ‘play fair’ and whether by luck or good judgement managed to attack us in our Forming Up Point (FUP) as we moved forward to the LD. Despite this set back and some heavy initial casualties the Company completed the mission, which was to attack onto and through a village and trench complex.
At the end of this phase we moved north to the significantly hotter Archers Post and continued our own organic Company training before executing the first of the ‘test’ exercises. This was the Combined Arms Live Firing Ex (CALFEX); the first day of which was the culmination point for the Integration Pilot. A Company underwent a reorganisation which saw it move from having four organic Platoons to having three conventional Platoons at a near full compliment and a Manoeuvre Support Section. We formed one of the three Platoons and were fully manned; this being the final test of the integration to see that an AR Platoon could fully function with our Regular Army counterparts as a formed entity. Over the next eight hours or so we conducted a night move to the FUP and launched through the LD shortly after dawn. After the initial Advance to Contact we were ‘steered’ onto the Enemy positions by reconnaissance assets and commenced several co-ordinated Platoon attacks operating as a Company Group. During these attack phases we also conducted an obstacle crossing; this was in the shape of breeching a minefield.
The CALFEX was completed in accordance with the Army’s ‘Fight Light’ policy and in temperatures of around 40+ degrees. This placed all the exercising troops and the Company resupply elements under great pressure. Despite this there were only two heat casualties across the whole Company and the Limit of Exploitation (LOE) was reached 15 minutes before the required time.
At this point the majority of the AR element began their recovery to the UK. This involved initial transport back to Laikipia Air Base (LAB) to ‘de-kit’, pack and travel on to Nairobi for the flight home. However just under a quarter of us elected to remain in Kenya and complete the next two phases of Ex ASKARI STORM 5. This saw a continued period of the CALFEX and a further four days of that exercise phase (Ex ASKARI CENTURIAN). The remaining 3 PWRR soldiers were used to backfill the Platoons within A Company and I joined the Coy HQ element. This saw us move through two further two day phases – one on Defence and one on Enabling Operations. On completion we move back to LAB for a re-conditioning period of four or five days. During this period low level training continued within the Company.
The final phase of the exercise then took place; this was an intensive six day Battlegroup (BG) exercise called Ex ASKARI SPARTAN. The soldiers of 3 PWRR continued to perform as part of A Company. The BG returned from the exercise and once the post exercise de-kit was completed two community projects under the control of the Padre were activated. One involved several work projects at a local school near to LAB and the second being almost solely manned by 3 PWRR personnel back at Archer’s Post. This involved the clearing of vegetation from around the town’s primary water source. The team; ten 3 PWRR and two R ANGLIAN personnel made short work of the vegetation, clearing the surrounding area of the spring in just under two days. Being away and acting as an independent element we were also able to interact with the local population. The land we were working on belonged to the local Chief, who also owned a Bar/ Restaurant. He was kind enough to host us both nights and some local cuisine was enjoyed. On returning to LAB after the project was completed it was our turn to begin the process of returning home. Almost immediately we transited through a Movement Control Check Point (MCCP) and then boarded the transport that took us back to Nairobi and the eventual flight home.
We arrived back to a damp and windy England late in the morning the following day having completed a gruelling six week deployment to Kenya in some very arduous conditions. It was a fascinating experience and we were proud to be an AR unit that had successfully completed an Integration Pilot. The success of this stands 3 PWRR and 1 R ANGLIAN at the forefront of integration between Reserve and Regular Battalions and I look forward to the continued training and operational opportunities that this relationship will offer in the future.