RAF reservists undertake extreme cold weather training in Norway

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SAC Justin Neeve and his RAF colleagues on their first morning of Exercise Wintermarch 2016

RAF RESERVISTS from around the UK have been participating in Exercise Wintermarch in Norway.

Over five training days, RAF Reservists were instructed by Norwegian and Danish experts in cross-country skiing, dealing with cold weather injuries and avalanche survival. The exercise also developed team-building skills and physical fitness.

For Wintermarch’s Project Officer, Squadron Leader Paul Chegwidden, the annual exercise provides valuable training benefits for its participants.

“The opportunity to take part in challenging exercises, like Wintermarch, is often one of the main reasons that people join the RAF Reserves,” he said. “This type of world- class training develops skills and strengths that RAF Reservists will use when on operations with regular forces and with international allies. Such skills are also extremely valuable to employers.”

Personnel drawn from sixteen reserve squadrons came to live and train together near the village of Rjukan in southern Norway, an area famous for the ‘Heroes of Telemark’ sabotage operation that dealt a serious blow to the Nazi atomic weapons programme during the Second World War.

After two days training, the reservists were divided into separate groups. The most able undertook a 15km cross-country trek, followed by a 20km route the following day. All the reservists then competed in a 3km race on the final day, which featured fast and frantic action as many attempted to beat the course record.

Flight Lieutenant Nina Walkingshaw on Exercise Wintermarch 2016

Flight Lieutenant Nina Walkingshaw on Exercise Wintermarch 2016

First Lieutenant Søren Hansen, a ski instructor long involved with Wintermarch, finds satisfaction in seeing those under his supervision learn and grow.

“As with all the other years, we are impressed by the British,” he said. “They just keep going, pushing on to learn how to ski. Some may struggle and others may not, but they keep getting up and we are always impressed by what we see every year.”

Squadron Leader Chegwidden was also pleased how the exercise not only offered new training experiences, but allowed reservists to meet and work with other European military personnel, as well as members of other squadrons and trades:

“Working with NATO allies on Wintermarch gives reservists a whole new scope beyond their normal working environment. They also experience life beyond their normal parent squadron, so they can see the wider Air Force as a whole.”



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