Troops take on ‘Taliban’ in series of war games

A soldier with the 4th Mechanised Brigade is pictured engaging the enemy during Operation Qalb in Helmand, Afghanistan. PPP-151019-121639001

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THE crackle of gunfire rang out across the Hampshire countryside as Thorney Island troops engaged the ‘enemy’ in a fierce firefight yesterday.

The Royal Artillery’s 21 Battery have gone back to basics as they start their training regime ahead of a tour of Afghanistan.

Soldiers from 21 Battery Royal Artillery based at Thorney Island in Emsworth are currently training at Longmoor Training Camp ahead of deploying to Afghanistan next year.''Pictured is: Bombadier Jay Easton (27) in a sangar during training.''Picture: Sarah Standing (122942-1029)

Soldiers from 21 Battery Royal Artillery based at Thorney Island in Emsworth are currently training at Longmoor Training Camp ahead of deploying to Afghanistan next year.''Pictured is: Bombadier Jay Easton (27) in a sangar during training.''Picture: Sarah Standing (122942-1029)

The gunners had to hold down their mock checkpoint as other soldiers dressed as Taliban insurgents mounted attacks.

The war games at Longmoor Camp come as 21 Battery prepares to deploy to Helmand province in April next year.

Around 150 troops from the base in Emsworth will be operating drones to provide vital intelligence to ground units on patrol.

But before they can go to war in their hi-tech role, the gunners must first hone the basics.

Sergeant Luke Farrell, 31, who is leading the training exercises, said: ‘It’s critical, especially for anyone who leaves Camp Bastion, that they understand the basic tactics and techniques out there – especially with the threats that are against them.

‘The IED threat is still a massive factor and small arms, so it’s basically about how to cope and combat against that.’

The facilities at Longmoor are designed to replicate the experience of being in Afghanistan and the checkpoint is as basic as they come.

Bombardier Jay Easton, 27, who served in Afghanistan in 2008, said: ‘It’s been as realistic as it can be. I think all the guys have learnt a lot more.’

It will also be a second Afghan tour for Bombardier Zoe Shackcloth, 27.

She said: ‘I’m looking forward to it. It’s always nice to feel you are making a difference.’