SOLDIERS have been putting their skills to the test ahead of a major deployment to Iraq as part of Britain’s ongoing battle against Islamic extremists.
About 150 troops from Hampshire-based 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards have been rehearsing the types of scenarios they could expect to deal with during their latest mission.
They are due to fly out to Iraq next month for a six-month tour, which will see the team from Number Two Company operating in a force protection role, providing security for the Royal Engineers who are training Iraqi soldiers.
While in the country, the guards will create a ‘security bubble’ for the engineers to provide a safe area to teach Iraqi troops. They will also be involved in clearing Iraqi weapons systems.
To prepare for the deployment, the battalion has been undergoing intense training at the Longmoor army camp, near Liss.
The additional practice is to ensure that the protection groups and commanders are prepared to deal with hostile attack, from indirect fire, small arms fire and vehicle immobilisation to protecting convoys should they come under assault.
Lieutenant Duncan Thorne, a force protection commander, said: ‘The training has gone really well, we are looking forward to operating in a new role, the infantry element is what we do well, it’s still there we just have the addition of new skills and techniques.’
The tour to Iraq will see the soldiers operating in various areas including Taji, Irbil, Manila and Besmaya.
Known as Operation Shader 7, the role is part of the UK’s ongoing military intervention against terror group Islamic State.
The 1st Battalion are a light role battalion, so taking on the force protection element, using the Foxhound armoured patrol vehicles, has meant the company has had to tackle further driver and commander training – something totally new to the team.
For Guardsman Patrick England, it will be his first deployment, one he is looking forward to.
He said: ‘I am feeling quite excited about the deployment, it will be my first one and its part of the reason for joining.
‘The training has been great and I have developed some new skills taking on this new role – it’s something different.’
The battalion is based in Aldershot and draws its troops predominantly from the north of England, as well as Portsmouth and Southampton.