Training fields

Infantry soldiers trade the green fields of County Antrim for the Jordanian desert

Infantry soldiers based in Northern Ireland have swapped the green fields for the arid desert as they hone their skills with the Jordanian Armed Forces.

2 Rifles B Company, from Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, Co Antrim, which are awaiting deployment to Ukraine, are the latest from the Army to take part in Exercise Olive Grove.

Commanding Officer Major Mark Hayward told the PA News Agency that the company, as the UK’s readiness unit for the next 12 months, is ready for the next challenge.

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The contingent of riflemen and officers, including some of the first women in front-line positions, experienced extreme temperatures at a camp in Zarqa, about an hour from the Jordanian capital Amman, with cold temperatures at night and the sun during the day.

In partnership with the 15th Battalion of the Jordanian Armed Forces, they trained in a model village and live firing ranges in an environment very different from home.

It even involved a Co Antrim-born rifleman who found himself playing the role of a fictional senior official who needed protection.

Lance Corporal Lee Chapman explained that his colleagues had to guard him while he went to a meeting.

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“It’s a bit unusual but fun, every day in the military is different, you travel a lot,” he said.

The exercise will conclude at the end of March with a full battle group style attack including air support, which is expected to be watched by some distinguished guests from Jordan.

Major Mark Hayward, from Manchester, said the soldiers learned from each other.

“The essence of the exercise is to build interoperability and partnership alongside our Jordanian partners, the idea being that we can learn from them, they can learn from us, and together we can both become better armed forces,” he told PA.

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“The unit we are specifically associated with, the 15th Battalion of the Jordanian Armed Forces, is a specialist in urban battalions, so we were able to use the excellent training facilities we had here, both live and in white in order to develop our interoperability and our urban training capacity.

“Olive Grove has traditionally partnered with units from the south, so it was a really good opportunity for a UK unit to come and partner with a unit that we haven’t always been able to do and then train in a fantastic area which so far we’ve never really been able to do either.

The exercise comes after a recent exercise for troops in Kenya.

Canadian and American troops also participated in the exercise.

Major Hayward said there are fewer cultural differences between all nations than you might think.

“I think we’re told quite often to expect cultural differences and to some extent that’s true, but for the most part soldiers are soldiers, they sit and have the same conversations, they have the same problems and the same pleasures and once they get beyond worrying about upsetting each other, they actually realize there’s very little difference,” he said.

“But the Jordanians couldn’t be better hosts and if we went down the road where an infraction could be caused they would be very tactful in telling us, be aware of that, and we would correct it but for the most part soldiers are soldiers everywhere you go.

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Looking ahead to potential future deployments, Major Hayward said 2 guns are on standby to support wherever needed.

“Like all units in the British Army, we are fully prepared to support wherever we are needed,” he said.

“At the moment 2 Rifles after the success in Kenya are on hold as a UK readiness unit for the next 12 months. Obviously, emerging situations in different parts of the world, we have to be ready to respond to it, but in the same way we must be ready to respond anywhere. If that sees us leaving here to go somewhere in Eastern Europe, we are ready to take on this challenge and this task as we are for anyone else.


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