British soldiers have been enduring the ultimate “stress test” as part of gruelling training exercises in the Kenyan bush.
The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS) have been stationed temporarily 185 miles north-east of Nairobi at Archers Post as they take part in Exercise Askari Storm.
The exercise is bring coordinated by the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) during a six-week programme designed as the most extreme test of their skills short of an actual conflict situation.
The 394 infantry soldiers from the 2 SCOTS battle group are backed from around 500 army personnel from the UK including medics, artillery units and engineers.
Exercise Askari Storm sees army personnel carrying up to 40kg of equipment across Kenya’s hot and arid terrain, in temperatures pushing 40C (104F).
Ever present dangers include heat exhaustion and the local wildlife, but with the battalion due to deploy later this year on operations in the Middle East and Africa, the exercise is seen as crucial preparation for any eventuality.
Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Graeme Wearmouth said the Kenyan terrain ensured there was “no hiding place” for his troops.
“It’s a chance to put everything that we’ve learnt, everything that we’ve trained for, into practice, so this is really, I suppose, the optimum test short of going to war.
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s very demanding. This is the hottest time in the year in Kenya, we left Scotland in snow and we came here to 35C (95F) of heat, and it’s a really good test for us as soldiers.
“Importantly, though, it is also preparation for us before we look ahead to operations we’ve been warned off for at the end of this year and into 2018.
“We’ve been told as a battalion that we are due to go away on operations, somewhere Middle East and in the Africa area.
“It’s part of ongoing operations, we’re basically going to be replacing other battalions that are already out doing various training tasks.
“So whilst this is very much us in our war-fighting role – and that’s not what we’re going to be doing later in the year – what this allows us to do is to stress-test the team and understand where our development points are, and also where our good points are, and knowing that going into operations for real you really do ensure that you are going forward with the best possible preparation for the most demanding things that we do as soldiers.” – Lieutenant Colonel Graeme Wearmouth
Exercises include troops having to successfully negotiate scenarios such as bringing humanitarian aid to a village. This is all while they battle the Black Watch 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) who are playing the role of a real “enemy”.
The high tech war games see soldiers armed with blank rounds loaded into weapons fitted with laser transmitters. These are picked up by sensors on body armour, helmets and vehicles, allowing the exercise to be replayed afterwards.
Minister of the Armed Forces Mike Penning said: “This training is the latest example of the UK’s presence in Africa.
“Britain’s armed forces are stepping up globally to tackle international threats that put Britain at risk – ensuring stability across the world and helping to deliver security at home.”