Soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment are currently in the United States on exercise at the Fort Polk Joint Readiness Training Centre in Louisiana, working alongside their American counterparts.
The exercise gives the Episkopi-based soldiers the opportunity to work alongside American troops and help both forces develop a better understanding of their working practices.
Commanding Officer for 1 LANCS, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Driver, said this was an excellent opportunity for his troops to test themselves in an environment that they were not used to, against some highly trained US soldiers in an exercise environment.
He explained: “The environment makes it difficult enough without the opposition force – the 1st 509th Airborne Infantry Regiment – out there as well. It’s really an opportunity for us as a British battalion to embed within a US brigade and to ease out some of the challenges of interoperability, both the human, technical and procedural challenges.”
Although the battalion has undertaken similar combat training in Kenya, Regimental Sergeant Major Thomas Whittingham said it was the spontaneous scenarios created by the opposition force in the 1st 509th that kept the troops on their toes.
He said: “You don’t really know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to constantly think outside the box, which is really good for my soldiers as well.”
Sgt Maj Whittingham also revealed how impressed he was by JRTC’s air operations and the various aircraft that fly around the training area.
He continued: “It is making us think of our locations. For instance, you can’t just park on the side of the road, you need to be coming in, looking at cover, camouflaging your vehicles up and again, it just gives it a much more realistic feel”.
It is no secret that British and American troops have a close bond, having been allies for decades and, according to the CO, learning to overcome operational differences between the two is vital to successful missions.
“They are our closest ally. We’ve worked as a coalition now for the past 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“If we don’t train together now and get used to working together, when we do deploy together, those hurdles are even higher.”