80 Soldiers from the 5th Battalion The RIFLES joined forces with police organisations to hunt down three fugitive terrorists in the village of Longmoor; in reality, a purpose-built urban training facility at the MOD’s Longmoor Camp.
This was Exercise Octacine, the first significant national counter-terrorism exercise bringing together the police and military since the pandemic struck almost two years ago.
The exercise was based around a major terrorist incident that had been declared following atrocities in which a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device had been detonated at Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction causing carnage and mass casualties. 15 minutes later a car drove into a group of commuters outside the city’s New Street Station. An Army bomb disposal team confirmed that the explosion on the motorway junction was caused by a bomb and so the hunt was on for the accomplices to these attacks.
The car bomber was killed by his own device and the two terrorists that drove into the commuters neutralised by armed police officers on the scene. It was identified that there were three remaining fugitive terrorists armed and on the run. As a consequence, the UK’s security threat level was raised to Critical – an attack is highly likely in the near future. With that, a COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Room – the government’s top-level committee that addresses matters of national crises) meeting was convened, which activated Op TEMPERER.
Op TEMPERER at its initial stage, is the deployment of military personnel to backfill firearm trained police, principally from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the MOD Police, allowing them to be reassigned to the terror threat. Should the situation persist or develop further, then troops can be detailed to support police units directly in their counter-terrorist operation and that is how it played out in this Ex Octacine scenario.
So a company of infantry (80 pax) under the command of Major Chris Groves from 5th Battalion The RIFLES, representing the Army’s Temperer Standby Battalion, were assigned to assist the combined police forces moving into the vicinity of Longmoor Village in their search for the three terrorists, now code-named: Inca Gold, Rock Post and Copper Blush.
These exercises are designed with one main purpose; to develop the interoperability between the various police forces and the military. To share best practice and learn how each other approaches what is tasked of them. Naturally, as you would expect there was a lot of talk and comparisons of each other’s kit with those in camouflage looking enviously at that of those wearing black and blue and, of course, vice versa!
Major Chris Groves, the Officer Commanding the Company from 5 RIFLES said,
“It’s a different environment to how we work in the military, we have had the chance to rehearse from when we did our API (Armed Police Interoperability) training and that has certainly paid off. The key advantage of this exercise is deploying at short notice. With the Army becoming ever more deployable and lethal, testing deployability on this exercise has been really beneficial and has provided skills and a mind-set we can transfer to other training. In terms of variety it has been an experience working in another environment with the police. We’ve certainly learnt lessons from each other. In terms of that wider tapestry of experience that can only be good and positive for our Riflemen.”
Sergeant Mal Thomas from Ministry of Defence Police
“There’s been good interoperability in the exercise, we’ve had NPAS-1 (National Police Air Service) the police helicopter overhead working with us as well so that’s a new aspect for us. The combination of us, the helicopter, the other police assets and the military all pulling together has been very effective.” Speaking specifically on the exercise scenario Sgt Thomas added, “we’ve had one successful arrest already, so that has buoyed the team up and our military colleagues have worked alongside us and it is really nice to see.”
As the exercise played out through the day, one of the terrorists, Inca Gold was arrested around midday in woods following a combined Police and Military sweep through the rural terrain. As more intelligence came to the fore, the hunt moved towards an urban setting with a house in the village of Longmoor being identified as where the two remaining suspects were holed up.
The area was immediately sealed off, with soldiers providing the man-power to enforce the cordon around the target house. In the end Rock Post, acknowledging the game was up, came out hands aloft. With laser dots from the armed officers’ gun sights dancing across his chest he was ordered to the ground, cuffed and arrested. However, Copper Blush decided he’d not be so compliant. Wearing a suicide vest, he ran out of the building towards the police yelling that he’d detonate himself. Despite warnings of armed police to stop he kept coming; two loud cracks rang out and the threat had been neutralised – Endex.