Meeting The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment in Cyprus
PUBLISHED: 15:43 15 December 2014 | UPDATED: 15:43 15 December 2014
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Next year, a number of soldiers from 3PWRR (The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment) will fly out to Afghanistan. Alice Cooke joined them in Cyprus as part of a two week simulated battle exercise, which will be the closest they'll get to a war zone before facing the real thing
A small island roughly the same size as Sussex, Cyprus supports around 6,000 army personnel and their families at any one time. From here, troops, weaponry and supplies are sent to various army bases including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
It is the latter that is the focus of this particular exercise, as soldiers from across Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Hampshire, who together make up 3PWRR, prepare to fly out to Kabul in the early part of next year. They are likely to pass through Cyprus again on their way back for a period of what is known as decompression – a time in which they are given the chance to readjust to normal life before returning home from a war zone.
From Brize Norton in Oxfordshire you land in Akrotiri, where you are greeted by a sign that reads “Camp Bastion 1,807 miles, RAF Brize Norton 2,077”, a stark reminder that this is where it starts to get that little bit more real.
B Company, part of 3PWRR, is based in Brighton and Eastbourne, and having caught up with the soldiers at home earlier this summer, I was keen to see how preparations were going, and what their thoughts were on flying out to Afghanistan – for many this will be their first time in a war zone.
Luke Garner is 27 and lives in Saltdean, near Brighton. He has been a reservist with B Company for four years. He originally wanted to join the regular army, but when his father fell ill he trained as an electrician in order to bring in a regular wage and stay at home to support his family. He is still a full-time electrician, but trains with 3PWRR around work. For him, joining the reservists gave him the best of both worlds. “I wanted to be there for my family so I decided not to leave home and join up full-time, but I still wanted to do my bit and be a part of the army.” When I ask him about his thoughts on heading to Kabul next year he seems genuinely keen. “I’m excited – and a bit nervous, but mostly I’m excited. I’m looking forward to getting out there.” He goes on to explain a little of what the exercise is about. “What we’re doing here is learning to react to combat. Your commander is in charge and you just have to trust that he knows best, but mostly you have to trust the bloke beside you – you’re there to keep him alive and he’s there for you in the same way.”
Adam Clarke agrees. At 21 he has been part of B Company for three years. For both men this will be their first combat experience, and to prepare, Adam (or Clarkey, as he is known around here), will be working with the army full-time until they fly out to Kabul in February. A builder by trade, he usually fits his army career in around his job. He met his fiancée while in the cadets, and lives in Patcham. He too is slightly apprehensive about what lies ahead, but says that what makes it easier is knowing that whatever happens, the people around him will do anything to get him out. “I’m definitely nervous as I’m not sure what it’ll be like, but I’m really excited too – I couldn’t be with a better bunch of blokes.”
The UK Reserve Forces play a vital part in the nation’s defence. Reservists travel, learn new skills and get paid for it. They meet in the evenings and at weekends to fit training around civilian jobs or studies. Army Reserves serve with either their local detachment or a national unit. In Sussex, there are bases in Brighton and Eastbourne.
For more information or to join up go to: www.army.mod.uk/reserves
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