Reservists from Lancashire were put through their paces during a 15-day training exercise in Italy. For some it was the first time they have ever done training abroad, for others it was familiar territory.
But one thing they all knew was this training would be harder than before – because now the reserves need to be trained to the same standards of their regular counterparts.
The Territorial Army, as it was once known, has been renamed the Army Reserve to better reflect its enhanced role and its full integration into the whole force.
The changes were announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond earlier this year in the ‘Reserves in the Future Force 2020’ White Paper.
It means that there will be better benefits, more security, and more support for Reservists and their employers.
Major Nick Kennon who was leading the 4th Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s regiment explained how the visit to Italy would help the men and women, who all have civilian jobs at home, get ready for the higher demands.
He said: “The idea is that we start off at section build to company level exercise.
“We are on a training cycle that will increase our ability to integrate with regulars our battalion mission is to have a company ready to deploy alongside our regular paid battalion by 2016 and this year we are working at platoon and company level, next year it will be company live fire and progressively so we are ready for 2016.
“We are getting ready for a number of different taskings. Everyone who is here is a volunteer, they volunteered to join the reserves as we are now they know that the training cycle is busy and there is a commitment required, they have shown that commitment, they are here and they are taking every opportunity.
“They are giving 110 per cent effort in what they are doing.”
Major Kennon, a solicitor from Carlisle, added: “The difference is the change in the capability that is asked, in the past, most of these lads have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, if not other places, so they have done the build up training before. They have served on operations recently in some very kinetic environments, they have seen and experienced quite a lot, but they were asked to go as individuals, to fill gaps and strengthen units. What they are being asked to do now is for an increase in capability and that is that we deliver collective bodies be it platoons or companies to support the regulars. That is what they are being asked to do.”
The troops out on exercise in Italy feel confident in their ability to meet the standards and scoff at the suggestion that the regular troops might consider them inferior, with most believing that is a “myth”
Sgt Jason Hinsley, who works as a software development manager in Leyland, has already worked with the regulars on tour in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said: “We are preparing for company level tactics so we can integrate better with the regular counterparts so this week has been pretty challenging. The heat, the tempo, it has all been made to be as challenging as possible to put us under pressure so they can test that we can perform when we’re asked to when we come to work with the regular soldiers.”
Kingsman David Smith from Lancaster, who works at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court during the week and spends his spare time as a reservist, said the training had been “exciting”
He said: “We have got a lot experience. We have got a lot of older lads here and we are on par already and this extra training is giving us that edge.”