A Hartlepool soldier was involved in a military training operation in the town.
North East soldiers have played a leading role in the British Army’s largest logistics exercise of the year which has broken the mould by using major civilian industrial sites in the region.
Exercise Iron Python 18 was run by 101 Logistic Brigade (The Iron Vipers) and tested all the elements of Combat Service Support which includes logistics, equipment support, medical support and policing in support of the UK’s warfighting division.
The Regiment on the ground in the North was 4 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (4 RLC) who are tasked with sustaining up to 6,500 personnel during low, medium and high intensity warfighting activity.
And for the first time for such an exercise the Regiment dispersed across the North East of England and Scotland using existing civilian infrastructure to base their support headquarters as well as smaller squadrons.
Troops have been based at Port of Hartlepool, Durham Tees Valley Airport and Redcar Steelworks providing the necessary support and for one Hartlepool soldier this week it was a surreal experience carrying out her duties so close to home.
Private Briony Sorby, 24, who grew up just minutes from the port, said: “It’s been really peculiar being so close to home. I have been in the Army for four years now and exercise all over the country as well as abroad. But this is weird. I have almost been expecting my mam to turn up at the gate to say hello!”
But she said the experience working in and among civilians had made the exercise more realistic in terms of now they might be fighting in the future.
“We have never done anything like this before so even for me it is something new and for the new guys it is a real eye opener. We have been delivering supplies to the units on civilian roads which we are not used and they are much wider than normal for us but it has been 100% positive and worthwhile.”
In all there were about 2,000 troops deployed including to the ranges at Dumfries and Galloway and Otterburn where the troops from 4 RLC undertook live firing of the new generation Law anti-tank missile.
The Regiment itself had 330 personnel and nearly 130 vehicles on the exercise.
Staff Sergeant Richard Kyle, 45, from South Hetton, is a member of 33 General Support Squadron and responsible for ensuring that all the supplies were in the right place at the right time and fully accounted for.
“The youngsters are used to being on the ranges and have never been on an exercise where it is populated or within a community. For them it’s quite a leap and a steep learning curve working so close to the civilian population in an airport and a port such as Hartlepool but this is how a future conflict might be so it has definitely given it much more realism which is good.”
Captain Mike Ruocco, Adjutant of 4 RLC, said the troops had had their ability to distribute “at reach” and in the dark without using white lights over long distance routes taking between five and six hours fully tested.
“It is a very different art to how we operated in places like Afghanistan. So, we could not have done without the support of the civilian companies involved such as PD Ports, Redcar Steelworks and Durham Tees Valley Airport. None of this would have been possible without their unbelievable support.”