Ulster reservists have completed their largest military exercise in over a decade as part of their preparation for Armed Forces Day in Newtownards on 21 June.
The large scale war game was termed ‘Scatha Dare’ after the legendary Scottish warrior woman who trained the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat.
Northern Ireland personnel who took part in the exercise returned home in the earlier part of this week from Dumfries and Galloway where the event took place.
The aim of the exercise, which took place in military areas of Scotland, was to put pressure on the Ulster Reservists to clear enemy forces while protecting a civilian population under threat from chemical and biological warfare.
Sammy Hendry, a Reservist from Carrick, described some of the high points of the exercise,
“It was my first experience of assaulting enemy positions from an air insertion, which was an incredible feeling of sitting in the back of a helicopter being flown into an enemy location,” he said. “Once on the ground, we moved into the different stages of the attack, and again seeing this on the ground was an incredible feeling. Overall the exercise tested my leadership skills on a range of levels. The exercise was challenging, but the professionalism and camaraderie of my fellow reservists also made it enjoyable.”
As well as the Royal Irish Regiment, the exercise also involved troops from the North Irish Horse, Royal Artillery, Royal Signals, Royal Engineers, Medical Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps and Military Intelligence. A number of officer cadets from Queen’s University Officer Training Corps also took part as junior commanders. Snipers, anti-tank missiles and mortars were also integrated into the exercise.
Regular Army soldier Ranger Luke Ormsby from Enniskillen had a positive experience on working with reservists,
“I had initial doubts about the weekend but as soon as the exercise started the 2 Royal Irish guys were switched on and got straight to the task at hand,” he said. “Once the exercise had started it was difficult to tell the difference between the Regulars and Reservists. The exercise was great fun and an experience I’ll remember in the future.”
The Commanding Officer of 2 Royal Irish, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Lyttle, a reservist himself, said he believes Army Reserve training produces “a mentally and physically robust person, often more confident and committed than when they joined”.
He added: “It allows people to experience something totally different to the more mundane routine of normal life. The Army Reserve also develops leadership and management skills through the diverse number of situations a Reservist finds himself in – at home or abroad, and usually in demanding environments.”
The exercise finished less than a week before Armed Forces Day in Newtownards on June 21. In this day-long event the public will get a chance to see at close quarters a unique operation involving ground and air troops, a first for general public viewing in Northern Ireland.