Around 400 Army Reserve troops from across Northern Ireland recently descended on southern Scotland for a major joint exercise.
Soldiers from 2 Royal Irish (2 R IRISH) Reservists from Armagh, Lisburn and Portadown centres were to the fore, providing one of the two main Companies deployed.
The exercise name, Scatha Dare, is derived from the legendary Scottish warrior woman who trained the legendary Ulster hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat
It was the largest military exercise undertaken by the NI Reserves for over a decade when they have been heavily committed to Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as support in Cyprus and the Olympics.
Based around military training areas in Dumfries and Galloway, the weekend’s “war gaming” put pressure on the NI Reserves to clear enemy forces while protecting a civilian population under threat from chemical and biological warfare.
For the soldiers of 2 Royal Irish (2 R IRISH) the air assault element of the exercise is poignant given the recent 70th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy glider landings by one of the antecedent regiments – the Royal Ulster Rifles.
A number of Officer cadets from Queen’s University Officer Training Corps also had the chance to experience the challenges of leadership as junior commanders.
Lisburn-based Regular officer Graham Muir, attached as part of the permanent staff to the 2 Royal Irish Headquarters, explained the preparation required for the scale of such an exercise.
“To co-ordinate over 400 Reserve and Regular soldiers deploying to Scotland from both Northern Ireland and Great Britain, complete with millions of pounds worth of vehicles and kit has been a real challenge for the Headquarters,” he said.
“Preparations began months ago with tactical planning and orders being issued to all commanders. To see it all come together gives a real sense of accomplishment and pride in what 2 Royal Irish have been able to achieve.“
Reservist John Connolly from Lisburn was enthusiastic about the opportunities available for Reservists. “This has been an incredible year with 2 Royal Irish,” he said.
“This exercise was my first opportunity to witness the All Arms battle unfold, working alongside local NI units from the Royal Artillery, The Royal Engineers and light cavalry North Irish Horse.
“This exercise concludes a year that has included an overseas exercise working with an Italian armoured regiment - my first time operating from armoured vehicles - and a further overseas exercise with the Spanish infantry, where we gained experience training with our international allies. It is clear that the Army Reserve is now a fully integrated part of the British Army.”
For Regular soldier Michael Diamond from Lisburn, this was not the first time working with Reservists. “I’ve worked with 2 Royal Irish before and every time they have impressed me,” he said.
“They have a good mix of operationally experienced troops from the last ten years of deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“2 Royal Irish are always keen to learn from our operational experience but they can also teach us things from their own deployments.
“We have deployed with them before and chances to train alongside 2 Royal Irish are always grasped. Opportunities such as this break down the barriers between the Regulars and Reservists and help cement an already strong relationship.”
The Lisburn-based Commanding Officer of 2 Royal Irish, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Lyttle, a Reservist himself, summed up what he considered that the Army Reserve brings to the table. “Army Reserve training produces a mentally and physically robust person, often more confident and committed than when they joined,” he said. “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 .”
If you are interested in finding out more about the Army Reserve Infantry and the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment,phone 028 92260042, or text INFO to 07920 232380.