Airborne Supply Experts Train for Rapid Reaction Role

The supply and maintenance support provided to the Army’s rapid reaction force has been put to the test.

13 Air Assault Support Regiment RLC was put through its paces on Ex Active Chariot. The Colchester-based unit’s role is to supply ammunition, food, fuel and spare parts to 16 Air Assault Brigade’s Air Assault Task Force (AATF), which is ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice to do anything from disaster relief to war fighting.

The training in Norfolk placed troops six weeks into an operation, with heavy equipment having arrived in support of an initial airborne assault. The former RAF base at Sculthorpe had been established as a base to supply infantry operations 30 miles away near Thetford, with supply depots, workshops and accommodation set up in derelict hangars.

Maj Alistair Hamilton said: “We can insert logistics troops and supplies by parachute during the early phases of an operation and build from there. As more troops and kit arrives it makes for more complex logistical challenges as the demand for supplies rises. We’ve been practising how supplies get to us, such as airborne drops from Hercules transport aircraft; how we get supplies forward using helicopters and lorries; and how we run distribution points to give the supplies to the troops that need them.”

Rigging vehicles to be carried under helicopters is a key skill that troops have practised.

Pte Michael Lewis, said: “Rigging is all about keeping a load balanced. We do a lot of classroom work to learn the principles and practice preparing different vehicles and loads, but there’s nothing like doing it with a helicopter.”

As well as their core logistic role the unit was tested with mock attacks on the base, including countering the threat of CBRN weapons.

Maj Hamilton said: “This has been good training to get all of our skills and drills right, but also to train the units we’re supporting in what we do.”

8 Field Company, 7 Air Assault Battalion REME, which is responsible for maintaining the AATF’s vehicles, weapons and electronic equipment, also operated from Sculthorpe.

The unit sent teams out to repair equipment in the field or bring it back to Sculthorpe for more complicated work.

L/Cpl Tom Walker, an electronics technician , said: “We’ve been given some tough repairs to do without the spares and tools there are in barracks. Our soldiering has been tested too, with guard duty in CBRN kit a new experience for me.”

The training was carried out in parallel to Ex Active Eagle, which tested the fieldcraft of 5th Bn The Royal Regiment of Scotland, the AATF’s main infantry unit.

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