Paras Fight Winter Weather

In January in the depths of a Northumbrian winter, Paratroopers battled heavy snow and freezing temperatures as they prepared for their role as the British Army’s rapid reaction force.

2 PARA were on Ex Eagles Nest at Otterburn Ranges. The two-week long training was designed for troops to practice live firing their weaponry, manoeuvring across hostile countryside, working with fire support from artillery and helicopters and living in the field for prolonged periods.

From May 13 the 2 PARA Battlegroup takes on the role as the lead unit in the Airborne Task Force (ABTF), with the unit’s airborne infantry bolstered by artillery, engineers, medics and logisticians from 16 Air Assault Brigade. The ABTF is ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice to conduct the full range of military operations, from non-combatant evacuation operations to warfighting.

After deploying from their base in Colchester, the training started with a daylight attack by the full 600-strong battlegroup, supported by fire from Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicles, 105mm Light Guns and 81mm mortars. The firepower bought to bear during the attack matches the heavy weaponry that the 2 PARA Battlegroup would have in support during the early phases of an ABTF operation.

Later in the exercise, troops carried out a night attack and helicopter raids. The soldiers lived in the field throughout, carrying all the equipment and supplies they need to live and operate in Otterburn’s harsh climate and rough landscape. The training finished with a 50-mile tab from the ranges to RAF Spadeadam.

Lt Col Dawson MC, CO of 2 PARA, said: “From my perspective, Exercise Eagles Nest is where the Battlegroup comes together and begins to demonstrate the significantly enhanced capability delivered by combined arms operating in concert. The relatively harsh environment of Otterburn in winter, combined with living out of the field in an expeditionary style offers a great opportunity to re-zero our basic fieldcraft. Working with helicopters throughout the exercise is a key skill to develop as we build towards a credible and capable force held at very high readiness. This is the start of a demanding three month training period which will prepare the Battlegroup for the full spectrum of tasks that we may face as we take on the ABTF role.”

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