RAF Reservists Fight Fog & Fatigue in Battle to Become Regiment Gunners
Just when we were wondering how on earth we were going to find anyone in the thick fog that covered the training area, the unmistakable rattle of machine gun fire broke the eerie silence and gave us the information we needed.
The end-game had started and following the snap, crackle and pop of contact we were soon able to observe the Trainee Gunners’ clearing the enemy positions on the final attack at the end of their qualifying OMEGA exercise.
Standing alongside the photographers who were fighting their own battle to beat the fog and capture something other than just blurred shadows moving through the half-light, it was hard to imagine that these were the same 12 individuals who had arrived wide-eyed at the start of the course two weeks ago. What was also very apparent, as both sections took up defensive positions following the clearance of the simulated enemy position, was that all of the students who had made it this far, were giving it everything they had to make the grade and earn their RAF Regiment Mudguards.
To reach this point, the students had clocked up dozens of hours on the range, learning to apply the marksmanship principles, firing from different positions, inevitably for the time of year, learning to hit the target despite rain wind and snow. For the final phase of the course, the students swapped the range and warm accommodation at Marham for a sheet shelter and sleeping bag on the training area at RAF Barnham; not that they got much sleep as Sentry duty, observation posts, orders and kit prep, together with reconnaissance and ambush patrols, meant that most of the trainee gunners launched into that final dawn attack having had no real sleep in days.
Having followed the sections through a further patrol, a simulated mortar attack and a further slog across the fog-bound training area, it was clear that even with much vocal encouragement from the section commanders, many of the trainees, aching from the weight of their loaded bergans and utterly exhausted, could do little more than stagger on as best they could. Finally, on reaching the Emergency Rendezvous, with spirits among the troops still surprisingly high, the end of the exercise was declared and, for 12 reservists, a Regiment Gunner career was just about to start.
Of the successful students who came from all over England and Scotland, it was local boy Peter Regester from Norwich who took the Top Student Award. One of 6 newly qualified gunners on 2620 Squadron, Peter who works for a local removals firm said ‘I really enjoyed the course but was glad that I did quite a lot of physical training to prepare myself. The highlight for me was being picked to go out on the night recce patrol which was a real buzz despite the cold, while the low point would have to be mushroom omelette in the rations!’ In a ceremony back at RAF Marham, the newly qualified Gunners were subsequently presented with their RAF Regiment mudguards by the Station Commander, Group Captain Cooper, who praised them for their efforts and emphasised the important role of reservists in supporting the regular RAF.
To find out more about a career in the RAF Reserves, call 2620 Squadron on 0800 783 1915 or search for 2620 online.