I work regularly with Ellesmere College CCF, predominantly with the ‘Advanced Infantry’ which is made up of Year 11 cadets who have already had several years of cadet experience. Once a term, Ellesmere College puts timetabled lessons to one side to enable all it’s pupils to experience something different. This term, three days were put aside for ‘expeditions’ and I found myself running a tactical exercise for the Advanced Infantry on Nesscliffe Training Area in Shropshire.
Following the notion of ‘advanced’ infantry, I generally get the cadets to operate in small sections of four of five with an emphasis on covert reconnaissance, followed by planning and orders before a short sharp strike is made. This can be a time consuming process and it can take some cadets a little while to get used to the concept of not being seen rather than moving about in large numbers that would discourage an enemy from engaging them.
Once we’d deployed onto the training area and established a habour, we launched three recce patrols to different target areas to establish observation posts (OPs) and conduct close target reconnaissance (CTRs) in order to gather information about the general layout and detail of each location as well as possible routes in and out. That information was then used to build a model and formulate a plan before giving a set of orders to all the sections. Two of the sections would not have been to the site before and it would all be happening in the dark, so a clear model, description and explanation was of great importance.
To give the cadets more to think about, we carried out a number of ‘hard arrests’ set in a peacetime scenario. This meant that they had to consider rules of engagement. Not wanting to make things too complicated, I stuck with the concepts of ‘reasonable force’ and ‘lethal force’, but this still meant that the cadets had to respond appropriately to the actions of their suspects. Unfortunately, we did have one incident of ‘shooting’ an unarmed civilian in the back as he tried to run away but, on the whole, the cadets responded very well, making a number of arrests and engaging suspects that decided to take them on in a firefight.
The following morning was spent doing some additional training as the cadets rotated around three stands practising getting a casualty into and carrying an airborne stretcher, contact drills for recce patrols and procedures in agent and troop RVs (rendezvous). The afternoon and night where then used to run through a similar exercise as the previous day with recce patrols, models, orders and three hard arrests at different venues. However, to step things up a bit, the cadets were given all three sets of orders in one go, giving them a lot more to remember and meaning that they were in tactical mode in the dark for approximately 8 hours in one go. This time, the troop RVs worked much more smoothly and we even had to evacuate a casualty in the stretcher in the early hours of the morning.
After two days of operating primarily as sections, we decided to finish off the exercise with a series of platoon attacks. This can be very difficult to co-ordinate, especially when the platoon commander doesn’t know exactly where the enemy is going to be. The first couple were quite disjointed but practice soon had a positive effect and the platoon started to work surprisingly efficiently.
This was certainly a demanding couple of days for all of us with relatively little sleep and it was pretty cold through the nights as well. However, the cadets got stuck in to the experience and finished the exercise looking a lot more capable than three days ago.