Each week during term time, I help deliver training to the Army section of the Ellesmere College CCF (Combined Cadet Force). My specific role is in the training of the Advanced Infantry for Year 11 cadets, that have already been in the CCF for 2 years. Each term we get to do an exercise on a military training area. This term we headed to Nesscliffe Training Area for 3 days on Exercise Kennerley Kestrel. We were a small group of 10 Year 11 cadets and I was assisted by one of the CCF’s Senior NCOs and Maj Huw Gilbert. We broke down into 3 sections of 4 or 5, operating as small recce patrols for most of the exercise.
A short patrol into our Forward Operating Base for the exercise provided a good opportunity to practise some of the Standard Operating Procedures that we’d developed over the previous weeks, and to make sure that everyone knew they’re role in each section. The first afternoon was then spent conducting recce patrols, observing and gathering information on different target buildings by setting up Observation Post and carrying out Close Target Reconnaissance.
As it turned out, I had allocated my section a pair of buildings that were to prove hard work. Locating a suitable position for an Observation Post, with good visibility of both the target and the approach roads was not easy. On top of that, there was a lot of activity on the target area with vehicles coming and going, people walking around and even a regular Army unit in hiding! All 3 sections returned with detailed knowledge of their respective targets and we set about developing plans and orders for after dark.
With two thirds of the cadets having not seen each target in daylight, the quality of the models and orders was vital to make sure that everyone knew how things would work. Consequently, we spent time making sure we got this right. Thankfully, there were additional groups from Ellesmere College CCF on the training area, and we were able to make use of additional adult manpower to provide ‘enemy’ and supervision. With 3 targets to ‘hit’ during the night, we were quite busy and finally made it to bed by about 0200hrs.
We made a leisurely start to the second day before recapping camouflage and movement techniques. After a couple of brief lessons we spent some time putting it into practice with a simple but testing exercise requiring the cadets to get as close as they could to a given position without being seen. As well as being good practice, this also proved to be a good opportunity to see what things give away someone’s position ‘in the field’ rather than in a classroom or organised demonstration.
The afternoon was spent back on recce patrols but with a slight difference. Yesterday had been observing specific fixed locations, but this time the patrols had to cover a large area, identifying enemy activity they came across. Once again, my section seemed to be thrown into the thick of the action as we found ourselves pinned down between the enemy’s base and the area they were using for training. This made movement particularly difficult and slow, but we managed to gain detailed information without being seen. At one point we managed to listen in to a briefing being given less than 10m from our position – the guys were quite pleased with themselves!
Following on from the information obtained during the recces, and building on our use of camouflage and movement, our objective for the evening was to infiltrate the enemy base under the cover of darkness. Naturally, this was pre-planned and our enemy obliged in putting out roaming sentries for us to avoid. However, one of the adults let it slip that we were in the area and, before we knew it, there were hoards of sentries out making it virtually impossible to break through undetected. Although most didn’t manage to make it, it was still a very valuable exercise and the cadets got good practice at using the darkness to their advantage.
During the last morning it was our turn to play the role of the dutiful enemy. As pre-arranged, we sent a probing patrol up close to their HQ in an attempt to provoke a reaction. As we pulled back, using fire and manoeuvre drills, they launched a series of platoon attacks on three pre-arranged locations, before surrounding us and over running our position.
All in all, a great couple of days!