Page 26 - Chiron Calling Spring 2021
P. 26

                 Being a Troop Commander on Exercise
by Lt Bryony Whitaker, Tp Comd 102 MWD Sqn
As a Sqn that supports VHR (Very High Readiness), 102 MWD Sqn were fortunate to be able to deploy on a Troop level MWD training exercise in Jan/Feb 2021. Despite an initial setback of having our original training area booking cancelled, the exercise proved to be a great success. In many ways Swynnerton Training area, where we ended up, was far more suited to what we needed than Thetford: teaching the valuable lesson that setbacks should not put you off doing things and can in fact lead to a more positive outcome!
Before deploying, the troops had been given a Warning Order that outlined the situation including the enemy threat and their overarching mission. We decided to stage the exercise in line with the current worldwide threat picture as the training area was appropriate for the terrain and weather. The 20cm snow fall the day before we arrived made it even more realistic plus added a bit of a challenge to the exercising troops.
On arrival at the training area the troops had to set up and establish a FOB as well as get into FOB routine. Those who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan were familiar with the setup but for those newer members of our team, this is something
that they may have never seen or done before. Once sentries had been placed and a battle rhythm established, the exercise got underway. The troops were hit with ‘IDF’ on several occasions. By the end of the week the soldiers were well rehearsed in their IDF drills as well practiced in Op WIDEAWAKE (using dogs of course)!
Throughout the week the
soldiers were tested on both their basic soldiering skills as well as their dog handling. The exercise gave us a chance to put everyone through multiple operational type scenarios: the troops deployed
in hybrid sections with the tasks often involving both a Protection and a Detection dog. As a Troop Commander, it was great to see the Sections working together whilst under a bit of pressure. Although dog training in St Georges Barracks has its benefits, I think it was a good opportunity for the soldiers to get out somewhere new and to practice doing their job as they would be expected to on Operations.
My favourite part of the exercise was a scenario that involved searching a woodblock for weapons caches as well as looking for any enemy that may be hiding in that location. The Detection dogs were successful in their search using the Winthrop theory to try and ‘think like the enemy’: this enabled them to prioritise searching certain areas and allowed them to be much more efficient with their task. Although the Protection dogs found it a little more difficult to find any enemy, after some perseverance, MWD Tess was the hero of the moment when
she pulled her handler towards a low brick building in the woodblock where the enemy was cunningly hiding on the roof of a building! This scenario, using pickup and indication in an operational context, taught the handlers a valuable lesson: ‘trust your dog.’
I would strongly encourage other Troop Commanders, when COVID allows, to get their troops out of camp and out of their comfort zone doing their job in more realistic environments. Not only does it show you how much the soldiers can do when they are pushed and having to think on their feet, but
it also highlights those areas that need some more work. For us in 102 MWD Sqn, it was evident that maintaining our basic soldiering skills is so important. We look forward to conducting some more basic soldiering skills in May where, the Sqn will be focusing on basic infantry tactics and skills as well as giving the troops another opportunity to work in their sections.
      102 MWD Sqn practicing Patrolling Skills with MWD
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