Page 89 - The Chapka 2016
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Training Centre to Saudi Arabia
 Having began my career operating and training in the cold, wet and windy climes of Wales, Bosnia, Germany, Poland and Georgia, I felt that the political change of attention towards the Middle East was, at least from a climatic point of view, far more civilised. Yet instead of flying east, I began my first post- ing as a Royal Lancer working in a desert in the opposite di- rection. Sitting in the vast Mojave Desert, Arizona lies the US National Training Centre at Fort Irwin. It was here that I found myself with family in tow, spending a year and half working with our American ‘cousins’ at the NTC. The NTC is the US Army’s premier training centre and provides the readiness, pre- deployment and continuation training for the US Army as well as hosting a number of Corps/Division level exercises, includ- ing WARFIGHTER which will put 3 (UK) Division through its paces at the end of the year.
The role was varied but for the most part involved teaching and mentoring American commanders through their own Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). I had come across a num- ber of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, in one guise or an- other, but this was a deep dive into how US Army and its sol- diers think, where they derive their motivation from and how nuanced differences in our culture effect their decisions, tactics and employment of forces.
The majority of my time was spent on exercise, rolling around the ‘Great Nothing’ – the vast space between Las Vegas and Los Angeles in a Humvee. This meant I really got to know how the US Army operates up close; despite the stereotype, they have a truly ‘awesome’ setup. When not at work, we as family took eve- ry opportunity to explore the West; the depth and breadth the scenery, both natural and human was eye-opening and having truly lived as an American it is sometimes easy to understand why less than 36% of the population have passports.
Despite our distance from North Yorkshire, we have hosted a catalogue of Royal Lancers during our time - from the Com- manding Officer accompanied by OC D Squadron and the Ops Officer staging through NTC on their way to BATUS to Lieu- tenant Julien Annai-Isaac bringing the RL international foot- ball squad to compete in a US military soccer tournament. Jules Slack and Kathy Simpson also came out for a non-work related visit, taking in a desert tour and the West Hollywood Halloween parade.
However, the American dream could not last forever. Hoping to utilise my newfound experience with the desert, I received the news that my new home would be Riyadh as an adviser to the Saudi Arabian Army. We shed a tear as we waved goodbye the ‘Painted Rocks’ of Fort Irwin to return to the UK and to Arabic lessons at the Defence School of Languages in Shriven- ham. Having grown up only in Germany and then Arizona, the children experienced their first time living in the UK as they checked into the primary school in Watchfield for the term and Jules and I made the most of catching up with friends and fre- quenting pubs.
We flew to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of December 2016 to start the next chapter in the Arabian Desert as an adviser, on sec- onded service, to the Saudi Arabian National Guard. I will save news of this move until next year but the early signs are positive, my Arabic is improving by the day and I’m growing accustomed to that unnatural seated position on the floor whilst eating rice with your right hand.
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