Page 108 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
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Turkish Exchange
For three weeks during mid-October 2018 I took part in the Short-Term Army Exchange program to Turkey. This was the second rotation of exchanges and saw an Infantry Officer and Artillery Officer exchange with their Turkish counterparts for a three-week period. I was hosted by Lt Veysel Tosun of 3’Üucü Zirhli Tugay Komutanligi (3rd Armoured Brigade) 3rd Mechanised Infantry Battalion, based in Çerkezköy of the North-West of Turkey. The aim of the exchange was to generate a greater under- standing between the TLF (Turkish Land Forces) and the UK, to highlight differences in training and to allow each party to understand their partner’s place within NATO.
It was very interesting for both the Turkish officers and me to learn the similarities and differ- ences between our armies. Although the TLF’s ORBAT is not dissimilar to that of the British Army, with Brigades and Battalions structured almost identically, there is a less formal utilisation of the ‘Battlegroup’. At a sub-unit level these differences become even more apparent. The Turkish Army is supplemented by National Service for all 20-year-old males who serve for 12 months. The ‘recruits’, as they are termed, all undergo 12 weeks of basic training before being posted to brigades throughout Turkey. Whilst all units will receive augmentation from conscripts, the Infantry welcomes the majority. National Servicemen who have completed a degree serve as platoon commanders during their year, with the remainder providing the role of the private soldier. The result is very well-manned companies, albeit 70-75% manned by individuals with minimal military experience. Furthermore, conscription is unpaid work in Turkey and therefore motivating and employing these conscripted men is a great challenge for their leaders. Due to these manning methods within companies, Turkish company commanders (rank range Lt to Capt) fulfill the same role and have the roughly equivalent freedoms and responsibilities as British platoon commanders. They will fill this role for 8-10 years before promoting to battalion commanders (Maj to Lt Col). Due to other more specialist roles such as Operations and Intelligence being provided by experienced NCOs, Turkish officers tend to focus on command. Much like us, their postings are broken into two-year cycles between a battalion and service on the troublesome Eastern border. This disjointed system, where there is no guarantee they will return to the same battalion they previously served at, places an
additional strain on family life as leave is very limited during 24 months of border service.
Lt Tosun, my host, was a company commander with one year of experience who had recently returned from the Eastern border. His Company comprised of 70 recruits and 12 Specialist Sergeants and Specialist Corporals (LCpl). Throughout my visit, the battalion was focusing on the testing of fitness and readiness, which commonly spans around four weeks of training. Additionally, since most recruits had recently finished their basic training, a lot of time was spent bringing them up the required standard; drill was worked upon every day for at least two or three hours! The remaining time was spent teaching them vehicle maintenance, weapon handling and mortar training. Infantry companies boast an organic mortar line of six 81mm mortar barrels and so a considerable amount of time is spent ensuring that every man can fire them if necessary. The second week of my visit was focused on weapon handling. This included range days firing the M2 Browning .50 Cal and the HK33 standard issue rifle. Mainte- nance of an Army as large as the TLF clearly requires economies and these are most obvious in the basic nature of their kit and equipment. Weapons are equipped only with iron sights, and the most accurate firer in the platoon will be the one to use a scope. Ammunition does not have the same life expectancy restrictions as with the UK and so firers will often have to work hard to shoot around regular stoppages with old ammunition.
In Turkey, English is taught in school from the age of four but is personal choice for continued study. As a result, around half of the officers could speak conversational English, with Veysel being the clear frontrunner. Despite this, there were still difficulties in translation; ‘Daughter of sheep’ in place of ‘lamb’ was a good example of ‘as long as the message gets through today, the delivery can be worked on tomorrow’! Nonetheless, the Turkish take hosting very seriously. All our hosts were exceptionally welcoming and regularly invited me into their own home for meals with their families. Veysel worked hard to ensure we didn’t eat in the same restaurant twice and the Turkish hosting fund generously encompassed everything we could possibly need during the visit. The Turkish Army couldn’t have been more welcoming, and I would fully recommend the experience anyone.
Capt Chris Needham
 3’Üucü Zirhli Tugay Komutanligi on parade!

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