Page 139 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 139

Military Reserve Exchange Program (MREP) UK-US
The MREP is a one-for-one annual exchange and a great opportunity to experience the tactics, training and equipment used by one of our closest allies. Two of the Serjeants from Y Company had deployed on the exchange the previous year and I jumped at the chance when it became available. Several members of the Battalion applied and three were selected for this year’s exchange - Colour Serjeant Richardson, Company Serjeant Major, D Coy, and Captain Clare, the Battalion Ops Officer and I would each deploy on an exchange with different US Army National Guard units.
For my own exchange I would be joining the Charlie Company of the 179th Infantry Regiment, which holds the accolade of being the most deployed National Guard unit in the US Army. On arrival I was introduced to the men of Charlie Company arrived and SSgt Kenny “Tink Tink” Collins my US counterpart. I took to the men very quickly, gelling with the Platoon with a typical British sense of humour, which they enjoyed immensely! I formed strong and lasting friendships with many of the soldiers of Charlie company. Their attitudes and professionalism were infectious.
Week 1 In the field from day one, we set up and moved several Patrol Bases (Patrol Harbours). At first, I thought it unusual that the American’s slept in one-man tents but quickly changed my mind when the tarantulas and wolf spiders paid me a visit. We spent the first week conducting basic level training, which would enable the soldiers to take part in live fire lanes for week two, which are similar to our fire team attack lanes. I was fortunate to receive training on and the opportunity to fire their weapon systems including the M4, pistol and both the light and general-purpose machine guns. My grounding as a Rifleman put me in good stead and I achieved ‘expert’ on their basic assessment for all of the weapon systems – living up to the marksman reputation of our chosen men forefathers.
The unsung heroes of this phase were the combat medical team, dealing with the immense heat presenting the risk of heat casualties, with soldiers being pulled from the firing line and given IV’s, fluids and the care required to get them back into the fight. The team were fantastic and always on hand to help with serious issues through to daily problems with insect bites and sprains etc.
Week 2 Moving in to live field firing - kicking off with ‘buddy-buddy’ lanes, into fire team and squad (section) – each iteration was first conducted dry, followed by blank, followed by the final live phase, all culminating in a live squad patrol/attack with live mortars and fire support from the gun teams led by SSgt Collins in the direct method, which was a sight to behold. We also conducted a number of night reconnaissance patrols, casualty drills and CBRN training. I quickly discovered our tactics were very similar with only minor differences in section manning, acronym’s, the last bound/attack, and a specific patrol formation (below), known as “The Wedge”, essentially two fire team arrowhead’s with the Squad leader and support by fire in the middle depending on the ground.
Week 2 – live mortar support
After our work was done I had the pleasure of presenting members of the company with awards from 8th Battalion and a few small tokens of my own to the soldiers I had become close with or seen great effort from, such as Specialist Clayton who simply never stopped for the entire field exercise always wearing his “Flick” (Combat Equipment Fighting Order) no matter the tasking. In kind, I was given the distinct honour of being traditionally welcomed into the company and into the US Infantry. I was presented with a number of personal items that meant a great deal to those gifting, along with a ceremonial medal/clasp for achieving ‘expert’ on their weapons systems, a Ranger Battalion Coin and the crossed Rifles of the US Infantry.
I look forward to SSgt Collins joining us on exercise in Slovenia this October and have no doubt he’ll bring a lot to the party as he did in Kansas. I feel immensely grateful to have had the privilege and opportunity to represent the British Army and The Rifles Regiment in this way. I will look back on this part of my career with great fondness and truly hope to work with the 179th again.
Cpl Michael Hobson Y Company
          Corporal Hobson with 3rd Squad

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