Page 52 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 52

Another fantastic year has flown by full of oppor- tunity and challenges. Indeed, it seems like only yesterday that the Battalion 2IC locked me in my office demanding that I write an update this time last times flies.
The focus of the last 12 months has been bifur- cated between establishing a culture of readiness and preparing for contingency. The accounts and contributions that follow will attest to those foci and more. For we have tried to have fun too; indeed, in many ways I have seen fun as the golden thread that binds the collective efforts together; for if we didn’t have fun what would be the point!
Being based in Northern Ireland, and therefore out with the scope of routine readiness for standing UK tasks, has meant that the battalion has not previously had to wrestle with the challenges of readiness. So, this year, having been directed to deliver forces at readiness for both the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) and the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), we have set about creating the systems that allow us to assure our ability to deliver readiness commensurate with the notice period at which we are held. It has not been without challenge, but we are now well set. Holding and maintaining readiness is becoming second nature and we have gained from the experience in terms of the broader G1-9 outputs.
We have also enjoyed preparing for contingency. The aim point was Exercise ASKARI STORM 2/19 in the Spring. As part of the build-up and preparation each of the rifle companies enjoyed the opportunity to deploy on an Overseas Training Exercise (OTX). A Company to Jordan on Exercise OLIVE GROVE; B Coy to the Falkland Islands as the Roulement Infantry Company (RIC); and C Company to Sierra Leone on Exercise GUMA SUN. All three companies performed extremely well with B Company being described as the best RIC seen by Commander
British forces South Atlantic Islands in his 2 years in appointment.
After Christmas leave the focus at battlegroup (BG) level switched from the force generation of sub unit OTXs to BG level activity. After a successful test at the Combined Arms Staff Trainer we deployed the battalion, with our gunners, to Brecon where we delivered the first inter platoon Bramall Trophy competition in at least 4 years. As a former Officer Commanding 10 Platoon I was delighted to see them win and, in so doing, achieve something I was never able to do myself! We were also delighted to welcome our Royal Colonel, His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex, on his latest visit to the battalion. The next phase included company force on force training which was a great success, less the fact that B Company had to be left in Caerwent(!), but A and C Companies revelled in the free training. A few short weeks later, and after some well-deserved leave, we deployed to Kenya where we had the simple aims of learning as much as possible and reinforcing the outstanding reputation our forebears have established. I am delighted to report that we managed both, and with flying colours, with the battalion performing outstandingly well against a highly professional and competent enemy from the Queen’s Dragoon Guards.
More broadly we have taken the opportunity to have some fun too and over 350 members of the battalion have conducted adventure training this year. We have sent trips to Spain (mountain biking), into the Irish Sea (sailing), up Mount Kenya (hiking) and to Mallorca and Italy (road cycling and trekking). The boxing team also reached the semi-finals of the inter-unit competition and were narrowly defeated as a result of two late notice withdrawals through injury which meant we started 2-0 down on the night.
Finally, I must also highlight one of the most fantastic achievements of the year. In June a group of wives attempted the 4 Peaks Challenge (3 peaks plus Slieve Donard) and while not all completed it the team raised a significant amount of money for SAAFA as well as creating a tight knit group of wives and families which will see us well set for operations in Afghanistan in 2020. But more on that next year! Lieutenant Colonel Sam Cates,
Commanding Officer
            50 SECOND BATTALION
Serjeant Kirwan briefs before the start of the Sword Lane on Onion ranges
 Lieutenant Lagana on the Sword Lane

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