Page 76 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 76

In September 2018 3 RIFLES deployed on the six-week long Ex WESSEX STORM (Ex WS) as a Mechanised infantry battlegroup to Thetford and Salisbury Plain. Phase One consisted of marks- manship and live field firing, rolling into the blank firing exercise of Phase Two with company group manoeuvre, testing and adjusting TTPs in prepa- ration for the Battlegroup’s final test exercise on Salisbury Plain. Ex WS was designed to prove our successful mechanised conversion and test opera- tional readiness in preparation for the forthcoming Op SHADER.
As a member of 1 Brigade it was also an oppor- tunity to push the boundaries, innovate and exper- iment with ‘Strike’ concepts. As a Battlegroup, we initiated this experiment by re-roling our Fire Support Company, attaching one composite Fire Support platoon to each Company in order to allow them the integral firepower and FIND capabilities to operate at reach from their headquarters.
The first ‘Strike’ test came with the initial ‘March’ of our Mastiffs from Edinburgh to Thetford, which provided the Riflemen with a firm grounding in the disparate service stations of the A1. Once on the mercifully flat and green Norfolk plains, we underwent a live fire progression that allowed section and platoon commanders to refresh their light role skills before culminating in a Company group combined arms live firing exercise. This began with mechanised manoeuvre to a Zulu muster location before dismounting and covering several kilometres in the light role, testing the Riflemen in a myriad of scenarios including urban and trench warfare, whilst fire support assets conducted a 24-hour soak of the area, led in the company and provided effect in depth with sniper and machine gun platoon support – all great, rewarding light role infantry stuff.
Phase Two gave the Company groups the oppor- tunity to train to the point of failure as learning organisations. With a free thinking, near-peer OPFOR and rigorous after-action reviews, they crafted new, innovative and aggressive TTPs under the ‘Strike’ ethos. Working in isolation,
over greater distances and in an unpredictable environment Companies focussed on adapt- ability, tempo and ruthless exploitation. By
the end of the second phase they had completed several successful scenarios and had seen the utility of joint fires, dispersal and bold, aggressive manoeuvre.
As the Battlegroup descended on Knook Camp in preparation for the final phase of Ex WS the sheer force mass of a mechanised battalion became evident. The considerable G4 demands of sustaining the many hundreds of vehicles in the fleet, as well as over 1,000 men at reach demanded a highly efficient and well drilled echelon system.
The final exercise began with orders to conduct a multi-phase mission that included an advance to contact, obstacle crossings and a hasty defence – a complex and lengthy task that was again testing Strike planning considerations. The execution saw the Battlegroup choosing to bypass small pockets of enemy forces, designed to delay the advance, and thus to penetrate towards the enemy C2 or force mass, whilst the obstacle crossing – normally tightly controlled by BHQ – was delegated to sub-unit level and allowed crossings on multiple locations and axes. The defensive phase allowed further exper- imentation with the wide area defence concept– allowing the OPFOR to wash over well concealed pockets of determined men until the opportunity arose to unmask and target key armour and assets. The final phase culminated with two large offensive exercises in the urban terrain. Both attacks showed the lethality of enemy forward observers and well directed joint fires – again making dispersal and aggressive manoeuvre a necessity. The exercise was also notable for the trialling of Pre-Hospital Treatment Teams (PHTTs) – each one located with a Company headquarters and able to provide lifesaving medical care at a far earlier point in the treatment timeline. They were undoubtedly a success and great credit should go to our RMO Maj Mike ‘Airborne Warrior’
Court for this. However, some of the more conceptual Strike ideas, such as local purchase were difficult to replicate in the operating environment – despite many attempts by the Riflemen to recruit the local Domino’s
pizza delivery boy!
3 RIFLES has only recently
completed the conversion from Light Role to Mechanised infantry and Ex WESSEX STORM was the first step on a cultural shift towards inculcating a ‘Strike’ ethos. It was invaluable in testing and adjusting our ways of thinking, in highlighting key lessons to be learnt and the effectiveness of the ‘Strike’ concept in the modern operating
Lt Will Wheeler B Company Second in
     A familiar sight – the LAD grafting away on our Mastiffs
 A rather battle weary Battle Captain

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