Soldiers from across the county have been pushed to the limits in an intensive training exercise in Cyprus. Reporter Tegan Chapman joined the Fifth Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers on Exercise Lion Star to find out more.
ACCOUNTANT John Marcon swapped figures and spreadsheets for the scorching temperatures of Cyprus, but this was no holiday.
The 34-year-old from Pegswood, an Army Reserves captain with the Fifth Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who also holds down a job at Northumberland County Council, returned on Saturday from a two-week intensive training exercise on the Mediterranean island.
Captain Marcon joined around 100 servicemen and women from the regiment at a training camp near the RAF Akrotiri base in southern Cyprus, where soldiers took part in a series of training exercises culminating in a large final attack.
The skills learned during Exercise Lion Star could potentially save their lives if they are deployed to any future conflicts.
Imaginary scenarios usually based on real-life encounters, are played out by the soldiers to test them to their limits in unfamiliar terrain where temperatures have been close to 40C.
But these are no ordinary soldiers. Each of them holds down a day job as teachers, plumbers, lawyers and labourers, and together they make up the Army Reserve – where training exercises like this are vital to bring the troops in line with their regular counterparts.
“Training like this is invaluable,” said Capt Marcon.
“The guys get a lot out of it, because it is two weeks’ consecutive training and they are all together.
“It gives them the chance to bring together what they have been doing and it tests them over a longer period which is more challenging.
“The environment is very different to what they are used to, especially the heat, which really pushes them.”
The reservists are now paired with a regular unit, currently Edinburgh’s 3 Rifles, as Government plans for one army – regular and reserves – forge ahead.
Future Reserves 2020 (FR2020) will see the number of reserve recruits rise to 30,000 by 2018, and will also see an increase in benefits for soldiers including improved kit, pension, healthcare and holiday entitlement.
“I think FR2020 is very good for the reservists and they will get a lot out of it,” he added.
“A lot of guys want more chances to deploy and it also brings us in line with the regulars in terms of the latest kit and weapon systems.
“There has probably never been a better time for people to join the reserves.”
For more information about joining the reserves, visit http://www.army.mod.uk/ call 0845 600 8080 or visit an Army Reserve Centre.