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Exercise SARMIS 19

The mountains are an unforgiving place in which only the highest level of soldiering will deliver success. The Carpathian Mountains in Romania have been fought over for centuries, with the brutality of the Eastern Front highlighting this in 1944-45. D Company, 1 R WELSH, were given the opportunity to develop their skills in this difficult environment and it was one that was met with excitement. D Company was required to change from an armoured support weapons company into a light role rifle company once more, and the men of the company adapted from their specialist roles as mortarmen, javelin operators and pioneers with little hesitation and were soon back into old roles.

The preparation for deployment began in Summer 2019, with the company deploying twice on a light role company exercise which gave the opportunity to brush up skills. An added range package in Catterick in September meant that company was now in the correct state to deploy and take full advantage of the exercise.

With much of the company being used to deploying in armour, making the leap to deploying to a relatively austere location with minimum equipment was a somewhat seismic jump for a number of the younger soldiers. The camp of 228 Air Defence Regiment in Brasov served a basic function and would act as a base to deploy out of, and after two days of settling in, the company deployed to the Brasov Mountains ready for a physically demanding exercise in unfamiliar terrain.

The exercise began with 3 days of company level training which allowed us to adapt to the new terrain and make any kit adjustments. The newly formed gun group had one of the biggest challenges, managing heavy kit and adapting their tactics to the demanding environment. Nevertheless, the company soon adapted to fighting in thick forest and quickly became proficient on very steep and confusing terrain.

With the company now bedded into the terrain and slicker in their drills, the final phase of the exercise began. This would add the complexity of working with a NATO partner from company commander level down to fusilier level who would have to differentiate between Romanian, British and Bulgarian uniforms. The scenario saw the company continuing to dominate the ground and engage with local villagers whilst preventing enemy and insurgent incursions onto the 30th Mountain Battalion Battlegroup HQ area. Even Company HQ was not spared, coming under a sustained attack which was only repelled with a determined gun group! The final action for the company was one which many will remember. A gruelling 10km insertion over multiple mountains, with heavy kit and then spending a night in ‘hard routine’ with minimal equipment truly tested the mental and physical robustness of the company – the rain at 2am was certainly a low point! Nevertheless, the company assaulted down almost vertical terrain, 400m descent in less than 1km, against a determined enemy and successfully took all objectives after a hard fight.

After a short break the company deployed back into the mountains to conduct its live firing package. The terrain was no less forgiving and would require aggression to fully complete. The company threw itself into the range, with heavy rates of fire and plenty of aggression and will to take the positions, supported by machine guns firing overhead. The scenario continued into the night, utilising claymores and trip flares to help defeat the enemy. Overall, the package tested the company in complex terrain but was one which was enjoyed by all.

With the rigors of the exercise complete, the company could now have some time to relax both in the local town of Brasov and see the local area which included a large waterfall complex and the famous Bran Castle, the setting for Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’. After a few more days of local area visits and platoon activities the company headed back to the UK after a successful exercise which tested us in a new and demanding environment. The soldiers of D Company can be proud of their efforts and the results they produced throughout.

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