Exercise DRAGON STRIKE
Ex DRAGON STRIKE saw the Battalion deploy onto Salisbury Plain throughout the rather chilly month of November 2019. The deployment was part of a Battle Craft Syllabus (BCS) package which is a chance for the Battalion to apply the training it has received over the year in a testing field environment. At the end of the exercise each Company then underwent a rigorous test phase set by Battalion HQ.
The week leading up to our deployment was busy one which saw the whole Company up in the sheds, some until the early hours, working hard to finalise the handover of vehicles from A Company in good order. Some of these vehicles had already been out on the plain for over a month as A Company had initially used them for ACPD and then rolled straight into their BCS package. As such there was a decent amount of maintenance required. With the handovers complete the Company’s Warrior fleet was good to go and ready to roll out the door first thing Monday morning.
Charlie Company deployed in the second tranche along with Delta Company. In total we would be out on the ground for two weeks living off rations and administrating ourselves out of the back of Warriors. The first few days was a chance for many of the newer Fusiliers to acclimatise to operating on the Warrior platform. Many of them were only fresh from Catterick so this was their first experience of mounted close combat (MCC) and the beginning of their transition from exclusively dismounted soldiering.
Once everyone was comfortable with how they operated out of their own Warrior we brought it all together into the Platoon context and once the Platoons were content, we came together as a Company. Very rarely in MCC do you ever operate as single Platoon, unlike DCC. Charlie Company also had the added benefit of deploying with Delta Company which gave us an enhanced range of capability in our training. This gave our Fusiliers some valuable exposure to the range of roles and assets available to them across the Battalion.
We knew that the validation test phase was likely to include a defensive action serial. Luckily, The Royal Engineers had already dug some scrapes for the Warriors however, the dismount trenches still required a bit more fortification. With the positions sited, fortified and rehearsals conducted it was now a waiting game to see what BHQ would throw at us. And just to make it a bit more complex the scenario included a CBRN threat, therefore the serial had to be conducted in full protective suit and a respirator.
Throughout the night our defences were intermittently probed by the enemy’s recce force. Then, at dawn, came the initial enemy assault consisting of a Troop of Challenger 2 Tanks from the KRH. It was at this point we were grateful to have had D Company’s Anti-Tank Platoon integrated into our defensive screen. The serial was designed to test our defences to breaking point, which ultimately it did, but only after a valiant hard-fought battle.
On conclusion of the defensive battle we composed ourselves and reset for a counter-attack onto the enemy stronghold in Imber Village. The plan was to Zulu Muster (park up) the Warriors in a re-entrant then break into the village on foot. The adage of no plan survives first contact was almost certainly true in this case as the stark reality of fighting in urban environments became clear. However, we made good progress through the village and had plenty of points to take away for future training events.