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Sennelager Training Safety Officer Trawl

Following the battalion’s recent deployment on Ex GOTHIC DRAGON to Germany, Capt Jules Farrow was selected to take on the role of Training Safety Officer for Sennelager Training Area (STA) for a 6-month trawl. Following the developments of the COVID-19 outbreak, the battalion was recovered back to the UK in double quick time leaving myself stood very lonely on the parade square waving the troops off as they departed Sennelager by the coach load.

The STA was established in 1892 and has been a recognised military training area up to the present day. Originally controlled by the German military, it has seen training and military action throughout World War 1 and 2 and been maintained by the British Army since 1947. The STA covers 111 Sq. Kms of complex terrain with opportunities to conduct training both Urban and Rural training at great distances.

Knowing very little German, I found myself struggling to recall the Key Stage 3 German lessons I took to be able to communicate effectively with the predominantly German workforce. Unfortunately, it appeared that “Mein name ist Jules” only goes so far and quickly realised this was going to be a game of hand signals and ignorantly shouting the English words in the hope that this would magically translate. Amongst the 67 locally employed civilians (LECs) were a handful of British expatriates who could understand my loud English mannerisms and acted as personal translators. To the amusement of everyone, the first comment made was, “This isn’t in my job description…”. However, as much as the language barrier was a new challenge for me, the ever-present language barrier between various NATO allied users was a challenge for all.

With the presence of COVID-19 came the restrictions enforced by the German Federal Government. The opportunities to explore and visit places from when I was growing up in Germany seemed increasingly less likely as the country went into a full lockdown within days of the Battalions extraction. However, the opportunities to learn about the training areas Flora and Fauna was something I welcomed. Working closely with the biological research station, due to the training area being a site of special scientific importance, I was able to understand the importance of the natural environment to rare plant and animal life present on the training area.

Whilst UK OTXs had been postponed until further notice, it was a great opportunity for our NATO allies to capitalise on the white space generated in order to conduct essential pre-deployment training for Operational deployments. Units from France, Denmark, Holland, Poland and the host nation Germany utilised the training area for Blank and Live exercises. This was an excellent opportunity to learn how our NATO partners train and operate whilst understanding their weapons capabilities.

A key highlight of the trawl was hosting the Commander of the Collective Training Group, Brigadier Barry and the Commander of the Combined Staff and Tactical Training Group, Colonel Williams. The visit was organised in order to establish an understanding of the future training opportunities on the STA. This set the conditions for the future of Mission Ready Training for Op CABRIT as part of the NATO enhanced forward presence for the Baltic States and Poland. This was a great opportunity to discuss the future of Mission Ready training which The Royal Welsh will be conducting in the future as part of the operational cycle for Op CABRIT.

Overall, the trawl was an interesting and valuable opportunity working alongside a wide range of users and command structures. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, I was unable to capitalise on the opportunities that Germany has to offer and is one which I will be keeping on the bucket list for the future.


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