Sep 23 2009 Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Private Darren McMahon of Motherwell, Private William Graham of Coatbridge and Corporal Robert Hamilton of Larkhall
THE Royal Scots Borderers are taking part in a six-week training exercise. A number of soldiers from Monklands are among those preparing to be sent to Afghanistan. Advertiser correspondent Bert Houston tells us what it’s like for the lads in the African heat.
BRAVE Monklands soldiers with the Royal Scots Borderers are gearing up for deployment to Afghanistan.
Our boys are going through a gruelling exercise in the furnace-like heat of the Samburu region of Kenya.
With temperatures reaching 110 degrees-plus under a merciless sun, this is as near as these soldiers can get to the conditions they’ll encounter when they make their move next spring.
And they have been praised by their commanding officer, Lt-Col Charlie Herbert, for the way they have adapted to the heat and energy-sapping atmosphere.
He said: “The temperatures here have been going up into the 40s and it has meant people need to take on water and look after themselves.
“It is giving the soldiers an understanding of the constraints that the terrain and weather will impose on us in Afghanistan.
“It is very, very difficult to operate in the heat of the day. It is very, very difficult to operate with the amount of kit and equipment they have and we are learning all those lessons.”
The six-week exercise sees the soldiers initially in camp at the small town of Nanyuki just over a hundred miles north of Nairobi and right on the equator on the western slopes of Mount Kenya.
From there, the lush grassland and jungle areas were left behind as they were driven into the “battleground” area, a further 100 miles north.
It’s a scenario where the slightest effort raises a sweat, when taking into account the body armour and packs weighing them down as they carry out patrol after patrol and engage in firefights.
The exercise itself has seen the soldiers using the latest phase of digital training equipment – the Digital Tactical Engagement Simulator or DEETES for short.
It takes in not only individuals outlining whether they are still in or out of the picture, but also the equipment such as mortars and artillery.
The commanding officer said: “This gives a much clearer picture of what happens overall and can be replayed immediately on a laptop computer.
“It allows us to measure how we are fighting out battles, tactically, and allows us to see how we are using our weapons systems.
“Basically, it allows us to analyse how well we are doing or quite how well we are not doing.”
Aside from the training exercise, the soldiers dipped into their pockets in a bid to ease the plight of youngsters in two orphanages near their base camp at Nanyuki.
The padre, Major Rory McLeod, organised clothing and toys collected from families back home which, along with sweets and soft drinks, were handed out to youngsters ranging from the age of just a month to late teens.
In addition, events were organised to raise funds for a 10,000 litre tank to ensure a constant water supply to one of the orphanages.
Following the exercise, the battalion return to Edinburgh to undergo further training in preparation for the Afghanistan deployment.