Soldiers from 2nd/1st Battalion RNZIR at Burnham Military Camp rise to the challenge in their annual Skill At Arms competition exercise

Army in next level pressure test

by Mike Isle

One hundred soldiers from 2nd/1st Battalion RNZIR at Burnham Military Camp recently competed for the honour of representing the NZ Army at Exercise Cambrian Patrol next month — the British Army’s premier patrols exercise, conducted annually in Wales.

The battalion’s annual Skill At Arms exercise routinely puts soldiers through their paces to test they have met the required standard for a range of tasks, but this year organiser Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Joseph van Arendonk took the exercise to a whole new level.

“In addition to testing soldiers, we wanted to use this as a valuable training exercise and also to evaluate our own training capability through it. So we added a third more tasks and made everything more complex and difficult to deliberately take soldiers well out of their comfort zones. The medical stands, in particular, exposed the soldiers to a level of trauma they would not have previously experienced, which also required them to use tools that they wouldn’t normally — but this is the reality of the environment we prepare ourselves for,” said SSGT van Arendonk.

During four days and four nights, soldiers completed tasks across 14 stands at Burnham and West Melton, a complex navigation challenge in Oxford Forest, an urban raid, and a night shoot. They transferred between locations after 11pm each day, with only a single woollen blanket for warmth and shelter overnight. Centred around the core tasks of shoot, move, communicate and medicate, the exercise tested combat skills, methods of entry and fighting in urban terrain, combined arms cooperation, casualty care, shooting and response to unconventional threats — all in arduous conditions to increase their resilience, capability, adaptability and team cohesion.

“As the threats involved in modern warfare get more complex, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our training and ensure we are preparing a highly adaptive force that is ready for a range of hostile environments,” said SSGT van Arendonk.

The winning section was from Delta Company, and they depart New Zealand on October 7 for build-up training with the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, Warminster, before competing in the Cambrian Patrol from October 13 to 15.