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Haverhill para joins training for post-Afghanistan

Thursday, 6th December 2012.

A Haverhill soldier is part of a new exercise aimed at preparing the Army to move on from its Afghanistan focus of the last decade.

As the Army prepares to draw down its forces in Afghanistan, soldiers from The Parachute Regiment are on a joint military exercise in Spain training for the threat of future conflicts around the world.

With them is Lance Corporal Aaron Carr, 23, who has served two operational tours of Afghanistan.

For Aaron the new training exercise, called Exercise Iberian Eagle, marks a significant transition for B Company, The Third Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA) as they resume their role as part of the Army’s high-readiness Airborne Taskforce (ABTF) having served their last operational tour in Afghanistan.

The change ends years of Afghanistan specific training, and three intense operational tours of Helmand for the unit.

The exercise, the first of its kind in Spain with the 1st Bandera 'Roger De Flor', is aimed at preparing the paratroopers to be deployed anywhere in the world as the first soldiers on the ground.

As such they will need to be able to operate without the logistical and world-class medical facilities that have been developed in Afghanistan over the last ten years, while still responding to the threats of modern operations.

“Everything we did before was orientated towards Afghanistan because we always had a tour to prepare for, but now we are on the Airborne Taskforce role we could be going anywhere so we’ve got to go back to basics,” said Aaron, a former Samuel Ward Academy student.

“We need the skills and drills to be able to go anywhere, not just Afghanistan. It makes it an exciting role because we don’t know where we might be needed. So we have got to be trained to a high standard for every environment.

"That’s why this exercise is important, and it has also given us the chance to work with a different country.

"We’ve worked with lots of different nations in Afghanistan, but I’ve not worked with the Spanish before so this is a good opportunity to learn how they work and share ideas.”

As part of the exercise scenario the soldiers were dropped in to the arid slopes around Zaragoza, Spain, for five days with no respite from the bitter cierco winds that howls across the plains taking the temperature below freezing.

Carrying weights of around 60kilos they then needed to patrol up to 25 kilometres a day to complete a series of clearance and training drills at purpose built compounds before making camp each night using derelict buildings and sleeping under their ponchos.

The final stage of the Zaragoza exercise was a joint attack with 465 soldiers from the Spanish parachute regiment on an enemy compound before travelling to Madrid for a joint parachute jump.

“Exercise Iberian Eagle has replicated the challenges, freedoms and opportunities that contingency and the post-HERRICK world offer, while also highlighting skills and capabilities that must endure beyond Afghanistan in re-inforcing and developing our core ABTF skills,” concludes the officer commanding B Company, 3 PARA, Major Geoff Hargreaves.

“The semi-arid environment replicates potential flash points, and the challenging weather conditions of Zaragosa have tested our endurance.

"But the Spanish have been excellent hosts with some first class facilities. The highlight of the exercise though must be the integrated parachute descent. The hardships, unique challenges and adversity of a paratrooper do not change whatever your nationality.”

In total 100 Spanish paratroopers lined up with the soldiers of 3 PARA for the opportunity to leap from the RAF C-130 Hercules.

The soldiers of 3 PARA are due to leave Spain yesterday.

Exercise Iberian Eagle is just part of B Company, 3 PARA’s training for the Airborne Taskforce role, which they will take on as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade in May. The battlegroup will be on permanent readiness to deploy at five days notice.

Haverhill Online News

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