Hans Christian Andersen asserted that ‘to travel is to live’, and in many ways there is truth to that statement. After all, how many of us look forward to that overdue summer break, or spend our rainy evenings pricing flights to somewhere sunnier?
There are so many benefits to be gained from travelling, such as the chance to experience other cultures, break away from the daily routine or take on new challenges in the interest of self-development. This is often the case for members of the Reserve Forces, who enjoy many opportunities to undertake training exercises and build up their skill sets away from their more familiar surroundings.
One of the Lowlands Reserve units who recently took advantage of such an opportunity is the 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (6 SCOTS). In September 2022, fourteen of the unit’s personnel took off to the Costa Blanca mountain region in southern Spain on Exercise Iberian Pedal. Basing themselves in the village of Castells de Castel, the Reservists spent eight days on an intensive mountain biking Adventurous Training (AT) expedition. This involved cycling for as long as five hours at a time and reaching heights of up to 1000 metres. Despite the fierce Mediterranean heat and the rough, unfamiliar terrain, the group succeeded in covering between 25 and 30km each day.
‘Ex Iberian Pedal was a superb way to develop skills both on and off the bike, particularly in our courage and confidence areas,’ said Musician Neill McDonald of the expedition. ‘The routes were challenging but very rewarding and the teamwork to achieve some of the toughest rides shone through. It was definitely a rewarding and enjoyable AT.’
Corporal Matthews of the Battalion’s B Company also enjoyed the AT experience, saying that Costa Blanca is ‘a great location for mountain biking; it certainly took us out of our comfort zone and developed leadership skills, as well as enhancing our mental and physical courage by riding over a mountain region.’
Another group that has recently returned from adventures abroad is 32 Signal Regiment. In the last couple of weeks, four teams from the unit took part in a military skills competition in the scenic Dolomites of northern Italy. Testing the participants’ skills in map-reading, physical fitness, abseiling and marksmanship among many others, the competition took the Regiment teams from the village of Molina di Ledro up into the mountains, rewarding them with a spectacular view of Lake Garda. While the Latvian Army team came away as the overall winners, the British competitors took a very respectable second and third place.
Corporal Amerble Gregory of the Regiment’s 52 Squadron said of the experience: ‘It was really quite something. The competition was challenging as we hiked up the Dolomite mountains, which tested our endurance, and that was coupled with the difficult but fun military stations situated throughout the competition. They give you a chance to try so many different things that would not normally be available to you.
‘I would happily participate again and would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried it yet – it’s an experience you won’t regret!’
Meanwhile, Reservists from 154 (Scottish) Regiment Royal Logistic Corps were busy putting their specialist skills to the test on their Annual Continuous Training (ACT) in Sennelager, Germany.
Over the course of two weeks, Exercise Tartan Trial saw over 90 Reservists work on their convoy drills while travelling between Scotland, Hull, the Netherlands and Germany, before putting in several hours of driving, distribution point and logistics management practice, all of which are invaluable to the Regiment in helping them adapt to changing physical and cultural environments. The exercise was also a welcome opportunity for 154 Regiment to team up with colleagues from the Royal Engineers’ Minden-based amphibious enablement squadron, as well as undertaking logistic taskings with their Welsh counterparts from 157 Regiment.
While taking on training exercises overseas is undoubtedly a great way for those in the Reserve Forces to build up confidence and adaptability in new environments, helping them to become better leaders and decision makers, few would argue that the chance to explore the world, meeting new people and trying new things along the way, is very much an added bonus of the job.