Despite a couple of false starts, and some training to deliver Oxygen supplies, our soldiers were ultimately not required at scale. Once reorganised and with a new civilian vehicle fleet in Catterick it became clear that our Covid Support Force was not going to be needed, and we have focussed on not adding to the problem, rather than being part of the solution. Aside from our efforts in Catterick, several personnel at ERE, including Major Charlie Gray and Captains Joe Cowie, Malcolm Barnes and Jamie Parker, have been called upon to plan and liaise as part of the national response.
Whilst in dispersion, innovation has been the order of the day to maintain and develop military skills and to ensure we were able to support each other. Highlights for me included Sgt Atherley's innovative lesson from the A Squadron hanger, surely now a viral success online? Captain Alex Humphreys ran a dispersed planning exercise to keep BGHQs occupied (always a sensible thing to do) and Sgt Wooderson has led on using commercially available gaming software to replicate the Army’s virtual training systems, keeping our people tactically engaged even from home or their room in the accommodation blocks.
With more time to conduct bespoke personal development I think we will come back to work smarter and, as our first stretch out runs show, in many cases fitter than when lockdown started. Whilst conducting his daily exercise Cpl Miles even brought us 15 minute of fame, running with his dog in a dinosaur costume and raising morale across the Garrison. I would also highlight Tank Tea on Thursdays, a huge success. I have really enjoyed catching up with old comrades from previous deployments.
In recent weeks there has been a slow and measured return to Cambrai Lines. Soldiers in D Squadron has begun preparing for deployment to the Balkans, whilst A and B Squadrons have returned to support the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, training the next generation of Army leaders on their final exercise. All are ably supported by C and HQ Sqns, who continue to work hard to support the rest of the Regiment. Though the unpredictability continues, it is heartening to see the team beginning to return to Catterick, the camps, ranges and training area, albeit abiding to new social distancing measures.
Our focus now is on those important readiness tasks that have been delayed by several months. All of our people are clear that whilst we will continue to focus on training, readiness and operations we will not put our people at unnecessary risk. Whilst Coronavirus poses a threat, we will remain prepared to support the efforts to counter the pandemic, should it prove necessary. That being said, the next few months will be exciting and busy as we hone our skills across the Regiment in preparation for deploying overseas on operations. I look forward to updating you later in the year on how it progresses.
More broadly we continue to see more than our fair share of promotions. WO2s Weaver and Hobson have both been promoted to WO1. SSgts Pennington and King are now WO2s and SSgts Younger and Freeman have both taken on SQMS appointments. We have also recently seen a fantastic number of Corporals – ten from RL and 5 attached arms – selected for promotion to Sergeant, as many promotions in a single Regiment as all of the Armoured Regiments combined! Two RL officers have been selected to command Cavalry Regiments, and the 2IC is returning to his natural habitat to command 3 SCOTS. Combined, these promotions and appointments are a clear indicator that our people are performing to the highest standards, and are ready for the challenges of 2021.
Finally, I would also like to thank our families and friends for your continued support. We are acutely aware of the service families who have been affected by the virus, some in the most serious of ways. Of course, the Regiment, Unit Welfare Team and Home Headquarters remain available during these uncertain times for support and assistance, I would just reiterate my plea that you should reach out for help, even if you are unsure what we might be able to do. We may be able to help more than you might think.