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'British Troops Rediscovering Cold War Skills'

5 Rifles is in Estonia heading one of four multinational battlegroups now in eastern Europe.

Military skills that have lain dormant since the Cold War are being rediscovered, according to Brigadier Mike Elviss, commander of Britain’s 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade.

His formation is halfway through a six month mission to lead land forces in NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.

The VJTF was created to deter potential threats in the wake of Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

5 Rifles is in Estonia heading one of four multinational battlegroups now in eastern Europe.

The Brigade itself leads the land element of NATO's VJTF Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.

Both measures are intended to reassure allies in eastern Europe.

There is nervousness after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and suspected part in the Ukraine conflict.

Brigadier Mike Elviss, 20 Brigade commander, acknowledges parallels with the Cold War.

"It was normal back then to be at readiness sat on the continental land mass of Europe. The same is now true again," he says.

"It's the new normal to have multinational battlegroups drawn from across the Alliance forward in the Baltic States and Poland.

"It’s the new normal to have a British-led multinational Brigade ready with its equipment in barracks at short notice ready to deploy in Europe.

"Those skills have lain dormant and we’ve rediscovered them over these past 12 months."

In a crisis with Russia on NATO's borders, 20 Brigade would be at the forefront of any response, with the capability to deploy swiftly from its Paderborn base in Germany.

It is the closest large British force to any potential flashpoint.

"I expect that I would move, I would be there within 24 hours personally should the balloon go up and the force for the remainder of the VJTF would be any time between five and seven days later," says Brigadier Elviss.

"Large elements of the VJTF are ready with their armour in barracks and so it would be quick - it would be days and hours, not weeks and months."

20 Brigade is on VJTF standby throughout the year and continually testing its capabilities.

Most recently without warning it successfully moved a fifth of an 8,000 strong force to Romania during an exercise.

Not far away, Russian troops are also said to be flexing muscles and on a large scale.

Eastern Europe is 20 Brigade’s main focus of attention, with soldiers on exercise in Hungary, as well as Estonia.

It is also conducting training missions in Ukraine and Latvia, and has soldiers on duty in Iraq.

It is at the forefront of home defence as the Army’s Vanguard Armoured Infantry Brigade.

"I have every confidence in our ability in the VJTF for 2017 to respond to any threat from a peer or near peer enemy that we would go up against," Brig Elviss says.

"I have absolute confidence in the men and women and the spirit that pervades the VJTF and indeed 20th Armoured infantry Brigade."

20th Armoured Infantry Brigade is now halfway through its 12 month VJTF mission.

It is entailed continuous intensive training.

The Brigade they call the Iron Fist seems to be living up to its name.

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