Soldiers Conduct Mock Battle And Mine Clearing In Op Cabrit Preparations

Personnel from 5 RIFLES were due to be on exercise in Canada, but are instead preparing for a NATO deployment by training in the UK.

British soldiers have been training ahead of a deployment to Estonia later this year.

UK personnel have been in the Baltic nation on Operation Cabrit for the past three years, heading up a NATO-led battlegroup, with the aim of enhancing security in the region.

Ahead of going to Estonia this September, soldiers from 5th Battalion The Rifles were meant to be on exercise in Canada, but those plans were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Instead, 5 RIFLES are training in the UK at Salisbury Plain ahead of their NATO deployment, conducting minefield clearing with 22 Engineer Regiment personnel and a mock battle.

Three of the battalion's companies are each spending a week in the field being assessed.

"There are all sorts of people from across the Army who've come in to help train us, mentor us and ensure we are ready to meet our objectives overseas," said Lieutenant Colonel Jim Hadfield, Commanding Officer of 5 RIFLES

Along with their own Warrior fighting vehicles, are the Challenger 2 main battle tanks, belonging to the Queen’s Royal Hussars.

Mock mine clearance on Salisbury Plain
Personnel from 5 RIFLES were due to be on exercise in North America, but are instead preparing for a NATO deployment by training in the UK.

Around 900 British troops are based in Estonia on Op Cabrit, leading a NATO battlegroup alongside Danish, French and Estonian Forces.

This September's deployment will see the RIFLES return to Estonia for the first time since 2017.

During their training, the Army has worked around the issue of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic by using 'bubbles'.

For example, the three crew members in a Warrior vehicle, the gunner, commander and driver, plus six soldiers in the back of the dismount, form their own bubble.

They live, work and eat as a team and stay socially distanced from other soldiers in the company.

To help stay in their ‘bubbles’, troops are using coloured wristbands to tell cohorts apart.

Troops are using coloured wristbands to social distance in cohorts during Op Cabrit training.

"As a platoon we're a close knitted team - we're going to be around each other all the time," said Rifleman Sam Smith.

"Especially in the Warriors, we can't avoid being away from two metres apart.

"By wearing the bands we can identify ourselves and other people that we can be around and [it] keeps us dafe that way."

The Rifles deploy to Estonia this Autumn and will be spending the winter in the Baltics.

"This time around we’re going in the winter so it’s a different fighting environment and the boys are going to have to learn how to fight in Arctic conditions," said Rifleman Jack Hellier, Dismount Commander.

The exercise battles go on well into the night, just as they would if they were doing it for real.

It’s a good chance to check they’re combat ready and fully prepared for their return to the Baltics.