March 18th 2016

Arctic warfare training in Norway

Arctic Warfare training in Norway

Two employers from Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire have spent time in Norway to visit the Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) on their annual arctic warfare training exercise.

Damien West, a Station Manager from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Michael Grewcock, Area Manager for Operational Support, at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, were chosen to attend Exercise Hairspring as both organisations employ a Royal Marines Reservist.

Damien-West-Notts-Fire-and-Rescue-Service-in-Norway200 miles inside the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway, the employers visited a number of RMR training locations to see and understand how snow holes and snow shelters are built, how food is prepared and served in the Arctic weather conditions and how various pieces of Royal Marines equipment are used.

There was also a demonstration of how an ‘ice breaker’ is used to break up thick layers of ice that form on frozen lakes. This is an exercise to demonstrate how a Royal Marine would self-rescue themselves if they fell through the ice into the freezing water.

Damien West, from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The opportunity to visit Royal Marine Reservists in Norway was truly inspiring.  I have always had an admiration for those who dedicate their lives to serving our country, but to see the camaraderie, determination, leadership and teamwork that is displayed in minus 15 degree conditions, was amazing.

“This visit really highlighted the value that having Reservists in our organisation can bring, and the benefits that the individuals see from committing their time. It has also highlighted ways in which we, as employers, can assist Reservists before, during and after their deployments for training and on operations”.

Michael Grewcock, from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Observing the Royal Marine Reservists exercise in extreme climate conditions was a fantastic experience as it allowed me to see the rigorous and breath-taking activities that they undertake.

“The positive attitude, commitment and incredible ability that they all have is a credit to them and the Ministry of Defence, who have developed their skills, knowledge and understanding to a significantly high level. I also recognised that these qualities assist them in their civilian place of work, which can be of benefit to their employer”.

The purpose of the exercise was for the Royal Marines to learn how to survive, travel around on skis and operate in the difficult conditions.

Arctic-Warfare-training-in-Norwa_1Some of the teaching activities included marines learning how to ski across the mountains while carrying a weapon and a 70lb rucksack; how to use specialist arctic equipment and clothing and to operate from specialist vehicles such as skidoos and tracked BV206 vehicles.

The Royal Marines visit Norway each year to hone these specialist skills and are the UK’s only Arctic warfare trained military force.

The RMR joined their regular counterparts from 3 Commando Brigade on this exercise.  It is essential that marines from the RMR are trained to the same exacting standards as the regular (full-time) soldiers and are able to operate alongside them operationally in all environments and conditions.

Reservist Matt Harness, aged 36, works for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, and has previously visited Norway as part of his RMR training on nine occasions. Matt explained: “Although I did not take part in the exercise this year, I have gained so such from my previous experiences. In 2015, I completed a basic ski instructor course in Norway and used my previous arctic warfare knowledge to assist in teaching some of our new students.

“The survival and soldiering skills you learn in Norway are like no other; we are taught how to build make shift shelters in freezing temperatures, how to use specialist training kit and the importance of team working.”

The employer visit took place from 7 to 10 March this year and included a group of 16 employers who were selected from organisations around the country.

“Observing the Royal Marine Reservists exercise in extreme climate conditions was a fantastic experience."