Worthing soldier completes tough NATO test

Private Andrew Rees    Picture: Georgina Coupe
Private Andrew Rees Picture: Georgina Coupe

A SOLDIER from Worthing has yomped his way through the toughest patrolling test NATO has to offer.

Exercise Cambrian Patrol is an annual event organised and run by 160 (Wales) Brigade. It is both physically and mentally demanding and is a highlight in the British Army’s training calendar.

Internationally, it is regarded as one of the toughest tests facing the modern-day soldier can face and some foreign entrants have to earn the right to take part by winning through their own domestic competition.

Former Durrington High School pupil, Private Andrew Rees, 19, of 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, is based in Paderborn, Germany.

Speaking before taking on the Cambrian Patrol, he said: “The feedback from the guys who’ve done this before is, ‘you’re never going to want to do it again’.

“But if you can get a success challenge on this exercise under your belt it puts you in good order for the future. I’ve heard that there are a few surprises along the way but our job is to be prepared for whatever’s thrown at us.

“My fitness is pretty good but its about applying your basic military skills and being motivated to get through.”

His team battled their way to an impressive bronze medal.

A record number of teams (119) were cleared to enter this year’s event, which included a mixed regular and reserve team for the first time in the event’s 55-year history.

Exercise Cambrian Patrol began in 1959, when a group of Welsh Territorial Army soldiers designed a weekend training event, featuring long distance marching over the Cambrian Mountains, culminating in a shooting match on the Sennybridge training area.

Navigating both by day and night, the patrols faced many testing and specialist challenges, including observation and reconnaissance of enemy forces, cold river crossings in full kit without access to boats, first-aid and an attack. At the completion of the exercise each patrol faces a comprehensive debriefing session on their mission.

Military skills, stamina and dedication are constantly evaluated during the patrol and marked with a system of points. Teams that successfully completed their mission are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal or certificate of merit, depending on the total number of points they have gained.

Brigadier Martyn Gamble, Commander of 160 (Wales) Brigade and head of the Army in Wales, said: “This is the 55th year since the event started and every time we try and incorporate challenges that will test soldiers’ ability to navigate through tough and rangy terrain with an emphasis on bringing the best out of people.

“As we’ve seen this year, completing the patrol is perfectly achievable with the right amount of preparation and training.

“I’m entirely comfortable that only about four per cent of all teams achieved gold. Those people who have achieved a finish or a medal should be applauded.

“About a third of teams failed to finish and is again testament to how much of a challenge this is.”

Five teams won the elusive gold medal, two of which were from India and Ireland, respectively.