From Dudley to the desert: No California dreamin’ for Black Country troops
From their overcast base in the Black Country to the scorching heat of a Californian desert, army reservists have been put through their paces in the Mojave Desert.
Members of B Squadron, The Royal Yeomanry – based at Vicar Street in Dudley – have been supporting their paired regiment, the senior light cavalry British Army regiment 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards.
The squadron conquered exercise Diamond Back in up to 36°C (96.8°F) heats.
Deployed from RAF Brize Norton at the start of August to the United States National Training Centre in South East California, they joined the US Army for pre-deployment training in testing terrains.
Private Tasha Cox, from Kinver, who has been in the Army Reserve for less than 18 months, said: “I get to train alongside regular medics and gain valuable experience.
“The learning curve has been big but so much fun.
“They (B Squadron) have been really supportive in getting me out here, If you want the experience the Squadron will get you there.”
The centre, Fort Irwin, is where the USA Armoured Brigades train before every deployment and extends to the size of all the military bases in the UK combined.
But it hasn’t been all sweet sunshine and golden sands – the testing Mojave Desert has thrown some intense and stormy weather at them with lightning striking down on them during their stay.
They have worked hard learning how to camouflage themselves in the featureless, barren wasteland, with B Squadron having had no troubles in finding a hiding spot for their light-armoured vehicles in the Mojave Desert, camouflage covers allowing them to blend into the rocky landscape.
The exercise is the culmination of training for 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, who have also been testing inter-operability with US Armoured and Stryker Brigades.
Sergeant Tom Biddlestone, an ex-regular soldier who is Troop Sergeant in Dudley, said: “I am an observer mentor, which means I advise the soldiers undertaking training on options they can take in succeeding in their missions.
“It is so rewarding, I have been on many exercises including those on Salisbury Plain but this has been amazing, so much so, I’ve asked to stay out here again.”
On managing the training with his work life at home, he said: “It is tough but I have a very understanding boss who value what the Army Reserve soldiers can do and the experience it gives me that I can bring back.
“Not every employer could be so accommodating but they should try to support them if they can.”
The Mojave desert is the driest desert in North America and is located in south-west United States, primarily within south-east California and southern Nevada.
It occupies a total of 47,877 sq mi (124,000 km2) with small areas of it extending into Utah and Arizona.