OVER 600 Royal Marines from 45 Commando at Condor completed an arduous training exercise in Norfolk last week to help prepare them for a likely operational deployment to Afghanistan.
The exercise was designed to test the essential skills that are required for operations in Helmand province, and the 30,000 acre site known as STANTA provided the best environment in which to do this.
STANTA boasts a full mock-up Afghan village built to the standards of a professional film set. The bazaars, shops and houses are all populated by real Afghan people playing the role of the local population.
The fertile green zones of Helmand have been recreated complete with deep irrigation ditches full of water providing challenging obstacles for the Marines as they were out on patrol.
Realistic Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) have been constructed with each one serving as a base for one of the four rifle companies of the Commando.
Throughout the exercise, the Marines were tested on the different scenarios that they would face in Afghanistan. Every opportunity to practise working alongside the Afghans was seized and operations were conducted jointly with Afghan National Army/Police counterparts.
Meetings or ‘shuras’ with local elders were conducted regularly, providing the officers and men of 45 Commando with some valuable cultural experiences.
Real aircraft were also on hand to provide fast air support to the companies or to respond to medical emergencies within the exercise scenarios. The Marines also had use of a fleet of Afghan specific vehicles allowing them to familiarise themselves with the exact equipment currently used in theatre.
45 Commando’s commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Lee said: “This has been an excellent week of realistic training. As always, the Commando has risen admirably to every challenge it faced.
“We have all drawn great benefit from a tremendous training package.”