Welcome to the fifth edition of Barbarian Blog – and my final contribution as Commanding Officer. This edition will focus on the changes being undertaken across the unit, which will be implemented by the end of the year, as well as a recap on some of the fantastic achievements we have enjoyed in the last few months.
The theme for the last twelve months has been change, both in the Regiment and the wider British Army. We have spent almost a year preparing the Regiment for the imminent changes and June saw the first of the Future Reserves 2020 changes implemented – the cessation of training in 125 Squadron in Glasgow. Having known their fate for some time, the Officer Commanding Major Gary Wallace, Captain Bill Forsyth, the Permanent Staff Administration Officer, and all of their team, have worked tirelessly to provide transfer opportunities for all of the Squadron’s personnel. On 1st June they stopped training and by the end of the month, all Reservist personnel had been transferred out into new units. The loss of the Squadron in Glasgow will be painful for all concerned, but Gary, Bill and the team can be proud of the professional and diligent manner in which they have carried out their work. Whilst the Squadron may have stopped training, it doesn’t mean the Regular staff have yet either; as Bill and his permanent staff prepare to assist in supporting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer.
The other two key changes are less painful but nevertheless seismic – the re-subordination out of the Regiment of 216 Squadron, back to 150 Regiment, and 381 Squadron, to 156 Regiment. Both Squadrons have supported the Regiment’s commitment to operations doggedly and been at the forefront of the Army’s recruiting efforts under Operation FORTIFY. We will get a chance to say goodbye to Majors Harry Drennan and Derek Morton – and their Squadrons – over the weekend 26-27 July in Swynerton. The Quartermaster is leading with the “Regimental Farewell Parade” and I hope that as many of you as possible will join me over that weekend for some sports, a BBQ and it will culminate with an inter-Squadron tug-of-war competition.
The other confirmed major change to the Regiment is the addition of 294 Squadron in Grantham. 294 will be joining us from 160 (National) Regiment and will be transforming to a Regional footprint over the summer. I welcome their new Officer Commanding, Major Paul Ashton, to the unit and hope that as a Regular Officer, he will be able to provide the absolute dedication required to grow the Squadron to a competent and effective unit in the next two years.
The changes we face at home must be balanced by our commitment to operations and the requirement for us to keep one eye on Afghanistan at all times. We have, after a few individuals have returned, 23 of our ‘Barbarian’s still in Camp Bastion with 1 Theatre Logistic Regiment who are currently completing their rest and recuperation in anticipation of a theatre drawdown this year.
Owing to the success of this contingent and the wider Army efforts in Helmand over the last year, the commitment to Afghanistan for our paired Regular unit, 6 Regiment RLC, was significantly reduced at the end of May. As a result the cohort we had trained and selected were stood down. This was a very disappointing time for all of the individuals and their families, as plans had been made and subsequently dashed. We all knew that there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the tour and volunteers were advised to not make concrete plans, so as to avoid disappointment, but that doesn’t counter the disappointment we all feel to have not contributed to the final iteration in Afghanistan. I know that opportunities for Reserve units, this one in particular, for overseas exercises and short term deployments are increasing; from April next year we hope to see legislative changes made which will allow Reservists to deploy to Canada, Kenya and the Falkland Islands in the same manner as a Regular.
On the training front, it would be remiss of me not to highlight the huge success of this year’s Annual Deployment Exercise (ADE) in Sennelager. Masterfully coordinated by the Training Major, Andy Masters, and Regimental Technical Officer, Captain Andy Wilmot, this year’s exercise was just as challenging and rewarding as last year’s. This year saw the addition of a sailing package in Kiel (read Corporal Gibbs’ blog on her experiences here: https://britisharmy.wordpress.com/tag/159-supply-regiment/), an enhanced and more challenging technical trade focussed package for the Supplier contingent and move to a different site in Sennelager – with better accommodation, gymnasium and canteen. The 140 plus Reservists who deployed to learn, teach, administer and command all fed back useful improvements for next year and gave their thanks for an exercise which was overall a resounding success. The training team have set the benchmark high and as the two Andys leave the Regiment in the next few months, I’m sure their handover notes will include plenty of tips on planning a good ADE!
The other key changes in the Regiment will be well known to all of you. Major Marvin Bargrove has stepped aside as Regimental Administration Officer and handed the baton over to Captain Paul Blythe, who joins us from 37 Signal Regiment. Marvin remains in the unit as a Reservist and will be focussing on “special projects” in the HQ. We also welcome WO1 Davies in from 17 Regiment RLC as the new Regimental Sergeant Major, taking over from WO1 Smith RLC who leaves the Army this summer after 24 years’ service. WO1 Smith was dined out in style in April and I believe is still being dined out until mid-September; such is his popularity and impact across the Corps! WO1 Davies follows in the footsteps of two other WOs joining the Regiment from 17 Regiment RLC and he has already made the position – and office – his own. Welcome to Paul and the RSM.
A final note form me, I have had a fantastic and privileged time as your Commanding Officer. Not a week passed without one being inspired in some way by your commitment, dedication and achievements. All I ask is that you continue to drive the development of this fine Regiment and remain as positive and productive as you have been during the last two and a half years. To each and every one of you it has been a real pleasure to know you and I hope that our paths cross again in the future.