Suffolk soldiers prepare for test

SOLDIERS from Suffolk are set to compete in a Territorial Army competition which will put their skills to the test this weekend.The volunteer soldiers will take part in a special training camp at the Stanta Training Area near Thetford.

SOLDIERS from Suffolk are set to compete in a Territorial Army competition which will put their skills to the test this weekend.

The volunteer soldiers will take part in a special training camp at the Stanta Training Area near Thetford.

They will be up against soldiers from throughout the region when they are put through time trials and tests on weapons handling, mine awareness, first aid and navigation.

The soldiers took part in an exercise at the training area last weekend in the lead-up to this weekend's trials. The Polar Efficiency exercise on Saturday saw them go through refresher training to make sure their skills were up to scratch.

They were put through their paces on an assault course, practised a battle casualty drill and drove an assault boat on a lake.

Private Oliver Wilkinson, an infantryman and trained machine gunner from Westhorpe, was among those who took part in the Polar Efficiency exercise.

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The 29-year-old from 3 Royal Anglian said the weekend was a chance to build on skills already learned at a time when large numbers of TA soldiers were being used to bolster the ranks of the regular army in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think it's fair to say that anyone joining the TA in the last few years would have been soundly briefed that it would involve an operational tour,” he said.

Paul Cockerill, 39, from Ipswich, also took part. He returned from a tour of Iraq in 2005 and said going to a battle zone had been a “reality check”.

“It is quite a learning curve but a lot of the regulars were appreciative there are a lot of old heads on shoulders in the TA.”

What do you think of the role the TA plays? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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