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British paratroopers are putting their skills to the test alongside their Jordanian counterparts during training on the desert plains of Jordan.
Exercise Olive Grove has seen Colchester-based B Company, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment working with 3rd Company, 81st Battalion of the Mohammed Bin Zayed Quick Reaction Force Brigade. The four-week-long training is about building the British and Jordanian troops’ readiness for operations in the demanding conditions of the desert, and sharing each other’s hard-earned skills.
2 PARA – as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade – and the Mohammed Bin Zayed Quick Reaction Force Brigade serve as their respective army’s rapid reaction forces, a shared role which makes for a natural relationship between the soldiers.
Major Robin Rowell, Officer Commanding B Coy, 2 PARA, said: “Exercise Olive Grove is all about partnership, and both the British and Jordanian units will come away with improved capabilities. Starting from individual soldiers and building towards both companies working side-by-side, we’ve understood more about the kit and tactics we each use and learnt from each other. The desert is very austere and inhospitable terrain that has really tested our paratroopers, and the Jordanians have taught us how to use what cover there is and the need to bring more firepower into the fight on such open ground.
“We’re both high readiness units and could be called into action quickly, which creates a real bond between our soldiers. We’ve made friends on the football pitch and the Jordanians organised an evening of traditional food and dancing for us, which was very enjoyable - that cultural understanding means we’re better able to operate with troops from the Middle East in the future.”
Captain Mohammed Al Omari, of 3rd Coy, 81st QRF Bn, said: “We want to tighten the relationship between the Jordanian and British militaries, and we have built a strong partnership with 2 PARA on this exercise. We have worked together well and learnt a lot - the British soldiers have a lot of battlefield skills and experience to share and we’ve taught them about operating and surviving in the desert.”
Working on the Al Quwayrah training area, the British and Jordanian troops have honed their fire and manoeuvre skills on live-fire battle runs and practised air assault operations from Jordanian Blackhawk helicopters. The training culminates in a five-day war game with British and Jordanian troops combining forces to defeat a fictional insurgent group aiming to destabilise a country.
Mortar platoon Sergeant Luke Sheed, 29 from Worcester, said: “It’s working really well between us, with British and Jordanian mortars firing from the same position at the same targets in support of infantry attacks. We’re all mortar men so we understand each other’s business - we’ve picked up a few words of Arabic, they speak a bit of English and hand signals fill the gaps! The desert is a harsh environment, but the scenery is amazing and we’ve been to Petra and a Bedouin camp, so we’ve done well for ourselves alongside the hard graft.”
Private Rob Falcon, 19 from Workington, said: “It’s hot and the ground is very rough, which makes for hard work, but it’s been busy with lots of helicopters and live firing. The Jordanians are nice people and good soldiers and we’ve developed a strong relationship with them. We’ve fired each other’s weapons, watched each other in action and really got to understand the similarities and differences between us.”