Shetland’s Territorial Army unit – G Troop 212 Highland Battery – recently carried out extensive training at the Ramsdale Range outside Kirkwall in Orkney.
Eleven members of the troop took part in the joint initiative with 10 Troop Royal Engineers, Orkney’s TA unit. There is a long tradition of involvement with the Orkney troops, who until the last defence review were part of the same regiment as the Shetland soldiers.
The troops conducted weapon handling in prelude to firing both the SA80 A2 and the Browning 9mm pistol. Soldiers fired the rifle from ranges of 300m with notable success. They also showed considerable skill in engaging targets with the pistol at its maximum effective range of 45m.
Sergeant Donny Sutherland, the range officer for the weekend, said the pistol handling was taught during the troops’ Wednesday night drill night where the soldiers would turn up to learn and revise the skills they put to such good use on the ranges of Ramsdale.
The process of learning these soldiering abilities was by no means any less difficult than those of a regular soldier, and indeed could be considered harder as the TA soldiers must carry out the training over and above their primary day time jobs.
“The skills practised over this weekend are vital to the ability of a soldier to defend himself and his mates. Soldiers are putting this in action in operational theatres overseas. No soldier wants to use a weapon but he needs to be ready should that time come.”
That time may come sooner than later for one of the troop, as chef private Liam McCormack is awaiting his clearance to deploy to Afghanistan.
Pte McCormack volunteered for the tour of duty where he will join a regular unit as a chef helping to feed up to 6,000 men a day.
He said: “When you volunteer as a member of the TA there is a time when you ask yourself if it’s the right thing? Assisting under pressure regular units in this vital operation is the right thing, not only is returning Afghanistan to normality the right thing, but any work that British forces can do to blight the flow of illegal drugs on to our streets, even to here in Shetland is the right thing as well.”
Pte McCormack has taken three years to reach the stage where he is able to volunteer for operations. Currently TA soldiers are asked to volunteer for deployments or operational tours, unless skills that they have are urgently required for a unit deploying on operations, where they may then be deployed under the Reserve Forces Act 1996.
However, under the winter blue skies of Orkney, Afghanistan was on no-one’s mind. The soldiers fired from the standing and kneeling position, using the automatic rifle and in all firing over 250 rounds each.
The pistol shooting saw some of the best marksmanship of the day with the competition within the troop being won by Gunner Stuart Bell who said: “This weekend has been great. We have done things here this weekend that the average member of the public will never do. It’s been exciting, challenging and a lot of hard work. People would not believe how difficult it actually is to fire that little pistol – it’s definitely not like you see in the movies.”
No less successful was Gnr James Layfield who scooped the best rifle shoot. He learned the basic skills of shooting on the TA’s summer challenge initiative, which sees members of the public take part in a seven week programme learning all the skills of the modern soldier and a hefty tax free bonus on completion.
This year’s summer challenge starts on 27th June and places are open now. The members of the troop will now take their skills forward and shoot against the other units of 51 Brigade in competition in May and maybe even look forward to shooting in the national event in Bisley in the autumn.
G Troop is currently recruiting people who are interested in learning new skills or bringing existing abilities to the TA. Anyone interested should contact the permanent staff instructor on (01595) 693109 or drop into the TA centre at Fort Charlotte during office hours, or on the Wednesday drill night from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.