Thankfully COVID19 has not put an entire stop to The Second Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2 RGR) resilience, reliability, and activity as an infantry Battalion.
The different companies and departments of the Battalion remain combat effective. We are lucky in Brunei that the tragic consequences of COVID19 have not hit the country hard, with only 141 infections so far. However, the lockdown rules and social distancing have still affected our routines while out here.
The first changes have been to the PT routine. Usually, we are used to getting up for a 0630hrs PT parade at least 4 times a week, however with the gym and pool closed, PT groups restricted to under 10 people and no shared equipment we have had to be more flexible. PT sessions have been conducted outside at varying times of the day, which is difficult in Brunei’s climate. Everyone is using the opportunity to do build some recovery and flexibility sessions into their routine, and the PTIs have put plenty of videos online demonstrating sessions that people can do in their own homes with minimal equipment.
Our training has been similarly affected, with lessons in small groups and predominantly outside. The first task for the Companies was to complete their MATTs. For this the DLE and defence connect have been useful. Everyone was encouraged to work from home when possible, so junior soldiers were able to complete much of the MATT learning from the DLE, and our instructors uploaded lessons onto defence connect for the tough bits. Of course, all the tests had to be conducted by an instructor, but with a little creative thinking, most MATTs can be completed while remaining socially distanced.
Despite the restrictions this has been a great opportunity for Platoon and Section Commanders to take their soldiers back to basics, and has really tested everybody’s mental flexibility to create lessons which are still engaging and worthwhile in spite of the restrictions of social distancing. There is still plenty of good training that can be conducted, from refreshing weapon handling on all weapon systems, navigation, signals and even ATk Platoon practicing their abseiling in line with their role as trackers. Plenty of lessons have been recorded and uploaded onto Defence Connect, a positive change that will endure when working routines return to normal.
Working from home has been encouraged where possible, and this has been a great opportunity for those with dependants to spend quality time with their families. The worldwide spread of Zoom has also made it to 2 RGR, with meetings, command groups, updates and discussions all held online.
Some more major changes have occurred, particularly to the forecast of events. Of course, the unit move was cancelled, which will be felt by both 1 RGR and 2 RGR. B (Gallipoli) Company were unable to deploy to New Zealand on Exercise PACIFIC KUKRI, and the forecast of events is very uncertain as the world slowly opens again. For a Battalion that is so used to deploying overseas this is of course disappointing. However, as Brunei begins to ease its restrictions there will be opportunities for larger-scale training closer to home, which will still be very worthwhile. Similarly, any chance of traveling abroad for leave has been turned off, this is difficult in a small country such as Brunei, but the welfare facilities and processes in the Garrison will reduce the negative effects.
The digitization of our working routine has been a positive change, and the back to basics approach to training will ensure we are in a good place for the year to come before the unit move in 2021. It remains to be seen how restrictions will be lifted in the coming months, but the situation in Brunei is certainly positive.