Exercise ASKARI SPEAR 2020 (AS20) involved a number of Army units that form the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (LANCS) Battlegroup which included The Third Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles who deployed on the 5th March 2020 to Kenya.
With incredible wildlife, mesmerizing geography and diverse ethnicity, the Kenyan savannah is a vital training ground for thousands of British troops each year. The harsh climate, topography and the complex tribal breakdown, make it the ideal location for the Specialised Infantry Group to validate operational companies prior to deployments across Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan. This was the first exercise for Coriano Companyand enabled us to establish best practice for future operations, gain an insight, operate in small teams and integrate. It also provided an opportunity to demonstrate Coriano Company’s ability to operate at reach, in small teams, in a hostile environment only three months after formation.
Coriano Company conducted an extended acclimatisation and reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) program before deploying to Archers Post Training Area (APTA) fully prepared to deliver brilliance in the basics in true Gurkha fashion. Phase 1C was the shakeout phase focused on developing and validating our skills and knowledge. This phase incorporated a combination of lessons, ROCC drills and practical execution. The tactical actions included conducting day and night navigation in the bush, recce patrols, observation posts and ambushes. Operating in the harsh environment provided a challenge but one we took in our stride.
Another highlight of Exercise AS20 was the combined tracking course with the highly experienced BATUK Samburu trackers. The combination of shared experiences enabled the sharing of best practices and real-world application. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, all training was stopped at this stage of the exercise and the Company redeployed to Nyati Barracks to conduct RSOI for future operations in either Kenya or the UK.
Due to the fact that we had been isolated on the training area and in Nyati Barracks, we were able to use the lockdown period to conduct a safari at Ol Pejeta Conservancy and a recce to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) Joint Operations Command Centre (JOCC) where we were hosted by Captain (Retired, ex The Second Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles) Barry Cork of 51 Degrees, a Kenyan based anti-poaching force training provider who provided a unique insight into how the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT) operates. The NRT are closely supported by Earthranger software in conjunction with training and operations support from 51 Degrees under the watchful eye of Barry Cork. Operating from Lewa, they are countering the threat to wildlife whilst simultaneously supporting the wider security of Kenya.
The Northern Rangeland Trust supports 39 community conservancies (42,000km2) across northern and coastal Kenya (comprising 18 ethnic groups with rich HTA). Together, they are changing the game; supporting communities to govern their wild spaces, identifying and leading development projects including the building of health clinics and sponsoring 500 students’ education from primary to university levels. Building sustainable economies linked to conservation, spearheading peace efforts to mend years of conflict and shaping government regulations to support it all.
JOCC coordinates all situation updates from the 791 strong ranger force and six Quick Reaction Force teams to respond to incidents across the area and further afield where necessary. The JOCC also always has a Kenyan Police (KPol) Inspector liaison officer embedded.
For the newly formed A (CORIANO) Coy, Exercise AS20 was a good opportunity to shape for successful future operations. The training we undertook sharpened our fieldcraft skills and conceptual knowledge, while the wealth of knowledge, experience and training we delivered to the LANCS battlegroup has begun to build our reputation in these vital, early stages.