'Ultimate challenge for the modern-day soldier'
While Exercise Cambrian Patrol 2013 saw nine patrols achieve the top award, the number of withdrawals illustrates just how tough the exercise is, with almost a fifth of all the teams who started, failing to complete the mission.
The competition, which is open to teams of troops from around the world, left the assembly area near Pontrhydfendigaid in mid Wales, and domestic teams included 55 Regular army patrols, 12 Reserve and 16 teams from the University Officer Training Corps.
International troops from Norway, New Zealand, Ukraine, Pakistan, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Albania, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, India, Australia, Estonia, Poland, Greece and France, all fronted up to the harsh and demanding terrain amid the Welsh Cambrian Mountains.
Second Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment was the only international team to scoop gold, while Wales UOTC managed to achieve a gold medal for the first time, alongside an equally impressive performance from Leeds UOTC.
Speaking in the hide area before setting off, Wales UOTC Officer Cadet Matt Brown, 20, from St Neots, Cambridge, said: “I know this exercise has quite a formidable reputation, but I don’t think it would be as much fun to do if it didn’t have that background.
“That means if you do well then you’ve really performed to a high standard and shown your abilities in military skills, fieldcraft and that you have the fitness and mental toughness. Everyone’s here for the same reason – to do well.”
The history student, studying at Bangor University, said his team were ambitious from the off. He said: “We want gold because it would mark the first time a team from Wales OUTC will have won the top award,” he said. “If we do everything we’ve been doing in training and replicate our efforts then we should do well.”
And so they did.
'Pressure is on us to get gold'
The New Zealand patrol also did well with soldiers from the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles (QAMR) adamant they were up for the challenge before departure for the drop-off point.
Corporal Sam Gibbs, 21, from Greenhithe in Auckland, said: “The test in New Zealand was a bit similar to Cambrian Patrol but probably not on the same scale. The winner of that comes here to compete.
“There were ten teams from across New Zealand hoping to make it and in the end we gained the honour of representing the brigade.
“Keeping morale up and keeping going forward will be difficult but we’ll all look after each other, at the same time maybe giving each other a bit of strife, ensure the humour keeps going too because that’s how you keep morale up.
“The team who took part last year got a silver, so the pressure is on us to get gold.”
The New Zealand team matched their counterparts with a well-earned silver.
'Record number of initial entrants'
Cambrian Patrol Warrant Officer, WO2 Stephen Eaves, from 160 (Wales) Brigade, said: “This year’s event has been another big success and there were a record number of initial entrants. However, we can only accommodate so many patrols and there is a limit.
“There is a huge amount of work that goes into making this exercise as realistic and demanding as possible," He said. “It’s the ultimate challenge for the modern-day soldier and patrols who completed Cambrian can be rightly proud of their achievements.
“For those who may have fallen short, the opportunity is always there to enter next time.”
The total breakdown of awards was:
- Nine gold
- 37 silver
- 21 bronze
- 16 certificates
- 17 withdrawals.