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Dawn attack as Rock resumes training role after lockdown restrictions

Johnny Bugeja

As the sun rose on the east side of the Rock on Thursday, the men and women of D Squadron of the Household Cavalry Regiment commenced a raid on the enemy hidden within the village walls of Buffadero Training Camp.

In the golden light of dawn and under a pall of smoke from multiple grenades, the village echoed with gunfire as the soldiers worked their way through the buildings with an ease rooted in tactical expertise.

At the end of Exercise Daring Rock, nine enemies had been killed and four captured.

Throughout the operation, the soldiers were observed by senior officers, including Commodore Steve Dainton, the Commander British Forces, who said it was “fascinating to see.”

“The complexity and the teamwork and the leadership was evident there,” he told the troops afterwards.

“I have got to say, it was absolutely amazing for me to be close up and see you going in and having it explained to me what you were all up to.”

“Believe me, it is much easier out at sea. Really, really well done.”

There were 60 soldiers in total involved in Thursday’s attack, split into three platoons.

Additionally, two members of the Gibraltar Defence Police dog section, together with K9 Oscar, also participated.

The 13 enemies in the village were also soldiers involved in the training, known as FIBUA, short for Fighting In Built Up Areas.

The soldiers of the Household Cavalry Regiment usually operate in large, armoured vehicles.

They are currently converting to the new British Army Ajax, which is a new multi-role, fully-digitised armoured fighting vehicle.

While they wait for that conversion, it was decided they would come to Gibraltar and practice their urban fighting skills, at the same time covering for the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, whose soldiers are currently deployed on a training exercise in the UK.

The troops of the Household Cavalry Regiment specialise in reconnaissance and had crept into the area at around 4am, ahead of launching the attack at 7.45am.

Starting with machine gun fire, two simultaneous assaults took place with two separate platoons each taking different buildings.

The assault took the platoons through 12 different compounds.

The exercise and the dangers of military operations, even training, became more than just role play for one soldier, who was initially treated by a medic at the scene.

But the injury to his hand was deemed serious enough for hospital attention and he was taken there in full camouflage and face paint.

Leading the exercise was Captain Hugo Hunter.

“We did not specify where the enemy was going to be,” he said, explaining how it had all been set up.

“We just said they were in the village and I was really impressed with the way the squadron went through and cleared the objective.”

He said the success of the exercise showed their training had paid off.

“So really successful, which has been great to see,” he said.

He said that adding the Gibraltar Defence Police dog unit to the exercise was fun, while injecting a further dynamic for those involved on the ground.

"We got a chance to give their lovely Alsatian a bit of a run out but also a chance to put the guys out of their comfort zone as well,” he said.

“When you expect someone to come through the door first and you see a 40 kilo Alsatian come through the window, [that] is certainly a bit off-putting,” he explained.

“The guys dealing with the dogs are wearing protective armour so they knew that they are likely to have a dog come, they just don’t know where from.”

“But, even if you know it is coming, once he has got lock on you, anyone who says they are not slightly frightened by a dog charging them down is probably lying, I’d say.”

Addressing the troops, Commodore Dainton said he hoped that they enjoyed their training in Gibraltar and that although he is a Royal Navy man, he is keen to ensure the Rock is a joint facility for all services and that all opportunities are taken advantage of.

“In this Covid era, we have not been able to exploit that as much as we could, so you are the first we have had - certainly in my time here - to come through... and I am really grateful for the way that you have all thrown yourselves into that,” he said.

The soldiers will now move onto the next phase of the exercise scheduled for Friday morning.

“We have secured the Upper Levels of Gibraltar and we have now forced the enemy, smugglers and Black forces, down into their subterranean defensive positions,” stated Captain Hunter, sketching out the role play training scenario.

“We are now going to be using this as an operational base to punch forward and strike into the tunnel systems and, hopefully, clean the tunnel systems of all the enemy below, liberating Gibraltar once again.”

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