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Rock is tough training ground for army medics

Combat Medics from 253 Medical Regiment, Train as part of Barbary Star at Buffadero Trainingg Area Gibraltar.

The Royal Army Medical Corp (RAMC) based in Northern Ireland is undertaking a variety of training exercises on the Rock.

The 86 soldiers are primarily from Belfast, Limavady and Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, with some from Chorley in England too.

They are in Gibraltar to carry out a medical and infantry style exercise, explained Major Graeme Kilpatrick, who is leading them.

“We are focusing on basic skills, so being a soldier first,” he said. “However, with a medical spin.”

Within the troop the gender mix is roughly 2:1 in terms of male.

He added: “We do have a high portion of females here. We are a medical unit, we traditionally have a lot of females.”

“In terms of ages we have everything from 18 years of age to 60 years of age.”

“Primarily the guys on the exercise phase are on the younger side, 18 into their 40s.”

“But we have a lot of guys with a lot of experience in their 50s helping us as well.”

The training is being conducted in two stages.

Combat Medics from 253 Medical Regiment, Train as part of Barbary Star at Buffadero Training Area Gibraltar.

Combat Medics from 253 Medical Regiment, Train as part of Barbary Star at Buffadero Training Area Gibraltar.

Major Kilpatrick said: “We are doing a subterranean phase which is in the World War 2 tunnels in the Rock, where the guys will go through the whole tunnel warfare fighting package which is designed by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.”

“They will also take casualties within that package.”

“We are also looking at FIBA, which is fighting in built up areas. We are in the set of houses in the training area here in Gibraltar and the guys will conduct clearing those houses.”

“They will be engaging with the enemy but primarily it is about looking after the casualties, evacuating them because we at the end of the day are medics,” he added.

The directing staff decides how the casualties are split, but there are two different ways on how this is done, whether it is enemy or organic within the troop.

“We can either do them as enemy because as medics we will treat enemies as well under the Geneva Convention,” Major Filpatrick said.

“We are non-combatant in that sense, so we will look after enemy or civilian casualties and we can set that up with the support staff within the village.”

“We can also then have organic casualties within the actual troop we have on the ground who are the guys within the British Army combats,” he added.

The soldiers will have would have to practice treating actual injuries.

Combat Medics from 253 Medical Regiment, Train as part of Barbary Star at Buffadero Training Area Gibraltar.

Combat Medics from 253 Medical Regiment, Train as part of Barbary Star at Buffadero Training Area Gibraltar.

Major Filpatrick explained: “We can have anything from blast injury to primary health care injuries.”

“We can have anything from amputees and we can have sunken chest wounds all the way down to hayfever.”

“You name it, the guys have to deal with whatever is put in front of them.”

The soldiers will also have some down time while they are on the Rock.

“Whenever they finish their training they will do some challenging pursuits and water sports type events, a couple of barbecues, social and mess events and we hopefully will get a few more tours of St Michael’s Cave and the cable car while we are here,” said Major Kilpatrick.

Summing up the feedback from the soldiers, he said: “Northern Ireland is traditionally very positive to the army reserve.”

“We are a well-recruited army reserve unit and the guys just love getting to go on overseas training exercises and sample a new culture.”

“I know Gibraltar is British but it is slightly different to us in Northern Ireland.”

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) is responsible for maintaining the health of servicemen and women.

The Corps is represented wherever British soldiers are deployed, providing medical support to operations, exercises and adventurous training expeditions all over the world.

Pics by Tim Hammond
Video by Eyleen Gomez