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Swindon soldier tackles Black Mountains challenge
A soldier from Wroughton has taken on Nato’s toughest patrolling test in the Black Mountains in Wales.
Private Dale Wallbank, 19, was one of eight team members with 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment taking on Exercise Cambrian Patrol, an annual event run by 160 (Wales) Brigade in the UK.
The challenge, a highlight in the British Army’s training calendar, is internationally renowned as one of the toughest tests the modern soldier can face.
Some foreign entrants have to claim the right to take part by winning through their own domestic challenge.
Dale, a former Ridgeway School pupil who joined the Army last year, said he was prepared for a a full on challenge when he took on the test.
“We spent time in Brecon as preparation for the event, going through some of the scenarios we thought we were going to face,” he said.
“You can’t be too sure of what’s coming because you just have to deal with it as it happens and that’s part of the exercise. We had to react and just pick up as many points as we could.
“It was tough, especially having to go without sleep for 48 hours. The river crossing was also difficult because there’s no doubt you’ll be left wet and cold for a long time afterwards.
“The main thing was to keep our motivation up all the way through.”
Regular and Territorial Army soldiers in the British Army were joined by international teams of troops from around the world, as this year’s exercise saw teams from Estonia, Switzerland and Finland take part for the first time Teams are subjected to a thorough check to ensure they are in possession of the correct kit, equipment and clothing required for the exercise.
This is before patrol commanders are given a set of orders for onward briefing to members of their patrol.
Patrols are then taken to a number of drop-off points in the hills eight miles north east of Llandrindod Wells, at the tip of Radnor Forest, in mid Wales.
Split into seven phases, the teams then have to march a mind-and-muscle sapping 55km carrying full personal kit and equipment, weighing 60lbs, on a two-day patrolling mission.
Navigating both by day and night, the patrols face many testing and specialist challenges, including observation and reconnaissance of enemy forces, cold river crossings in full kit without access to boats, first-aid and defensive shooting under attack.
Military skills, stamina and dedication are constantly evaluated during the patrol and marked with a system of points.
Teams are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal or certificate of merit, depending on the points they gain