Disaster training for the TA
Published in the Essex Chronicle September 19 2003
by Joy Baker
Chelmsford TA soldiers who would play a pivotal role in the event of a major disaster are training behind the former 'Iron Curain'.
The 18 soldiers of the 70 (Essex Yeomanry) signald squadron based in Chelmsford, together with colleagues from Harlow, are attending their annual camp in the Czech Republic. The volunteers have recently been given a new emphasis - to provide communications for local authority commanders in the South East during any major disaster.
The training culminates in a two-day exercise on the Bohemian border before a visit to Prague. Warrant Officer Jim Swain, of Ramsden Heath, who has served 11 years in the TA after seven years as a regular soldier, said: "When I joined the army in 1984 the Czechs were the baddies - who would have thought I would be training in a Warsaw Pact training area?"
Mr Swain, who has an electrical contractor business, welcomed the fact that TA soldiers could now do a lot more for their country. Fifteen of the squadronn had done six months in the Balkans and three soldiers are currently in Iraq.
TA soldiers undergo a full-time two-week training exercise each year, for which they are paid £1200 tax free.
Major Michael Wood, commanding officer, said the range of facilities in the Czech Republic was completely different to what had been available in recent years. "It is very different from your day job and helps you exercise leadership skills you can really only get in the TA. Those who are in the TA understand the risks. It is part and parcel of the job and we are trained to deal with it," he said.