In the second of our features with Territorial Army troops on exercise in Cyprus, WILL BAIN meets three Gwent men who are dedicated to serving their country.

NEWPORT’S Steve Broderick, Ian Fife and Jamie Meredith have dedicated their adult lives to the British Army.

Through a mixture of service, first in the regular army, or in the Royal Regiment of Wales (RRW) to be more precise, and more latterly as part of 3 Royal Welsh, the Territorial Army (TA) arm of the regiment which was formed in part out of the old RRW, the three men from Newport have given a total of 75 years’ service to their country.

All three had an early passion for the army, but count an array of reasons for wanting to still be involved, listing things from perhaps the obvious, like money, to the adventure training opportunities they are afforded like sailing, rock climbing and mountain biking, things they wouldn’t be able to access without great expense on ‘civvy street’.

But they are also acutely aware of the TA’s changing role within the army and highlight the need to support an increasingly stretched regular army in the most practical ways possible.

The army is set to shrink from 102,000 regular soldiers to 82,000 by 2017 as part of government spending cuts, while aiming to double the number of reservists from 15,000 to 30,000 in the same timeframe.

One of the potential problems the TA faces in trying to achieve the rapid recruitment it needs is that with its increased role within the British Army the time demands on those who sign up are set to increase too, which could cause difficulties with their employers, although Cpl Meredith is quick to thank his employers for their support.

Those tours could also place more strain on reservists personally, and on their families.

“The TA used to be thought of as a bit of a drinking club but that’s long gone now,” says Corporal Fife.

“When you have to go to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s not much of a party.You aren’t playing at being soldiers any more,” he said.

“If you are not prepared to go on tours and support the regulars in places like Afghanistan, then as a TA I don’t think that’s on,” Corporal Broderick said.

It is the one time cheery, friendly Broderick ever swerves from the affable nature which has been described by some of the senior figures in 3 Royal Welsh as “indispensable”.

Both Cpl Fife and Broderick know a thing or two about overseas tours.

Cpl Fife went on back-to-back tours in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, while his pal, Cpl Broderick, was in Afghanistan around three years ago as part of Herrick 11, attached to the Royal Anglian regiment in Lashkar Gah and Musa Qala.

“If they asked me, I probably would go back, yes,” Cpl Broderick says, “though I don’t think my wife would be happy!” the dad of one laughs.

His wife barred him from going to Iraq but he jokes that he managed to persuade her Afghanistan was safer.

His reasons for wanting to go are compelling, though.

“The regulars are having to do a lot of tours very regularly now and I feel like I need to do my bit to support them.”

With the changes that need for support will only increase.

“By 2020 we are virtually going to be the British Army,” Cpl Fife adds.

“Nobody enjoys Afghanistan unless they’re mad,” he continues. “Enjoy isn’t the word. But there is that camaraderie, I suppose.

It’s like having a second family.

Your colleagues are like brothers and sisters. I hope that’s what got me a good tour report when I came back from Iraq. I was one of the oldest out there and I tried to be a bit of a father figure for the younger guys out there. That’s what I try to do here too.”

That role is highly valued by the senior officers, but that camaraderie, all three agree, is a key element in what keeps making them give up their time and keep training with the TA.

Medical technician thrives on helping others

CORPORAL Meredith, 33, was born and brought up in Blackwood, but now lives with his partner, Charlotte, to whom he’s engaged, and their two children, Logan-Jay, four, and Macie-Leigh, two, in Newport.

He served as part of the peace-keeping force in Bosnia and Kosovo after joining the then Royal Regiment of Wales in 1998 as an infantryman.

On leaving regular military service he took up a role as a health care support worker and has worked for five years at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, currently on the A&E ward, after a two-year stint at Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny.

But at the same time he joined the TA regiment 104 of the Royal Artillery, based at Raglan Barracks in Newport, in the role of combat medical technician (CMT).

“We provide frontline medical care, so that would be things like immediate life-saving treatment, but we would also help provide primary healthcare for things like common colds,” Cpl Meredith explains.

At the Radio Sonde Camp, between Limassol and Pafos on Cyprus’ south coast, where Cpl Meredith is training while attached to 3 Royal Welsh, they have a small medical centre and ambulance to help them treat anyone injured during the nine day military exercise.

Fortunately only “six or seven” of the 120 soldiers have needed Cpl Meredith’s assistance thus far, with heatstroke and ankles injured on the rough, arid terrain the prime complaints.

He also trains the troops in emergency first-aid techniques.

“It is challenging but I enjoy it,” he says. “You get so many opportunities with the TA. I have done a lot of medical training courses, but also things like sailing, which I got to try the other week.

That kind of thing you would never be able to do for free on civvy street.

“I help people in my job at home and I thought, well, why not use those skills helping other people who need it.”

‘It’s a fabulous way to earn your living’

CORPORAL Fife, 48, is a father of three from Newport.

He’s travelled the world with the army, training and serving in Belgium, Holland, France, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Albania, Belize and Kuwait, as well as his tours of Iraq and, of course, here in Cyprus.

He is part of the mechanical transport (MT) team driving a range of vehicles from heavily armoured EPV vehicles of Wolf Land Rovers in ‘theatre’ (war situtations) to the trucks which move the troops into position on the clifftop training bases in southern Cyprus.

The former St Joseph’s School pupil admits: “After losing my job at Newport Transport a few years ago it has become more about the money, if I’m being totally truthful.

“But there is great variety in the work, and even if tours to places like Afghanistan are in no way enjoyable, it is a much better way to earn a living than working in a coffee shop or something.”

It is also that family vibe and great friendships that make the difference.

He is particularly good friends with Corporal Broderick, with the pair’s careers mapping each other’s through infantry and machine-gunner roles in the regular army with the Royal Regiment of Wales, to the MT with 3 Royal Welsh.

He has put his name forward for a tour of Afghanistan but fears that age may be against him.

‘A full-time role and great social life too’

CORPORAL Broderick, 47, lives with his wife, Barbara, and their ten-year-old daughter, Sarah, in Newport.

Like Cpl Fife he was an infantryman in the Royal Regiment of Wales first, and is now part of the MT team for 3 Royal Welsh.

He says Skype was a huge help on his tour of Afghanistan to keep in touch with his then six-year-old little girl.

He works almost full-time for the TA, commuting to Cardiff’s Maindy barracks to work on what they call additional duties commitment, a three-day-a-week role which sees him carry out things like admin for the TA there.

Part-logistics, part-driver, part morale- booster, like his Newport colleagues, the former Fairwater High School (Cwmbran) pupil is a vital cog in the 3 Royal Welsh machine.

A keen rugby player, he has represented the battalion at seven-a-side tournaments in Hong Kong and loves nothing more than watching the Dragons and Wales when he gets home.

“I enjoy my role a lot and there are great people to work with,” he says. “The social side of it is very good. There’s going to be more of a reliance on the TA by 2015.”