Chepstow-based 1 Rifles leave for Mali operation
SOLDIERS from Chepstow’s 1 Rifles battalion have deployed to Mali to continue building the capacity of its armed forces to maintain national security.
The regiment were officially handed responsibility for the mission from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment on Saturday.
Over the past six months, 1 Rifles’ predecessors trained two full companies of the Malian Army in combat and counter-insurgency operations. These Malian units will play a key role in combating insurgents in the country going forward.
1 Rifles soldiers will now take over the efforts to build long-term stability in the African country.
Major Sam Cates, Officer Commanding the deployment said: “The team are currently busy integrating themselves into the EU Training Mission after arriving a week ago. Some of the team have already been in the field supporting the final test exercise of the second Malian Battle Group who recently completed their training. The battalion were well trained and effective and it is clear that the Royal Irish have set the bar high. We look forward to meeting that challenge by continuing to deliver effective training.”
Their task will be to deliver intensive ten-week slots to Malian units designed to develop skills and tactics from individual to battle group level.
The training also gives the Malians a clear practical understanding of the standards of ethical conduct required of troops engaged in combat and counter-insurgency operations.
The Rifles will be deployed for six months and will draw upon experience of similar missions in Afghanistan, where they mentored and trained local forces two years ago.
The 21 volunteers have also prepared with extensive pre-deployment training including cross-country driving, close-quarter marksmanship, foreign weapon handling, mentoring and French language lessons.
The 1 Rifles deployment with the EU Training Mission followed initial UK military support to the efforts of French and African Union troops who went in to Mali in January 2013 to help halt the advance of Islamist extremists and to stabilise the country.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment have done a tremendous job at the forefront of the UK’s contribution to the training mission, setting the groundwork for the rebuilding of the Malian Army into a force capable of restoring order in the country. I have every confidence that 1st Battalion The Rifles will build on their efforts and successes as the UK continues to support Mali’s move forward on the path towards long-term stability and development.”
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