Gurkhas tough it out in Tekapo

SAHIBAN KANWAL
Last updated 05:00 19/04/2014

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Soldiers from the 1 Royal Gurkha Regiment (1RGR) from Brunei have started their training in the Tekapo Military Training Area.

Pacific Kukri 2014 is part of a biennial exercise hosted by the New Zealand Army.

The exercises are focused on live firing and will replicate deployment either in the United Kingdom or deployment on the request of a friendly nation.

The Royal Gurkha Regiment (RGR) is a rifle regiment of the British Army, forming part of the Brigade of Gurkhas. The regiment is now the sole Gurkha regiment of the British Army since the amalgamation of the four separate Gurkha regiments in 1994.

The two battalions of the RGR are formed as light-role infantry; they are not equipped with either armoured or wheeled vehicles.

One battalion is based at Shorncliffe, near Folkestone in Kent as part of 52 Infantry Brigade and is available for deployment to most areas in Europe and Africa, Roberts said.

The other is based at the British garrison in Brunei as part of Britain's commitment to maintaining a military presence in Southeast Asia. The two battalions rotate in each role, usually for three years at a time.

Rifle company commander Major Leigh Roberts said: "There are 180 men with five New Zealand attachments and the exercises will be covering communication, snipers, military police training and others."

Unlike other regiments in the British Army, soldiers are recruited from Nepal, which is neither a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, nor a member of the Commonwealth.

The British officers in command are trained in Nepal to learn the language and the culture, and soldiers from Nepal train in the United Kingdom for nine months.

"The terrain and weather the soldiers will be exercising in are vastly different to their home base in Brunei. They usually work in 35 degrees and even though they have been trained in the UK, it is good for them to be exposed to different conditions," Roberts said.

It is quite an environmental change for the soldiers and the quartermaster had to issue them with cold-weather kits.

"Part of being a soldier is that you need to have physical and mental flexibility and this will help them acclimatise," Roberts said.

The exercise involves more than 180 personnel from 1RGR and their support elements, here until May 17.

 

'WE WORK AS A FAMILY'

The regiment call themselves a specialised jungle warfare battalion.

In command of more than 100 soldiers at the Tekapo Military Training base, Captain Deepak Ghame has been in the RGR for 25 years and was commissioned from the ranks.

"It is not easy being a Gurkha. When I joined, out of 2000 applicants from my district, only three were selected. It is a rigorous selection process."

He has been deployed in Afghanistan, Falklands, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, America and Canada for exercises and Kosovo and believes that it is the relationship between members of the regiment that makes it unique.

"We work as a family. We are there for each other, whenever, wherever," Ghame said.

His first battalion was 6 Gurkha Rifles, and before being commissioned he was the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), the most respected job among the soldiers.

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Men returning from back-to-back tours in Afghanistan are also part of the Tekapo training.

Santosh Gurung, along with Man Thapar and Ramesh Gurung, believes that the terrain for the training exercises is very similar to the training they went through in the United Kingdom.

"It is just like when we were in UK for the first time. The terrain is great because it is demanding and challenging," Santosh Gurung said.

All three agreed that while the environment was tough, it was a great to be in Tekapo.

They praised the hospitality and said being from mountainous Nepal they were familiar with the bracing weather.

They also welcomed an opportunity to refresh their skills away from Brunei.Rifle company commander Major Leigh Roberts had no complaints.

"The support we have received - the logistics, even something as simple as waterproof notepads - has been provided to us. We could not ask for anything more," he said.

SOLDIERS GET A FIGHTING CHANCE

Soldiers from the 1 Royal Gurkha Regiment (1RGR) from Brunei have started their training in the Tekapo Military Training Area.

Pacific Kukri 2014 is part of a biennial exercise hosted by the New Zealand Army.

The exercises are focused on live firing and will replicate deployment either in the United Kingdom or deployment on the request of a friendly nation.

The Royal Gurkha Regiment (RGR) is a rifle regiment of the British Army, forming part of the Brigade of Gurkhas. The regiment is now the sole Gurkha regiment of the British Army since the amalgamation of the four separate Gurkha regiments in 1994.

The two battalions of the RGR are formed as light-role infantry; they are not equipped with either armoured or wheeled vehicles.

One battalion is based at Shorncliffe, near Folkestone in Kent as part of 52 Infantry Brigade and is available for deployment to most areas in Europe and Africa, Roberts said.

The other is based at the British garrison in Brunei as part of Britain's commitment to maintaining a military presence in Southeast Asia. The two battalions rotate in each role, usually for three years at a time.

Rifle company commander Major Leigh Roberts said: "There are 180 men with five New Zealand attachments and the exercises will be covering communication, snipers, military police training and others."

Unlike other regiments in the British Army, soldiers are recruited from Nepal, which is neither a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, nor a member of the Commonwealth.

The British officers in command are trained in Nepal to learn the language and the culture, and soldiers from Nepal train in the United Kingdom for nine months.

"The terrain and weather the soldiers will be exercising in are vastly different to their home base in Brunei. They usually work in 35 degrees and even though they have been trained in the UK, it is good for them to be exposed to different conditions," Roberts said.

It is quite an environmental change for the soldiers and the quartermaster had to issue them with cold-weather kits.

"Part of being a soldier is that you need to have physical and mental flexibility and this will help them acclimatise," Roberts said.

The exercise involves more than 180 personnel from 1RGR and their support elements, here until May 17.

- The Timaru Herald

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