Life in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Second Lieutenant Toby Fenton-O’Creevy is a Platoon Commander in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) Reserves. He is currently attached to 3 Commando Brigade, where he has just completed a week’s attachment with Commando Logistic Regiment.

3 Commando Brigade –  is one of the UK’s Very High Readiness Brigades, alongside 16 Air Assault Brigade, composed of Army Commandos and Royal Marines.

Having begun my series of attachments within 3 Commando Brigade, I was warned by my new boss, Capt James Aubrey, that the upcoming week ‘would be a busy one’. So, heading down to RMB Chivenor in Devon with the vague notion that Commando Logistic Regiment, or CLR, were gearing up to deploy on a training exercise and that I might be involved in some planning and repair activity as they worked to get out the door. I was perhaps, a little naïve.

Once I arrived in Chivenor, I quickly began to realise the extent of the challenge, as the exercise was to be framed in the context of an ‘activation’. Elements of CLR are held at readiness state 2 (R2), which translates to 5 day’s notice to deploy onto a ship ready to go anywhere in the world. Exercise GREEN DRAGON was designed to test that proposition, by simulating an activation order from the Brigade, giving the REME Light Aid Detachment (LAD) I would be working in just five days to get the entire R2 fleet ready to deploy.  At the beginning of the week, over half of the vehicles and equipment that needed to deploy were ‘Non-Taskworthy’ or in other words, broken and in need of repair.

Just a few of the vehicles left on the runway following a ‘crews front’ readiness parade towards the end of the week.

To complicate matters further, all of this activity had to take place alongside planning conferences twice a day and preparing the LAD itself to deploy at the end of the week. It quickly became a grapple not only with the physical work to be done on the vehicles, but the planning, monitoring and communicating required to get the entire fleet through the LAD with enough time for it to be repaired. Late nights became the norm as our tradesmen worked frenetically to repair the equipment, whilst the next floor up we wrestled with an entire regiment’s worth of spreadsheets and statistics, checking and checking again that each vehicle had been accounted for, delivered, certified and repaired whilst midnight past and early morning broke.

As each twice-daily regimental planning conference progressed, tensions became higher – especially when it was announced that the exercise would have a chemical warfare component necessitating the carriage of respirators and protective clothing!

At about mid-week, we finally settled on what would be the ‘battle-winning’ solution to repairing the fleet in time for exercise commencement, by physically co-locating the Motor Transport (MT) department, responsible for managing the fleet and liaising with the squadrons who used it, with the LAD itself. As the MT Senior NCOs worked on the route plan and driving regulations for the exercise, I worked with the MT juniors to get an accurate picture of the fleet status and confirm that the production cell in the LAD were seeing the same picture.

The Light Aid Detachment just before work begins.

Finally, on Thursday, we started to see the results we were looking for.  Fleet availability began to teeter near the final target, and the Commanding Officer was able to conduct a readiness parade with his Squadron leaders to satisfy himself with the state of his vehicle fleet and driver documentation. Apart from a few frustrations such as a vehicle collision whilst setting up for the parade, final repair work went smoothly and the REME and Royal Marine personnel of the LAD were able to take the time to prepare their own equipment for the upcoming exercise.

On Friday afternoon I was able to wave goodbye to the outgoing troops and now-fit fleet before retiring early for some well-earned rest. Whilst sometimes emotional and frenetically busy, this week was a real baptism of fire for me – I had the chance to work with some absolutely top-class tradesman in a truly ‘joint’ environment, with Army, Navy and Royal Marines personnel all pulling towards the same goal – taking what I had learnt and practiced in BATUS to the next level.

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