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Royal Marines prepare for the Arctic with Slovenia mountain mission

23 September 2021
Royal Marines swapped their usual Scotland mountain warfare training ground for a rare foray into the wilds of Slovenia as they prepare for their Arctic deployment next year.

Yankee Company of 45 Commando, the Royal Marines’ specialists in cold weather and mountain warfare, headed for the stunning Slovenian mountains for two weeks of intensive training to push themselves ahead of a challenging winter on operations in Norway. 

The marines based themselves at Bohinjska Bela Barracks – a NATO centre of excellence for mountain warfare – and headed on missions into the Triglav National Park, in the northwest corner of the Balkan state. 

The Green Berets spent a fortnight working closely with the Slovenian 132nd Mountain Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 157th Mountain Regiment of the US Colorado National Guard on exercises known as Triglav Star. 

The commandos and allies focused on core skills like vertical assaults, river crossings and casualty evacuations, working at high altitude across arduous terrain under the stewardship of Royal Marines and Slovenian Mountain Leaders. 

The exercises ended with an attack on Blegoš Mountain that is still home to old Yugoslav fortifications of the Rupnik Line that was designed, although failed, to defend against attacks during the Second World War.

Major David Johnston, in command of Yankee Company, said: “The exercise has been an excellent opportunity to really test Yankee Company. 

“Working with NATO partners we have deployed into unfamiliar terrain and have enhanced the capability of the company. 

“Under the Royal Marines and Slovenian Mountain Leaders we have trained to operate in an Alpine environment. 

“Working at high altitude in arduous steep terrain is a challenge in itself. Operating tactically is another layer of complexity. Team leaders have been tested to ensure that they maintain a covert posture navigating through enemy lines, across huge obstacles where if they make a mistake the consequences are severe. 

“The Royal Marines provide the UK defence’s sole mountain and cold weather warfare capability. This has been an excellent testing ground before we deploy to Norway to push our capability even further.”

45 Commando’s marines are held at constant readiness to deploy around the world at short notice and, as the UK’s Arctic and mountain warfare specialists, must be ready to fight in the world’s must unforgiving environments. 

The Slovenia deployment was a prime opportunity to share knowledge with allies and more intimately understand how fellow troops operate in the mountains to develop each-other’s tactics and approach. 

Yankee Company seized the opportunity and in the second week of training carried out a challenging Situation Training Exercise, which puts commandos in a specific scenario which they need to navigate through to achieve objectives.

Warrant Officer Second Class Ian Freeman, Y Company Sergeant Major, said: “Having the opportunity to train in an alpine, high mountainous environment and develop alongside NATO partners has really enhanced the company’s experience and skillset to operate in the mountains. 

“It has been challenging for the exercising troops and whilst learning new skills and techniques they have rose to the challenge and performed admirably. Y Coy are now in an even better place to conduct operations in a mountainous environment.”

Yankee Company took the opportunity also carry out some adventurous training across the breath-taking landscape of the Slovenian mountains, before returning to the UK. 

The rest of 45 Commando will soon carry out their own arctic preparations on mountain training activity in Scotland. 

 

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