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Royal Marines take an icy swim ashore on specialist fjord recce missions

28 February 2022
Out of the freezing depths of a Norwegian fjord appear specialist Royal Marines who silently swim ashore to carry out covert reconnaissance missions deep inside the Arctic Circle.

A small team from the Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron of 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group swam ashore and used inflatable raiding boats to hoover up valuable information, studying their surroundings carefully to calculate the best place for troops to land and hit an adversary decisively.
 
The Squadron’s Shore Reconnaissance Team (SRT) carried out this essential training to ensure that amphibious forces are able to access the rugged Norwegian coastline and its inhospitable beaches, using the team’s valuable information to plan future operations.
 
The SRT is made of highly-trained commandos from the Royal Marines Landing Craft Specialisation. They have been operating alongside the Minedykkerkommandoen – or Norwegian Naval EOD Command. They are  a group of specialist clearance divers based at Ramsund Naval Base and together the commandos and divers have been sharing expertise as they forge even closer bonds.
 
The combined training comes as final preparations are put in place for Exercise Cold Response, the largest gathering of NATO forces in the Arctic since the 1980s, taking place in March and April.
 
“This has been a good few days working together in our teams, improving our team cohesion and individual skills and drills,” said Lance Corporal Swann of the SRT.
 
“Being such a small entity we each have multiple jobs to do, and watching the newer members adapt and jump on the steep learning curve is really good to see."
 
Having swum ashore, the SRT turned up the volume with live break contact drills on the icy beaches and snow-covered coastline of Ramsund which lies around two dozen miles west of Narvik.
 
The tactics practised allow the commandos to disengage quickly from an enemy and regain their covert posture.
 
Electronic targets were sprung on the commandos without warning to simulate an overwhelming enemy force and the marines were tasked with breaking contact back to the beach and getting away using their fast inflatable raiding craft (IRC). 
 
Corporal Irving of the SRT added: “Shore Reconnaissance Team have been making good use of the extensive facilities at Ramsund ranges, refreshing personal skills before running through break contact scenarios. The teams practised and developed drills for compromise.
 
“Polishing the intricacies of breaking contact whilst we are carrying out individual tasks such as image capture, data gathering and swimmers in the water culminating in hot extraction by IRC.”
 
The SRT operate small craft in harsh conditions, but to get the best data they must get out of the boat and swim, even in temperatures of -30°C degrees and in challenging sea states. 
 
Each commando wears multiple layers of clothing to protect from the weather. They wear up to three pairs of gloves and mitts, plus body armour, webbing, helmet, rifle and lifejacket. 
 
Once the beach recce is complete, the team moves on to their next target. They can operate for weeks on end without support and with few opportunities to communicate back to base.

To join the Shore Reconnaissance Team is a lengthy and tough process.
 
Commandos must first be Landing Craft specialists and, once they have enough experience in the role, they undertake a five-week arduous Reconnaissance Operators course, which develops covert surveillance and reconnaissance skills, and experience of operating behind enemy lines to gather intelligence.
 
The Shore Reconnaissance Team are one of the specialist trades within the Surveillance Reconnaissance Squadron. All teams within the group are technical experts in their field and with a vast amount of experience in deep reconnaissance.

 

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