Banbridge man Ian Wilson has fulfilled a childhood ambition by getting up close and personal with a major military exercise.
Ian, who works with the Health & Safety Executive Northern Ireland, was one of a group of employers who visited Exercise VIKING STAR to gain an insight into the changing role of Army Reserves.
‘If ever I thought of Army Reserve service as ‘just a hobby’, my mind was completely change by what I saw.’ Ian Wilson
He and fellow employers from public and private sectors saw at first-hand how Reserve soldiers from 152 (North Irish) Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps has re-roled as an integral part of the Army’s only fuel Regiment, with its local Reservists re-training for new roles.
That training was put to the test at Billund Army Camp in Denmark when Reservists tackled the simulated challenge of building and operating a full-scale Bulk Fuel Installation as part of their preparation for petroleum operations in a conventional warfare scenario.
It’s a long way from his day-to-day post with the Health & Safety Executive Northern Ireland.
Ian said: “It’s always good to be shaken out of your comfort zone and encouraged to learn something totally new. Seeing the Army Reserves at work building and managing a Bulk Fuel Installation has obvious relevance to my job at the HSENI where our focus is firmly on working in partnership with organisations and companies to control risk of all sorts.
“Attending the event as an observer was also an important demonstration of support for HSENI staff members who serve and, if I am honest, it also provided me a welcome opportunity to see some exciting ‘big boys’ toys in action and find out what life is like for the military.”
Fully equipped with helmet, army jacket and stout boots, Ian saw how Reservists from Northern Ireland are working alongside Regular Army soldiers to cater for all the military’s fuel and oil needs, storing, handling and delivering petroleum products and perfecting their training in setting up and cleaning pipelines, fuel farms and storage tanks and testing for contamination.
He said: “In my work life and here in Banbridge I’ve known quite a few people with spare time careers in the Reserves, but I suppose until now I never really understood what that entailed.
“If ever I thought of Army Reserve service as ‘just a hobby’, my mind was completely change by what I saw. Alongside the fact that they have to be prepared for combat if that need arises, they also have to be highly trained in specialist disciplines. That’s hard enough work when it’s your day job, but these men and women are learning complex new skills in their spare time.”