Llanelli soldier returns from Nightingale Hospital to training for frontlines

A FORMER Bryngwyn Comprehensive School pupil, who spent his first month out of training side by side with the NHS at the Nightingale Hospital Bristol, recently deployed overseas for the first time, to train alongside the French Army in Urban warfare.

21-year old Fusilier Harrison Phillips, of the Tidworth based 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Regiment, after deploying as a Critical Care Support Worker at the emergency COVID hospital, is finally doing what he trained for – operating as an Infantry soldier, crossing the battlefield in a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle.

The young soldier, who finished training only last year and had his first 12 months in the army transformed by COVID-19, proved himself on the challenging international Exercise Gaulish Dragon. He deployed with B (Rorke’s Drift Company) 1 Royal Welsh to the bespoke urban training centre, CENZUB (The Centre d’entrainement aux actions en zone urbaine), to carry out an annual bilateral exercise alongside French army partners, and use the facilities: a full sized town complete with town hall, multi-story car park, tower blocks and a sewage system located outside Sissonne, 100 Miles North East of Paris.

On the Exercise around 180 Service Personnel, formed mainly from B (Rorke’s Drift) Coy 1 Royal Welsh, but including attachments from across the army, came together as a Company group, to practice taking and holding urban areas, fighting in buildings to take control of Urban areas and then defending them. Working alongside the French Army they exchanged tactics and techniques, as well as donning specialist laser kits enabling the Welsh and the French to have practice battles across the urban training complex.

Fusilier Phillips said: “I was an apprentice for two years at DD Plumbers and really enjoyed it. But I wanted to travel and have a bit more excitement”

Harrison’s Mum Michelle works for the NHS. Speaking about his Mum and his work with the NHS Harrison said: “My mum is really happy for me, being in the Army, because it is something I wanted to do. I was really proud to be trained and ready to support the NHS during the Pandemic. It wasn’t what I expected, but I really wanted to be able to help, and was glad to get the opportunity to step up. I am happy to finally be in the field with my regiment now though.”

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A soldier from B Company 1 Royal Welsh uses the cover of the firing Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle to move safely across the ground. Photographer: Corporal Cameron Whatmore RLC / MoD Crown

Harrison is a keen sportsman and has previously played football for Trostre FC. He told us: “I qualified for the Regimental Boxing Team, which was challenging, but really rewarding so early. Unfortunately, COVID-19 meant all the flights were cancelled!”

Being away from Llanelli isn’t so bad for Harrison as he is busy most of the time and some of his friends also joined up. He said: “One of my oldest friends joined the regiment too, he’s in a different Company, and another joined the Navy. I am so glad I did. I’m here now in France on a massive urban warfare exercise, learning to clear buildings while working from an armoured vehicle.”

Harrison espouses the benefits of becoming a soldier describing his exploits as ‘really cool’. He said: “Warrior (fighting vehicle) is really cool, if I could show my friends from home… I just get to see things they won’t see in places they can’t go. I love being on the ground and learning to soldier. The opportunities for sport have been great too.”

Major Mark Lewis, Officer Commanding (OC) B (Rorke’s Drift Company) 1 Royal Welsh: “Ex Gaulish Dragon provided an excellent opportunity for the Company. There were several challenges to overcome but it was great to finally get the opportunity to exercise after an exceptionally busy year supporting the NHS delivering COVID-19 testing.”

“It was a really busy and challenging exercise, but we all came away having learnt a huge amount and developed as both individuals and as a collective force. I was exceptionally proud of the soldiers for their efforts during the exercise, the instructors noting their continued motivation and controlled aggression.” “B (Rorke’s Drift) Company scored in the top 10% of all units to have completed the exercise, I am extremely proud of them.”

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