British Army Units

December 2, 2008 at 3:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

July 30, 2008

As I mentioned in a previous post I want to describe the British units that I have been working with and some of the equipment that they have. Much of my information I have pulled from the actual British Army web site at www.army.mod.uk, so if you are looking for more information than what I am giving you then direct your web browsers that direction.

The British actually deploy one combat brigade plus over here at a time under the supervison of a division headquarters. The current brigade that is here is the 7th Armored Brigade. The above picture is the patch that they wear. The 7th Armored Brigade carries on the traditions of the famous 7th Armored Division “Desert Rats” (rat depicted on the patch) that fought in North Africa against the German Field Marshal Rommel’s Afrika Korps during World War II. Battalions in the 7th Armored Brigade are the 9th Battalion 12th Lancers (Prince of Wales), Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Highlanders), 2d Royal Tank Regiment, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, and the 2d Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment (Poachers) and associated support units.

The British organize their battalions into what they call Strike Battle Groups, much like what we call Task Forces. They cross level their tanks (Challenger 2s looks similar to an Abrams doesn’t it) and armored infantry fighting vehicles (Warriors, much like our Bradleys) and their artillery into a battalion Strike Battle Group. Currently there are a couple of Strike Battle Groups here, those battalions not organized into a Strike Battle Group form what they call the UK MiTT Group. I work with the UK MiTT Group. The above pictures show a Challenger 2 rolling out of the gate of COB Basrah, a Warrior on guard at the gate to COB Basrah,and the AS90 self propelled howitzer is a stock photo I took from the web .

The British do their MiTTs a little different than we do our standard MiTT. Our standard US Army MiTT consists of 10 or 11 senior officers and NCOs sometimes augmented by 6-8 junior soldiers who are assigned as gunner/drivers. The British on the other hand take a battalion and assign it to an Iraqi brigade and the battalion headquarters works with the Iraqi brigade headquarters and the two companies in the battalion each work with an Iraqi battalion headquarters.

The British rank structure is a little different than ours, as is their rank insignias. Luckily for me most of the Army officer rank insignia is similar to what the Iraqi rank insignia is (the Iraqis took their insignia from the British) so I have been able to figure out what rank everyone I’m talking to is. The NCO insignias are a little different and not all of their rank is equivalent to our rank. For instance they don’t have an equivalent to our Staff Sergeant (E6) and their Senior NCOs (E-* and E-9)are warrant officers (NOT the same as our warrant officers) and are addressed as Sergeant Major (Not necessarily the equivalent of our Sergeant Major). Confused yet? I was for about a week but I’ve got it figured out now….maybe, but don’t even get me started on their Royal Air Force and Royal Navy ranks which are just a bunch of squiggly lines or bars.

In my conversations with the British Officer and Soldiers I have learned a couple of things about their career paths that are different than ours. Most US Soldiers retire somewhere between 20 and 26 years time in service. British Soldiers on the other hand stay in between 25-30 years and in some cases longer. Their officers seem to make rank at about the same time in service or maybe just a little longer than our officers do. On the other hand I have met a British Corporal (E-4) who had been in the Army 14 years and a British Sergeant who had been promoted to Sergeant after 8 years in service. Our soldiers typically get promoted to Specialist/Corporal after 3-4 years depending on the situation and I’ve seen young Sergeants who have made Sergeant between 4-5 years (sometimes that shows in maturity level as well but for the most part we promote the right ones). Plus an American Soldier must be promoted to the next rank within a certain time frame or he has to leave the Army.

Since I’m an Artilleryman by training I’ve been talking to quite a few members of the Royal Horse Artillery to see how they do things in the British Army. To start with their self propelled 155mm howitzer is different than ours (see earlier picture) even if it looks fairly similar. We do share the same basic 105mm towed howitzer, although we have made some modifications to it to meet some of our requirements that are different from the British. The British also have the same Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) that we have and which I commanded a battery (6 launchers) of in OIF I. As I was talking to the British Artillerymen I was shocked to learn that they have females, both enlisted and officer, in their Artillery Units. The US Army does have female Artillery officers but they only work on Field Artillery Brigade Staffs and typically change to another branch (Adjuntant General, Ordinance, Finance) when they get promoted to Captain, occasionally there will be a female lieutenant that stays Field Artillery but because of the restrictions on females in combat they spend most of their careers at Fort Sill either in the Field Artillery Brigades there or across the tracks in the Basic Training units. In the British Artillery females do everything, they load the rounds into the howitzer, cut the powder, sight the gun and command the gun. Amazing, since a typical 155mm round weighs just less than 100lbs and an artillery crew must be able to do a sustained rate of fire of 1 round a minute for 6 minutes or max rate of fire of 4 rounds a minute for 3 minutes.

 

That’s me checking out a British assault rifle. It fires a 5.56mm (.223 Rem) round and is very light much like an M4. The rifle is made by Heckler and Koch and is called a SA80A2. Notice that the magazine is behind the pistol grip and trigger. This is a design called a bullpup, don’t ask me why that’s just what it’s called. Since the SA80 fires the same round as the M4/M16 common sense would tell you that since the British are our allies that an M4/M16 magazine would work in a SA80. Believe it or not both militaries did something that was common sense, yes a M4/M16 magazine works in the SA80 and vice versa. As you can see the British, like us, have replaced the standard iron sights with optics. The British call this sight a Common Weapon Sight (CWS)and it has about a 2x or 3x magnification and can be used with night vision imagining, I believe, making it comparable to our ACOG which has a 3x magnification. What I didn’t like about the CWS was that the aiming point was solid bar that came from the bottom of the sight and ended in a point, you couldn’t see what was on the other side of the solid bar. Our common optics, the ACOG, Aimpoint M68, or the EoTech, all have either a red dot, holographic or illuminated reticle type system that can be seen through, of the three I prefer the EoTech.


We had some British engineers who were repairing an Iraqi Police Station and building a Joint Security Station for use by MiTTs (Military Transition Teams, my team) and PTTs (Police Training Teams) over one night for an American BBQ. I got several pictures of these engineers. This guy is modelling their outside the wire body armor, called Osprey and their version of a light machine gun called a, you guessed it, light machine gun, we Americans had to give our light machine gun an acronym SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon). The British get supplemental pay if they have to wear the Osprey for more than 4 hours and the rumor is that the supplemental rate is an an extra 200 pounds a month to wear the Osprey (compare the pictures of both the Osprey and my Improved Outer Tactical vest, not that much different are they) outside the wire, at an exchange rate of about $1 = .50 pounds that’s an extra $399. Inside the wire they wear a different vest that only has a small plate right over the heart on the front and back. While they may get extra pay for the vest the British still pay taxes while they are here.

Here is the British MRAP. They call it a Mastiff and what they actually do is buy a US Marine Corps Cougar and then add on reactive armor and slat armor to repel RPGs as well as other modifications. This thing is huge with its 6×6 wheels and the extra armor. Our 4×4 Cougars ,without the extra armor, have a hard time getting in and out of some places and I don’t see how the British get them into some areas, they must have better drivers. HA HA!

I’m not real sure why Ford had to sell Land Rover, all of the British HMMWV equivelants are variants on the Land Rover Defender, they have uparmored (first picture) and unarmored short and long wheel base (second picture) versions, additionally all of the vehicles that would typically be a Suburban or Tahoe on an American base are Land Rover LR3s. So Land Rover does a rousing business with the British military.

It seems that some of the British seem to wear some very distinctive headgear, ok they wear funny hats, the principle though is similar to our awarding of tan and green berets to the Rangers and Special Forces soldiers.

You’ve already seen this picture of the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, shaking hands with members of the 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers or just First Fusiliers. The rumor down here was that the distinctive plume in the beret was won during the American Revolution. Luckily for the First Fusiliers that was not the case, or there might have been a rash of missing berets as some nameless Americans try to regain some lost honor by swiping the berets. Actually the hackle, that’s what the plume is called, was awarded to the Regiment of Fusiliers for defeating a French force, who wore the same hackle on the island of St Lucia in the late 1700s. So basically the British stole the French’s head gear and their honor. I’d of just left the headgear and taken the honor.

The 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, 4th Scots, also wears some distinctive headgear. The hat is called a Tam O’Shanter after a character in a poem and is similar to a beret with a little ball on top. Each battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland wears a different colored hackle while in combat uniform.

If you had noticed some of the units that I have talked about have a region of Great Britain in their name, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and the 2d Battalion Royal East Anglian Regiment. These regiments recruit exclusively from Scotland and East Anglia (Eastern England). So you have to be from these areas to join these regiments. In the Royal East Anglian Regiment, it is broken down even further, each company draws from a certain county in the East Anglia region. Makes for strong bonds if everyone in your unit is from your home area.

Finally just in case you are wondering the British do have their own version of the National Guard and Reserve. They are called the Territorial Army and they drill on about the same schedule as our Guard and Reserve and they also deploy overseas in support of both operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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