Regiment’s challenge ahead of Afghan tour

Taking part in the commmanding officers' challenge.
Taking part in the commmanding officers' challenge.

Soldiers from Ripon’s 21 Engineer Regiment have taken part in a gruelling 16-mile race dubbed ‘The Commanding Officer’s Challenge’.

The event has brought to an end the long and arduous training plan that the regiment, based at Claro Barracks in the city, has been undertaking in preparation for its deployment to Afghanistan in September.

Spr Ernest Manu, aged 22, relaxing to the beat of the drum during 21 Engineer Regiment's international day.

Spr Ernest Manu, aged 22, relaxing to the beat of the drum during 21 Engineer Regiment's international day.

The task required each soldier to carry 15kg of weight in and around the city and villages near Ripon and tested the high levels of fitness the soldiers have built up and maintained over the past year.

Organiser of the event, WO2 Paul Clinton, said: “There was tremendous support by the local people for the event and as the soldiers marched through the villages they were cheered on, which was a huge boost to their morale.

“The event went off with absolutely no problems and some how we even managed to get the ideal marching conditions considering the weather we have been having.

“21 Engineer Regiment is proud of the strong links it shares with the Ripon and surrounding communities. An event like this could not be achieved without their support and they did not fail to help this year.”

The regiment extended particular thanks to residents Mr and Mrs David Brown for allowing it to form up on their land, Mr Sylvester for allowing transit through Braithwaite Hall and to all the local parish councils as well as Insp Rob Thorpe and the rest of Ripon police.

The regiment has also celebrated an ‘international day’ which aimed to promote and celebrate cultural, ethnic and racial diversity within the 21 Engineers, which has a total of 47 soldiers from 16 different foreign and Commonwealth countries.

The soldiers from the foreign and Commonwealth countries spent three weeks before the big day making preparations for the event which took place in the barracks’ gym.

Among the activities was the creation of different presentations to display the beautiful and famous places of their countries to both members of the general public and also fellow soldiers within the regiment.

Sapper Obert Tawodzera, 32, said: “We ran around our own communities to try and find traditional artifacts, food and dresses to showcase at the event.

“It took a considerable amount of time to try and find some of the stuff we wanted but through determination and enthusiasm we worked long hours with some late nights and early starts to get our boards perfected.”

Of the 16 different nationalities within the regiment, eight were represented, namely: Ghana, Nepal, St Lucia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Tanzania and South Africa.

The boards made by the soldiers displayed a map indicating the location of the featured country, its national flag, predominant languages and the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of that particular country.

On the day most of the foreign and Commonwealth soldiers wore their national dress and the regiment provided chefs to help with the cooking of different cuisines.

Capt Phil Noke said: “The beat of the drums, the aroma of different cuisines, clothes and a vibrant atmosphere transformed the gymnasium at 21 Engineer Regiment into an interesting display of cultural and religious diversity, which we look forward to doing again next year.”