June 8, 2015

The successful Exercise Executive Stretch 2015 participants with their chaperones and (centre) Brigadier Paul Harkness, commander of 51st Infantry Brigade.

Gale-force winds, torrential rain and freezing temperatures couldn’t wipe the smiles from the faces of participants at Exercise Executive Stretch 2015.

The exciting three-day event, centered on Edinburgh’s imposing Redford Barracks, was designed to enable employers and their staff to experience various aspects of Reservist training.

It also demonstrated first-hand the value to companies of employing Reservists who bring with them a huge range of transferable skills.

Ex Executive Stretch saw six syndicates tackle demanding physical and mental challenges in the shadow of the capital’s Pentland Hills.

Arriving on Friday, the participants were fed and watered by the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry – the Army’s newest combat regiment – before being told what lay ahead over the weekend.

A night in the barracks was followed by the shock of a 5am Reveille on Saturday courtesy of a piper from 32 Signal Regiment.

Then, after breakfast, the hard graft began at the Castlelaw and Dreghorn Training Area where 11 units were on hand to put the executives through their paces.

Activities on Saturday included a gun run with 105 Regiment Royal Artillery, gap crossing with 71 Engineer Regiment, minefield vehicle extraction with 154 Regiment RLC and a message decryption lesson courtesy of 32 Royal Signal Regiment.

The executives were then taken to their accommodation for the night – a woodland – where they were taught how to create a shelter, organise their kit and prepare their rations. Expert advice was provided by 6 SCOTS.

Overnight, each group was woken and took part in a recce patrol using night-vision goggles.

Another 5am Reveille courtesy of the piper was followed by a Sunday morning of abseiling off a sheer rock face under the tutelage of Royal Marines Reserves. A yomp to Dreghorn Barracks was rounded off with a live-firing exercise at the 25-metre range using SA80s.

After that it was back to Redford for a final exercise with syndicates able to boost their overall points tally by spotting everyday objects strategically placed in a field.

The exhausted executives were then allowed away to shower and change in preparation for the prize-giving ceremony to be followed by a curry lunch.

Many of their employers had earlier arrived to offer their support.

Formalities were conducted by SNIY CO James Campbell-Barnard, before the commander of 51st Infantry Brigade, Brigadier Paul Harkness, handed over the prizes.

Brigadier Harkness thanked the chaperones of each syndicate along with the staff of the SNIY for all their efforts over the weekend.

Addressing the participants, and reminding them of their windy night in the hills, he said: “There was probably a moment last night when you seriously thought about your own sanity, but this evening you will have the sleep of the satisfied.

“Then tomorrow as you are trying to explain to your family and friends how you spent your weekend, most of them will think you are absolutely mad, and you have been – so welcome to the mad house!

“It’s great that you’ve had a chance to experience what we do. And, again, if you enjoyed it maybe now you will understand why we in uniform really do this. It’s because we enjoy it.

“Even though you spent last night in high winds on the hill thinking ‘Why on earth am I here’, you can, along with the tale of the piper at 5am, add it to the story, then make sure the story gets exaggerated and elaborated on and your friends will be in absolute awe of what you’ve achieved.

“So, to you, many congratulations.”

He then handed over to the CO to deliver the results.

The winner was syndicate four (527 points) who each won tickets to the Royal Military Tattoo.

Second was syndicate three (488 points) with prizes of paperweights.

Third was syndicate two (463 points).

Overall the event – organised by the employer engagement arms of the Highland and Lowland RFCAs – was hugely successful, with some of the participants telling of their high and low points from the weekend.

Tracey Walker (46), from Stirling Council, said: “Making the camp up and sleeping outside was a high, as was being part of team that worked really well together. The low was during the night-time recce when I was crawling towards the edge of the forest, took my gloves off and put my hand into a sheep poo. It stank!”

Stephen Macdonald (38), of Digby Landscaping, said: “I enjoyed recovering the Land Rover and the night outside, but found the radio comms hard, but that was maybe more due to me being exhausted. It was a great event and I’d thoroughly recommend it. The worst part was probably turning up in the driving rain without a waterproof jacket.”

Hannah Kerr (22), also from Stirling Council, said: “I enjoyed camping outside and setting up my own shelter. As for a low point, I didn’t really have one.”

Chris Ryan (26), of City Building LLP, said: “I enjoyed the gun run. By that point we were working well as a team. It was good to achieve that from us not knowing each other. The worst part was getting woken up for the recce as I was just dozing off.”

Polina Kharchenko (29), from SSE, said: “The best was waking up in the forest. The beautiful view at 5am was amazing. The worst was when I was getting ready for bed and was a bit cold.”

Colin Little (25), from Macdonald Aviemore Resort, said: “My favourite tasks were the abseiling and shooting at the firing range. The low point was the weather on Saturday. It was so cold all day.”

The event couldn’t have taken place without the hard work and professionalism of all the units involved. So many thanks from HRFCA to the SNIY, 6 SCOTS, Royal Marines Reserve, 105 Regiment Royal Artillery, 32 Signal Regiment, 106 Battalion Reme, Royal Naval Reserve, 603 Sqn RAuxAF, 5 Military Intelligence, 154 Regiment RLC and 71 Engineer Regiment.