Saturday, 15 August 2020

7 Rifles Army Reservists

RESERVISTS from 7 Rifles marked this year’s Reserves Day on Saturday by continuing with the job they have been doing for the past three months: keeping the peace on the island of Cyprus.

They are part of the British Army’s largest recent deployment of the Reserves in a single formed unit under its own command.

The 7 Rifles Battlegroup deployed to Cyprus in April and are based in the island’s buffer zone, which divides the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, until October.

The troops are tasked with monitoring the activity of both sides to de-escalate tension and to prevent the outbreak of fresh hostilities.

The Army has maintained a peacekeeping presence on Cyprus since 1964 and took over responsibility for what the United Nations calls sector two, the area of the island in and around Nicosia, in 1993.

What the Army calls Op Tosca involves about 250 personnel policing the buffer zone for a full operational tour of six months. Unlike most past deployments, the current British peacekeeping force is more than 90 per cent Reservist.

About 120 Reservists from 7 Rifles are deployed, joined by a similar-sized contingent from 5 Fusiliers, another Reserve infantry battalion.

The Reservists come from all walks of life, from builders to accountants, to policemen and students, but have chosen to become full-time regular soldiers for what will amount to over half the year in the service of their country and the cause of peace.

Lt Col James Gayner, commanding officer of the battlegroup, said: “This deployment shows that the Army Reserve can take on a full operational tour under its own steam, thereby fulfilling the philosophy of ‘One Army, Regular and Reserve’.

“Tosca is an intricate tour. It demands excellent understanding of what is a complex conflict, diligence, and diplomacy: the kind of nuanced, human skills that are particularly found in the Army Reserve.

“We deployed in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, so I am particularly proud of the way in which my Riflemen have dealt with the additional challenges of keeping the peace while taking all measures necessary to combat coronavirus.”

L Cpl Kevin Eames, a builder from Oxfordshire, said: “Getting the chance to deploy overseas on an operational tour is one of the reasons I joined the Army Reserve.

“Generally, we train for war on weekends and have a two-week exercise every year. Tosca sees us keep the peace on behalf of the international community whilst upholding the British Army’s reputation for total professionalism in the eyes of the world.

“Cyprus is a fascinating place and we will also have some time to explore the island as well as enjoying a week of adventure training.”

The battlegroup will keep the peace on Cyprus until the autumn, when they will hand over to another battlegroup formed largely from the Army Reserve led by 6 Rifles.

• 7 Rifles is comprised of 500 part-time soldiers from a wide variety of backgrounds and has bases in London, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire.

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