As helicopters swooped across the sky and the air filled with the smell of gunfire, hundreds of RAF reservists trained for possible deployment to Afghanistan.
About 300 reservists took part in the annual Chiltern Kite – including about 200 from Oxfordshire – at Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire last weekend.
The part-time volunteer reservists took time out from their day jobs to join the training to prepare them for potential deployment to Afghanistan. Organisers created a detailed backstory for the training to add to the realism of the day.
As part of the exercise, the reservists had a UN mandate to deploy to the democratic and mineral-rich state of ‘Khataria’ to protect it from the military rulers in neighbouring ‘Expandistan’.
Flight Lieutenant Clare Fitchett, 31, of Headington, is a paramedic in Oxfordshire and has been to Iraq once and Afghanistan twice as a reservist.
She said: “In my civilian role I deal with a lot of medical conditions, but in Afghanistan it is more trauma orientated. There are a lot more amputations or gunshot wounds.
“Civilian training is great but this gives me additional training in trauma to be able to help our soldiers.”
SAC Natalie Taylor, 29, of Wallingford, said: “My dad was a reservist and he really enjoyed it so I thought I would have a crack at it.
“Today is really important because it gets us all working together, so that when we are out there we will all be working together.”
A postal worker in her civilian life, the medic said she could not wait to return to Afghanistan, where duties include ferrying injured service personnel to hospitals.
Corporal Jennifer Gillespie, 55, of Wantage, is a theatre sister at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford and has been a reserve for more than two years.
She said: “I thought my skills might be beneficial for the squadron, and it is good to keep up with the training.
“The importance of today is to work together as a team, to set up the unit and to run it efficiently. It is all going to be so crucial for when I go out to Afghanistan.”
Squadron Leader Gary Lane, force commander for the exercise, said the event brought hundreds of reservists together to train.
He said: “Reservists are incredibly important to the RAF these days. We have reservists with us on most operations that we are on.
“Reservists bring skills with them and a lot of experience from civilian life or from previous operations. Today gives them the training so they can go to wherever they are called up to in the future.”
Teams of medical reservists, including from Oxfordshire, took part in a simulated event to save the life of a man who had been shot twice.