Stadium of Light Dragoons! Meet the Sunderland AFC-mad squaddies called up for major NATO exercise
Two Wearside soldiers will swap the Stadium of Light for the fjords of Norway when they deploy on a major NATO exercise today.
Troopers Ashley Hume and Andy McGuire are both colleagues in B Squadron The Light Dragoons, based at Gaza Barracks in Catterick Garrison, and will be part of the reconnaissance group for Headquarters 4th Infantry Brigade.
The Brigade will be the UK lead in the multi-national Exercise Trident Juncture involving numerous Alliance nations and running in Scandinavia until the end of November.
The operation will involve the Light Dragoons driving their Jackal reconnaissance vehicles across Europe to Denmark before crossing into Norway for a series of live-firing exercises.
But while the pair are excited to be taking part, they are disappointed to be missing out on Sunderland’s promotion push.
Tpr Hume, of Washington, who went to Washington Comprehensive before going to the Army Foundation College at Harrogate, has been in the Army for five years: “I am gutted,” he said.
“Normally on exercise you get the chance to catch up on things back home but this exercise is going to be so busy that it could be difficult.
“I am just keeping my fingers crossed they keep playing well and don’t suffer any more injuries. I think we have a real chance of getting back up first time,” he added.
The 21-year-old deployed on the first Exercise Trident Juncture in Spain two years ago.
“I think it is going to be very different. It is going to be a lot more challenging with a different atmosphere,” he said.
“Two years ago, Spain was hot but very much like the training for Afghanistan. This will be the first time we have deployed to a cold climate although I have done a bit of cold weather training in the past,” he said.
Tpr McGuire, 27, from Farringdon, has been in the Army for three years but only transferred to The Light Dragoons 10 weeks ago.
“I am looking forward to it,” he said.
“The road movement through Europe will be extremely challenging as we pass through a lot of different countries. But ultimately it will be great getting experience how different armies work and how we can work better together,” he said.
He is confident Jack Ross’ men will maintain their good start to the season: “It’s definitely going to happen. Sunderland are going up,” he said.
“In fact, we are going to do a Leicester and jump all the way up and win the Premier League.”
Commanding officer Sqn Major Ed Quicke said although many of the troops had been away on a six-month tour in the last year they were eager for the challenge ahead.
“I think they are looking forward to it. These guys love being busy and this is effectively a good focus for them at a time when they have had some down time,” he said.
“Having come back from Poland they are now really looking forward to that horizon and that challenge at being able to get out there and do their job as they have been trained.”