Students from Leicesters universities gain military skills

Students from Leicester’s two universities have been put through their paces – quite literally.

A total of 100 students and staff from East Midlands Universities Officer Training Corps took part in military training and exercises in England and France developing skills in teamwork and leadership.

Thirteen members Officer Cadets and Staff from the University of Leicester and De Montfort University took part in exercises at Lydd Military Training Camp, New Romney, Kent and Amiens, France.

The Peacekeeping Exercise, named Ex Valiant EMU, is the culmination of a year of hard work for both Officer Cadets and Staff. The exercise takes place every year, so that Officer Cadets can fully test and polish the skills they have learnt from the training they have received.

Officer Cadets took part in numerous activities designed to test and develop both their leadership and soldiering skills. At the beginning of the Exercise, Officer Cadets were taught Rules of Engagement, the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and given the enemy scenario for the training. Here, Officer Cadets were taught about the many legal and ethical issues of peacekeeping operations.

In the practical phase, Officer Cadets were taught new skills ranging from urban operations training to Public Order and riot training. All of these new skills were later put to the test during the exercise phase. This put the Officer Cadets under the added pressure of a real life ‘civilian’ population – played by the senior students and staff.

Officer Cadets were tested on their command abilities, soldiering skills and teamwork. Officers Cadets had to build up the intelligence picture, to enable a final attack on a suspected enemy stronghold, while engaging in dialogue with key leaders and media and ensuring public order and security was maintained throughout.

By the end of the three-day exercise Officer Cadets had completed clearance and recce patrols, public order control, media control, IED threats and tested themselves both mentally and physically. Officer Cadets were able to experience a realist Urban Operations environment, delivering valuable professional development for any future career, whether in the civilian or military sectors.

Following on from the Exercise, Officer Cadets had a chance to practice their skills with pistol and rifle on the range, before deploying to France for a sobering study of the Somme Battlefield. Here Officer Cadets had a chance to study specific elements of the fighting and reflect on the leadership and inspiration of Officers and Soldiers of the Great War, including Captain Neville who used a football to help inspire his men in going ‘over the top’ on the first day of the Somme.

OCdt Molloy, from the University of Leicester, said: “The exercise was a fantastic way for Officer Cadets to put into practice everything they have learnt over the last year. Not only were we able to develop ourselves as leaders, but also our teamwork and military skills.”

OCdt Gaston-Penny, from De Montfort University, said: “As always, Annual Camp was a brilliant experience. We were able to show off the proficiencies we have gained throughout the year, and learn new skills such as Public Order and Urban Operations training. The unit’s emphasis on socialising with your mates was also great, no other university society can deliver all of those things at once. If you want a university society with a difference, the OTC is for you.”

Major Ed Matts, Officer Commanding Alma Company - a Senior IT Business Partner at the University of Leicester – said: “Over the training year we teach the Officer Cadets the basics in military skills, such as weaponry, map reading, patrolling, as well as providing valuable professional skills that are directly transferable to future employment, such as working under pressure, team working and leadership. This exercise tested each element of what has been taught over the year as well as providing scope for further growth and reflection.”

To be able to join the University Officer Training Corps, a nationally available element of the Army Reserve, you must be a university student able to pass selection. Selection at the East Midlands University Officer Training Corps takes place at the beginning of the academic year, with candidates requiring to pass a medical exam, leadership tests and physical fitness assessment.