Tuesday 16 July 2024
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The Nottinghamshire soldier training Ukraine’s armed forces in urban warfare

A Nottinghamshire soldier has spoken of an emotional exchange he shared with a Ukrainian soldier after helping him to defend his homeland from Russian aggression.

 

Corporal James Noble said he has never heard higher praise than the words spoken by a trainee on completion of his training on UK soil.

 

The Infantry Section Commander, of C Company, 4 Mercian, teaches urban warfare training as part of Operation Interflex: the codename for the British-led multinational operation to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

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Meet the Nottinghamshire soldier training Ukraine’s armed forces in urban warfare

The 27-year-old said: “At the end of each course we sign flags and things and say bye to them.

 

“Completely out of the blue, a Ukrainian Soldier came over to me with a picture on his phone and said: ‘This is my wife and this is my young child. Thanks to you and what you’ve done, I have a much greater chance of living to see them again.’

 

“Personally, I’ve never heard anything more impactful or higher praise than that. It’s difficult to match.

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“Those guys know – as do we – that our training absolutely keeps a lot more Ukrainian Soldiers alive than otherwise would be the case.”

 

Coming to the aid of Ukraine

 

Rare access was granted to speak to Cpl Noble and his fellow Soldiers who form Trident Company – Op Interflex’s first Company to be entirely staffed by Reserves. 

 

Reserve Forces play a critical role in national defence and security, from countering threats, peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts abroad, to supporting communities and national resilience at home.

 

Together, the Royal Naval Reserves, Royal Marines Reserve, Army Reserves, and RAF Reserves make up roughly 18% of Britain’s Armed Forces, and they’re actively recruiting.

 

The Soldiers in Trident Company are putting Ukrainian trainees through their paces, taking a band of what used to be hairdressers, jewellers and welders – most of whom have since gained combat experience – and increasing their lethality and survivability in a matter of weeks. 

 

Cpl Noble, who lives in Nottinghamshire, is an urban warfare specialist. He guides troops through complex tactical manoeuvres in built-up urban environments, ready for when they’re deployed to the battlefield and tasked with retaking towns, villages and cities.

 

Since becoming an Army Reservist in 2015, Cpl Noble has worked in 10 different countries and been involved in multiple operations and exercises, from resilience missions in the UK to practise patrols with NATO in Lithuania. Nothing, he says, tops the sense of satisfaction from helping Ukraine.

 

He said: “The most rewarding part is knowing – absolutely knowing – we have improved these people’s skills, and that’s not a guess or an unknown. We see them when they come in and we know the progression they’ve gone through. For them to be able to pull off some quite complex scenarios or attacks is a very good thing to see. That has a very significant impact on a personal level but also on the bigger picture as well.

 

“They recognise we are trying to give them the best preparation we can. They also appreciate they cannot replicate this practise in Ukraine. For example they don’t use blank training like we do, or have training within tactical scenarios that last for longer than a few minutes or hours. That is something very valuable we can give them, which trains constant situational awareness and discipline and attention to detail. 

 

“We also have the ammunition and the equipment to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them and get some very good practise. They just don’t have that opportunity in Ukraine because the focus is on the war.”

 

A rewarding mission

 

A strong sense of duty has led Cpl Noble to this point. He is also personally invested in Op Interflex due to connections with the war-torn country.

 

He said: “I know of one person who lived in Ukraine and I have personally raised some money for charities and sent clothing and things like that – and lots of people have – so it is rewarding to have a significant impact professionally as well.

 

“It feels like almost everything I’ve done up until this point is preparation for this – the biggest part of my Reservist career, and my life, so far. This is me putting everything into this operation to pay back to the country and beyond.

 

“It is incredibly rewarding to have an impact that helps these people and helps so many people I can’t see as well – it helps their families, it helps the people that live there. Helping Ukraine helps our country too.”

 

Language is a challenging aspect to the operation, but it has not become a barrier to the two countries’ militaries establishing great working relationships. Supported by interpreters, Cpl Noble has picked up dozens of Ukrainian words along the way. 

 

Cpl Noble said: “Most conversations are always based around their questions – ‘How do you do this, how do you do that?’ Sometimes they talk about other topics, but not usually. Even when words are translated the meaning behind them is sometimes quite a challenge to break through.

 

“Our logistics team make a replica of a Ukrainian meal called a Borscht. It’s a sour soup made with meat stock and vegetables which they really like. We try to learn about their culture and they seem to really appreciate British culture. They don’t leave litter anywhere they go, they really like the Union flag and want to sign flags and generally they seem really happy that Britain is supporting them in this way.”

 

Life as a Reservist

 

Cpl Noble is a full-time Reservist with 4 Mercian. He helps with recruitment, assists with the planning and delivery of training and plans and runs exercises at home and abroad – all of which has helped him hit the ground running on Op Interflex.

 

His situation is unique. But others in Trident Company are able balance their work commitments as firemen, bankers, electricians, joiners or even scientists alongside their flexible commitments as a Reservist. 

 

During his eight years’ service with 4 Mercian, Cpl Noble has been deployed on two other major operations. As part of a surge mobilisation, he delivered Reserves training post-Covid for seven months in a similar capacity to the one he is currently undertaking. And he was called up for five months during the pandemic on Operation Rescript to support with testing, which helped to protect the country’s most vulnerable.

 

Cpl Noble said: “We were in a good group with people that don’t walk away from problems. If there’s a challenge and we can do something about it, we will have a think about it first, and then apply the most useful and effective solution we can come up with. I like that environment, it is a very interesting place to be.”

 

What Cpl Noble now finds most rewarding about life as a Reservist is the difference he can make on a local and an international level. 

 

But at first it was the great sense of adventure, while getting paid, that drew him in before university. 

 

“It was very good to have something to look forward to once a week which was in almost every case interesting and useful. For example, the Army taught me to drive and allowed me, as a Reservist, to get my driving licence – I was paid to learn how to drive.

 

“Most people have part-time jobs to support their income while at uni and the Reserves became my part-time job, which allowed me to travel, it paid for holidays and a car and stuff like that. 

 

“During exam times I would just say I’ve got some exams to do I will see you in two weeks and nobody complained about that at all – that’s how the Reserves works, you can do as much or as little as you want to do.

 

“If you have the time you have adventurous training too, so you get paid to go skiing and kayaking and mountain biking and rock climbing as well.”

 

Cpl Noble’s advice for anyone looking to follow the same path as him is simple: talk to your nearby units to find out more. 

 

“It only became clear about what it actually meant to be a Reservist when I went to an open day. People might look at the idea from a distance and think ‘That doesn’t look like me, that’s quite a big culture shock,’ but these face-to-face interactions and recruitment stands, where you have more time and space to explore this idea in depth, that was very valuable to me, and I would encourage others to do the same.” 

 

Find your closest Royal Naval, Royal Marines, Army, or RAF Reserves unit.



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