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Our boys prepare for war zone on the barren prairies of Canada; The 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, which includes soldiers from Merseyside, have been preparing for operations abroad by undergoing intensive training in Canada. Chief Reporter MICHELLE FIDDLER spent four days with them as they prepare for life in the battlezone.

Byline: MICHELLE FIDDLER

THE prairies of Canada are so flat and featureless that locals joke you can watch your dog run away for a week.

This dusty, barren land is home to the British Army Training Unit Suffield. It is six times the size of Salisbury Plain and is where soldiers from the 1 Lanes have been preparing for operational duty.

Although there has been no official announcement, the 1 Lanes expect to be in Iraq come November.

BATUS, situated two hours drive east of Calgary, is considered the "gold standard" in British army training, using up a third of the British Army's training budget every year.

This latest stage of training, code-named Exercise Medicine Man, is a combined live firing exercise and is the third phase of training to be undertaken by the 1 Lanes.

The first was a battalion exercise in Poland in November 2006 and the second an infantry field firing camp in February this year.

The 1 Lanes battle group is made up of sub units from other regiments including the Scots Guard, the Royal Dragoon guards and the Royal Engineers as well as logistic and electrical and mechanical engineer support. But the majority of the 1,000 troops are from the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

The exercise lasts two weeks, during which time the troops live, eat, work and sleep on the prairies.

The first part of the training includes individual section attacks.

The vast size of the Canadian plains means there is sufficient space to do live firing exercises safely. As well as allowing soldiers to gain experience of being deployed oversees, it allows them to practice their skills and drills and adjust to the sounds, sights and smell of live ammunition and battle.

BATUS also offers Tactical Engagement Simulation - a similar concept to laser quest - which allows troops to gain experience of different scenarios by using virtual villages and rivers, an "Afghan" tunnel complex, a vertical village -aimed to simulate an Afghan village on the side of a hill - and a village with identifiable properties such as places of worship and with the potential for casualties.

The two weeks finished with a four-day exercise, code named Juno, in which troops encountered simulated threats of dirty bombs, minefields and insurgent militia.

The exercise costs pounds 5m. For Lieu-tenant Colonel Gary Deakin, com-manding officer of the 1st battalion, it is money spent.

He said: "It can only make people better when they do this for real when we deploy to Afghanistan, Iraq or the Balkans."

See footage of the troops at www.liverpoolecho.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

ACTION STATIONS: Soldiers from the 1 Lanes (1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster Regiment) Battle group take part in a military exercise on the plains of BATUS (British Army Training Area Suffield), Canada; CRAMPED CONDITIONS: A soldieron military exercise at BATUS (British Army Training Area Suffield), Canada; IN CHARGE LtCol Gary Deakin
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 19, 2007
Words:483
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