Brigadier Chester Medals comes
under not-so-friendly fire
The British Army, eager to find realistic and appropriate training facilities, relevant to today's theatre of war, is set to convert northern Leigh Park to a training camp.
The training needs of the modern soldier have evolved and their primary skills need to revolve around security and the policing of local communities.
An average British soldier can expect deployment overseas, not necessarily dug into a trench, but more likely patrolling the dangerous streets of Helmand or Baghdad.
Troops are frequently inserted into regions where any sense of community has broken down; dropped into war-torn societies, where crime and violence are accepted as the norm.
It is difficult to replicate the unique problems and dangers at large in such volatile surroundings and Leigh Park has been suggested to offer the best possible fit for troops to hone their skills before being despatched overseas.
The Army has tried similar ventures before with training camps at Imber on Salisbury Plain, and more recently at the Stanford Training Area near Thetford but so far it has not been possible to accurately replicate the real dangers that will be encountered in the field.
Brigadier Chester Medals was enthusiastic about the development, saying: "This appears to be the perfect solution for our troops and one that will, I am sure, provide challenging training opportunities.
"We are looking forward to getting our men in there and seeing how they react with the existing community. Get them alongside the locals and started in a valuable policing role."
As part of the transformation, Hampshire Constabulary has agreed to vacate the area south of the South Downs National Park boundary, relinquishing all policing responsibility to the Army.
We asked Chief Inspector Nick Mekwohta what he thought of the development.
"To be honest I can't believe my luck.
"The pongos will clearly have more chance than we ever did, because they will be heavily armed and wearing state-of-the-art protective clothing. But all this aside, when it comes to Leigh Park, they are welcome to it.
"I'll tell you another thing, if they are successful and don’t take too many casualties, wherever they are posted next, be it the Gaza Strip or Baghdad, it will seem like a walk in the park."