AIRBORNE sappers joined forces with their continental counterparts to put their skills to the test.

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Soldiers from 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault), based at Rock Barracks near Woodbridge, recently travelled to Northumbria with French troops from 17e Regiment du Genie Parachutiste (17e RGP).

Exercise Eagle Sapper saw them undertake a humanitarian relief operation in a country facing famine and struggling to recover from damage caused by a tsunami, with government control undermined by insurgents.

The troops used Air Portable Ferry Bridge (AFPB) equipment to move vehicles and personnel across the two-mile wide expanse of Kielder Water - the largest man-made lake in northern Europe.

The sappers then moved to Otterburn, where they were challenged to build water supply points capable of providing 40,000 litres of drinking water every day; cross rivers using bridging equipment and improvised materials; demolish obstacles; and construct defensive positions, which were then attacked by enemy forces.

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Hones, commanding officer of 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault), said: “Exercise Eagle Sapper has seen our soldiers working for up to 22 hours a day on demanding tasks that test both their combat engineering and infantry skills in very harsh terrain and weather conditions.

“It is important that we test the mettle of the soldier we are going to send on operations in arduous and unknown conditions so that we know he can cope with anything that is thrown at him.”

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