Defence School of Transport initiatives

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  1. Putting the wheels in motion
    Monday, August 03, 2009

    With a renewed focus on the performance of armoured vehicles in operations, Chief of Staff Lieutenant Colonel S D Glynn RLC describes how the Defence School of Transport (DST) is training up its warfighting brigades.

    The modern soldier is arguably better equipped for the current conflicts than ever before. The availability of extra money from the Treasury for Urgent Operationally Required (UOR) equipment, coupled with a political need to demonstrate that we are equipping our soldiers with the best equipment available, has generated an exponential increase in new equipment on current operations. Defence journals are littered with stories and features describing the benefits that this equipment gives to our troops on the ground. Having served twice in Afghanistan, I can personally attest to the improvement and additional capability that this new equipment provides. Buying the equipment is only half the story though – once it is purchased, those soldiers who will operate it and the commanders who will use it need to be trained so that they are set up for success in their forthcoming operations. If it has wheels then invariably the individual training for it is delivered at the Defence School of Transport (DST).

    Warrant Officer Class 2 Steve Watkin RLC, the Division Warrant Officer of Vehicle Division, explains: "I have been serving at DST as the Divisional Warrant Officer of Vehicle Division since July 2003. Up to May 2007, Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) training was carried out by a team of one staff sergeant (team leader) and three sergeants. The vehicles used over this period were Saxon and the APV. The total UOR number trained in the year 2003-2004 was 340. MASTIFF was first introduced to the school in March 2007 and UOR training started immediately after they were taken on strength. In comparison from when I arrived at the school, the increase in UOR training is significant to say the least."

    DST is based at Normandy Barracks, Leconfield, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and has been responsible for training personnel from all three services for over 30 years. Now Europe's largest residential training establishment for fleet management and driver training, it has had to develop and change rapidly over the last 12 months in order to meet the growing demand for expert military drivers. Employing over 1,300 staff, both military and civil service, and operating more than 1,200 vehicles of all types, the school has circa 1,300 personnel attending courses on a daily basis. The annual throughput is currently over 15,500. There are 106 different courses within the training programme and 1,129 courses delivered annually.

    The school also operates from nine driver training satellite sites based in the main military centres (garrisons) across the south of England, delivering categories B and B+E training for over 5,000 trainees, through a contract with the British School of Motoring (BSM). In addition, DST managed driver training contractors, located throughout the rest of UK, train a further 1,200+ Category B, 340+ Category B+E, 790+ Category C, 760+ Category C+E licences and, last but not least, 240+ Category D1 (minibus) and 200 Category D (coach).

    As protection has become more important, so the weight of the vehicles has increased, so much so that a Category C licence is even required for the SNATCH vehicle, one of the smallest vehicles currently deployed on operations. The emphasis has therefore changed from Category B to Category C, particularly important to the infantry who need far more Category C licences than ever before. The bottom line for DST has been an explosion in the requirement to get our soldiers the Category C licence they need.

    The acquisition of a licence, though, is just a ticket to the game. Once road legal, the driver then needs to be trained as a military driver. This is done through the General Service Driver Course, which takes someone who has just passed their test in a purpose built training vehicle and teaches him how to drive a military truck. Convoy drills, camouflage, recovery, as well as basic cross-country driving, are all included on the course. Training takes place on carefully constructed and controlled training areas where obstacles are maintained in order to provide consistent and realistic training, in as safe an environment as possible. DST has a purpose built 16km roadway incorporating all obstacles found on major roads and a 15km cross-country course with a large range of driving. At the end of the course, the driver is able to drive any general service military vehicle. In addition to the basic military driving skills training, DST will begin to deliver Basic Battlefield Close Combat Skills from April 2010.

    So, in both licence acquisition and service driver conversion, doing everything to best prepare our marines, soldiers and airmen to meet operational requirements takes some doing. Trying to achieve better training, making it more operationally relevant where we can, and improving the working conditions for all, with whatever we can get our hands on, is a real challenge. And it is the commitment and professionalism of our instructors, military and civilian, and managers that make it happen. Underpinning all of this is the maintenance of each individual service ethos, upholding our values and standards, great training and first class duty of care, all of which are geared to developing and motivating personnel and thus aiding retention in training.

    As part of our drive to provide better training, we have and continue to develop a number of training efficiency initiatives. These include: an overhaul of our induction system to get trainees behind the wheel without any unnecessary delay; 'Nintendo' brain training; coaching and performance profiling, including the introduction of a trainee driver's logbook, and furthering our aspiration to develop a Phase 2 'Military Experience' Training Village with a Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT); convoy simulation and virtual environment driver training; elements of the Basic Close Combat Skills course; military annual training tests, and a whole raft of other military continuation training activities.

    In the near future, our servicemen and women undergoing service driver conversion will have an even more realistic training environment. Cognisant of the need to reflect the environment of future operations, HQ DST is developing our own middle-eastern training village, which will help better prepare our troops for operations.

    Servicemen and women having been trained to operate the general service range of military vehicles, and have a basic understanding of and familiarity with the larger, more complex military trucks. They are able to operate in a military environment and so are now ready to begin specialist training. For current operations, this could be as an operator of any one of a plethora of equipment: Mastiff, Ridgback, Jackal, Vector, Snatch, Saxon, WMIK are just some examples. Each course is built upon recent experience and is specifically tailored so that the soldiers are prepared in the most effective way for current operations, in harsh and demanding conditions. Specialist recovery, advanced cross-country driving skills and the operation of the equipment using night vision goggles are all included. Training takes place on a purpose built training area that includes sand tracks, steep drop-over angled hills, knife edges and switchbacks, as well as short gap crossing. There is even a purpose built river crossing where the depth of water can be raised and lowered to meet the requirements of the training.

    Once soldiers graduate from DST, they are prepared to the highest of standards, armed with all the skills and competencies necessary to make the most out of their collective training.

    In order to keep providing the best training possible, DST is continually seeking feedback and input, particularly from individuals who have recent experience. If you are able to contribute, then please contact the feedback team at