A MERRIOTT man was one of 4,500 soldiers who met for an international army exercise in Germany recently.

James Braidley was one of 400 soldiers from The Queen’s Royal Hussars (The Queen’s Own and Royal Irish) who all took part in a huge NATO exercise which featured 13 different countries from across the globe.

The event, titled Exercise Saber Junction 2017, involved troops practicing sweeping wooded hills in Hohenfels, Bavaria, Southern Germany.

The US Army-led exercise also involved soldiers from Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, UK and Ukraine.

James Braidley is a 22 year-old trooper and driver of a Challenger 2 main battle tank.

He said: “It has been very challenging, completely different from Canada where we have trained before.

“The terrain here is not very tank friendly with dense tree lines and steep hills so it makes manoeuvring around difficult, but it’s good fun.

“We had to think how to conceal the tank so we are not visible to the opposition forces and also get around in the low level ground without being seen, so it is a test of all our soldiering skills.”

James is originally from Merriott, and keeps a local connection through his parents Janet and David, who still live in the South Somerset village.

James added: “It’s the first time I have worked in a battle group like this and having the opportunity to engage with an opposition tank force has been a great experience.

“We have been working closely with the Americans and Polish soldiers who are providing infantry support to us and we are all working hard to make sure we win the exercise.”

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Cowley, commanding officer of Queen’s Royal Hussars, spoke during a brief lull in the exercise and said the benefits of working in a multinational environment to prepare for major combat operations were evident.

He added: “Here we are working very closely with other NATO counterparts having formed up a battle group with a company of Italians and Polish that is training under a US brigade and we are all learning from each other. “Personally this has probably been the most testing exercise I have done.

“It is a good challenge for us as a regiment and the feedback we have received is very positive and we have been able to demonstrate what we are able to do on operations.”

James, who has been in the Army for three-and-a-half years, said: “Exercises like this are really realistic, I always wanted to join the army from a young age so to do exercises like this is brilliant and I am loving every minute of it.”

QRH is based in Sennelager, Germany.