A SOLDIER from Ellesmere Port has spent two weeks on the arid steppes of central Asia playing a vital role in the training of the Kazakhstan army.
Sergeant Darren Shepherd, 38, is a staff instructor with the 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment but is attached to the 4th Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Volunteers) based in Wolverhampton.
He was among 64 men and four women from the 4th Battalion who deployed to Kazakhstan in September to train with the Kazakh Airmobile Forces at their training camp in Illisky, just outside Almaty.
British forces worked alongside their American counterparts to deliver a two-week training package, code-named Exercise Steppe Eagle, which saw Kazakh forces taught techniques used in peacekeeping operations across the world.
During the first week soldiers from the 4th Battalion led practical lessons across the training area, focusing on foot patrolling, the setting up of vehicle check-points, riot-control, base security and potentially life-saving instruction on dealing with mines and improvised explosive devices.
The second week was devoted to an exercise putting each of these disciplines into practice, with the British contingent playing the part of terrorist cells.
Sgt Shepherd has been in the Army since 1989 and has seen active service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
He said: “My role out here is teaching the Kazakhs about mines, their impact and how they can be dealt with safely.
“I really enjoy passing on my knowledge to others. It’s pointless having all this experience if you don’t share it. The young Kazakh officers are very forward-thinking. They are keen to learn and very motivated.”
Lieutenant Colonel Martyn Forgrave, commanding officer of the 4th Battalion, said: “Exercise Steppe Eagle has provided us with the opportunity to deliver focused training to the Kazakh armed forces, which pays dividends for our own soldiers.”
Colonel Daulet Ospanov, deputy head of the Kazakh Airmobile Forces, said: “I believe the British Army is one of the finest in the world and it is a privilege to be working alongside them in Kazakhstan.”