A Royal Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan has led a series of beach assault exercises with Brazilians off the coast of Rio de Janeiro – the first time on this scale.
Lieutenant Colonel Neil Wraith, 39, oversaw the dynamic drills that involved hundreds of Brazilian Marines and Royal Marines from the Royal Navy’s amphibious helicopter carrier HMS Ocean who landed by rope from helicopters and landing craft.
Lt Col Wraith is the amphibious operations officer with the Royal Navy’s largest warship and over the last week he has been running all the planning and execution of the beach assaults and training between the two nation’s troops.
He said: “It’s an interesting responsibility doing what I do. First, there is the operations officer who will deal with HMS Ocean’s maritime picture; then I am the link between the ship and the landing craft that insert forces onto land by sea. We’re an incredibly flexible part of what the ship does and we are trained to work in many conditions and environments.”
In just a few days the Brazilian marines and naval pilots were trained how to carry out amphibious drills with their British counterparts including flying helicopters to a small island near Rio and land troops by landing craft.
Once on the island, both British and Brazilian personnel shared their experiences – the British told of work in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Brazilians of providing security in Haiti.
Lt Col Wraith, from Digby near Lincoln, served in Iraq twice, including with the first 40 Commando unit to Al Faw during the invasion in 2003 and in 2008 and then as company commander for 40 Commando in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
Lt Col Wraith, who has a five-year-old daughter Daisy and married to Jules, an RAF officer, said: “That experience shows just how broad the range of skills are that you need, and why these exercises with Brazil will be of great use.
“It’s about being completely adaptable, being able to move somewhere quickly and accurately. The first Royal Marine amphibious forces for the invasion of Afghanistan back in 2001 were launched from HMS Ocean when we had been operating on a completely different task.”
HMS Ocean has been in the Atlantic since the summer when she took part in the international joint exercise Auriga off the coast of America. She has also been on standby recently on the Royal Navy’s Atlantic patrol in the Caribbean. Next, the ship crosses the Atlantic for more joint work with nations in West Africa.