Since 1989 there has been a Memorandum of Understanding with the USA that sets the conditions for a US/UK exchange programme. This programme still exists within the Army Reserve and this year, 157 Regiment sent two people to the USA in Jun/Jul 15; Lt Cann and Cpl Walsh. They both visited South Dakota, home of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, for their exchange and got to experience some very exciting and different opportunities. Hosted by Capt Nick Dupont and Sgt Tyler Eissler of the U.S. National Guard, they experienced a good mix of military training, fitness, culture, fun and travel.
In September, during our Annual Camp, the two U.S. National Guard soldiers came to the UK and I was selected to organise their visit. I was aware it had to be enjoyable but worthy of the public purse; the more effort I put in, the more they would benefit. I had established they wanted to see a “few castles and Londonâ€ from an early conversation but other than that, they gave me freedom of movement.
Week 1 of the exchange would be on Annual Camp in Swynnerton and Monday was going to be a loooong day! It was the Yorkshire 3-Peaks challenge (25 miles in 12 hours) and was a perfect day for it, cool, clear and minimal wind. The pace was fairly “briskâ€ in order to push the members on the Ex CAMBRIAN PATROL team and we completed it in just under 8 hours: our American friends had just done almost a whole marathon, over mountains, with no build-up training. I was impressed! They were sore! The rest of week one was taken up with SA80 training, ranges, off-road driving, briefs and visits.
On Saturday morning, my “Non-greenâ€ programme was engaged and the more enjoyable experiences could begin. Tyler is a huge Arsenal fan so they both paid for a train to London and he went to watch the Chelsea v Arsenal game while Nick enjoyed the “delightsâ€ of the surrounding bars on match day! I collected them from London and moved to Brighton in anticipation of the USA vs Samoa Rugby World Cup game; they didn’t have tickets but they wanted to try and buy them on the door. I got us some accommodation at a friend’s house and headed out into the Brighton night.
Sadly, there were no tickets available for the rugby game but I didn’t give up here. I put my uniform on and went to ask at the gate if I could please take my American Military friends into the game. “They are visiting and would love to see the game but don’t have tickets.â€ The Supervisor, ex Coldstream Guards, after a bit of Loggie Banter, welcomed us in and took us to some great seats. This more or less set the tone for the rest of the weekâ€¦
I managed to get my American guests into almost everywhere including, but not limited to the Beatles Exhibition, Caernarfon Castle, Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle, Stonehenge, Emirates Stadium (Arsenal ground), Tintern Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards and the European Premiere of ‘The Martian.’ The last was my particular favouriteâ€¦
I won’t divulge how it happened but, there we are, on the red carpet outside the Odeon Leicester Square, and I’m interviewing Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Sir Ridley Scott, and Matt Damon. You can see some of the photos below and the interviews are on the forces.tv website. We were then invited inside as Ridley Scott’s guests! Not your average day in work and it isn’t over yetâ€¦