What is the Specialised Infantry Group?

Introduction

The Specialised Infantry Group (Spec Inf Gp) is a formation of the British Army, created as a result of the Army 2020 Refine reorganisation, intended to train foreign forces.

The group fulfils a similar role to the US Army Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs).

Refer to Ranger Battalions (part of the British Army Restructure announced in 2021).

Role

Specialised Infantry is a new and exciting capability that will enhance the UK’s ability to work alongside Partner Nation Forces overseas to encourage stability, security and support conflict prevention.

It supports the work of 1 (UK) Division and the Regionally Aligned Brigades to build capable Armed Forces and forge critical partnerships which will promote stability and protect the UK.

Broad roles include:

  • Train;
  • Advise;
  • Mentor; and
  • Accompany.

Brief History

The group was formed to work alongside chosen partner forces. It was initially formed in October 2017 with:

  • The 4th Battalion, The Rifles (4 RIFLES); and
  • The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS).

Just a few months later in July 2018, the 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment (2 PWRR) and the Joint Counter Terrorist Training and Advisory Team was added to the Group.

In January 2019, a fourth battalion, the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, was added and this was followed by the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles in 2020.

Deployments

In February 2018, the 4th Battalion, The Rifles deployed for the first time to Kuwait to work with the Kuwait Army and Kuwait National Guard. R Company, 4 Rifles also trained the Afghan Army and forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In July 2018, C Company from the 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment was dispatched to Nigeria, where 1 SCOTS have also been engaged in training the Nigerian Army for their fight against Boko Haram.

Re-Designation

In August 2021, the Army stated “We will drive hard to increase our persistent engagement around the globe, including by redesignating the Specialised Infantry Groups as the Army’s Special Operations Brigade in August…” (Soldier, 2021, p.14).

Organisation

The Spec Inf Gp is led by a Brigadier (OF-6), with headquarters in Aldershot Garrison.

On 14 May 2019 the Spec Inf Gp’s was:

  • Headquarters.
  • The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, Palace Barracks, Holywood (moving to Aldershot by 2020).
  • 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires), New Normandy Barracks, Aldershot.
  • 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s, Lancashire and Border), Weeton Barracks, Weeton-with-Preese.
  • 3rd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Sir John Moore Barracks, Shorncliffe.
  • 4th Battalion, The Rifles, New Normandy Barracks, Aldershot.

The British Army (2021) states the group is part of “1 (UK) Division” and Wikipedia (2021) states it is part of “6th (United Kingdom) Division”.

Structure and Training

Specialised infantry battalions have a strength of 267, compared to the other infantry battalions which have 559 or more, rigorously assessed soldiers who will work by, with and through the Partner Force in high threat and austere environments. An Infantry normally has 30 soldiers, a Spec Inf Gp one will have 12 (The Army Leader, 2018).

Specialised Infantry Battalions are trained, structured and equipped to work alongside chosen Partner Forces. They increase the Army’s contribution to countering terrorism and building stability overseas. This supports the UK efforts to project Global influence and deter threats.

Assessment Process

The assessment is a “three-stage process” (The Army Leader, 2018):

  • Paper Sift for JPA competencies.
  • Assessment Cadre (see below).
  • Training Course.

Specialised Infantry Assessment Cadre

We are honest with ourselves. We run an assessment rather than a selection process. The majority of people pass. The failure rate is around two or three per course. Partly that is because the volunteers who come forward tend to be the kind you want. But also, because the British Army soldier is good at this type of work and I know the majority should be able to pass the assessment cadre – it is both aspirational and attainable. (The Army Leader, 2018).

The assessment cadre tests fitness, navigation, shooting and resilience, ensuring soldiers are ready for their new role, working in small teams, developing foreign forces in high threat environments (The Duke Of Lancaster’s Regiment, 2018). In the final week, teams will have to finish a 30km patrol exercise around Sennybridge Training Area (SENTA) (The Duke Of Lancaster’s Regiment, 2018).

Corporal Bijendra Gurung, The Third Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2021) outlines the Cadre they undertook:

  • Candidates were divided into 16 syndicates rank ranged from Major to Rifleman.
  • The initial phase included assessments on:
    • Military knowledge;
    • Character assessment;
    • Self-administration; and
    • Basic fieldcraft skills.
  • The second phase included several assessments:
    • Navigation.
    • Two (2) km run with weight.
    • Modern language assessment, logical reasoning, psychometric personality, G2 assessment and essay writing.
    • Group discussions were conducted on cultural awareness and current affairs.
  • In the third phase, candidates deployed to SENTA to be assessed on their command and leadership skills, as well as tactical proficiency.
    • In the field, candidates conducted long-range patrol marching through multiple checkpoints.
    • Working with partnering forces, how to conduct surveillance target acquisition plans, individual close quarter battle (CQB) and key leader engagement were all part of the training.
    • After a 32km march, candidates conducted a 24-hour observation post phase.
    • Following this, candidates completed patrol reports during the coach journey before producing a back brief to deliver to the Commander of the Specialised Infantry Group.
  • On the fourth phase, teams faced challenging questions during the brief.
    • The back brief was a good insight into rigorous questioning expected on Exercise Grey Shard.
    • Thereafter candidates went back to give teach backs, did peer review and finally an interview.

Training Course

“You must ‘pass’ all three stages and we have sent people home at the end of the third training phase because they were not right. They maybe great soldiers, they are just not appropriate for the mentoring role.” (The Army Leader, 2018).

References

British Army. (2021) Specialised Infantry Group. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/formations-divisions-brigades/6th-united-kingdom-division/specialised-infantry-group/. [Accessed: 19 February, 2021].

Gurung, B. (2021) Developing new skills with the Specialised Infantry – 3 RGR. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gurkhabde.com/developing-new-skills-with-the-specialised-infantry-3-rgr/. [Accessed: 19 February, 2021].

Soldier. (2021) First Glimpse of ‘Future Soldier’. Soldier: Magazine of the British Army. August 2021, pp.14.

The Army Leader. (2018) Leadership in The Specialised Infantry: An Interview with Brigadier James Roddis. Available from World Wide Web: https://thearmyleader.co.uk/specialised-infantry-leadership/. [Accessed: 19 February, 2021].

The Duke Of Lancaster’s Regiment. (2018) Specialised Infantry Assessment Cadre. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.facebook.com/LancsRegt/posts/specialised-infantry-assessment-cadremembers-of-2-lancs-have-been-taking-part-in/1148622628619007/. [Accessed: 19 February, 2021].

The Warrant Officer. (2020). Specialised Infantry: A Solution, or the Solution? Available from World Wide Web: https://thewarrantofficer.org/2020/01/26/specialised-infantry-a-solution-or-the-solution/. [Accessed: 19 February, 2021].

Wikipedia. (2021) Specialised Infantry Group. Available from World Wide Web: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specialised_Infantry_Group. [Accessed: 19 February, 2021].

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