“Exercise Monty Merger” in 2020 was a highly valuable military adventurous training programme to develop teamworking, interpersonal skills and resilience of a wide range of young military personnel. The Skiers Trust recognised that the medium of snowsports has a major contribution to make.
Based at Mayrhofen, Austria over an intense week involving a mixed male and female party of fifty-five military personnel from seventeen different Corps & Regiments. All were members of HQ Home Command at Montgomery House, Aldershot. Ranks ranged from Private to Brigadier with the largest proportion being young people.
With a primary aim of enhancing collective communication and team effectiveness skills in individuals, any Exercise in the winter environment will develop self-discipline, determination, coordination, and courage in service personnel. Monty Merger did all of this.
With varying degrees of snowsports experience from none to advanced, the group was split into four Ski Foundation Levels, each having its own core programme. All under direction of an Instructor Team of seven Royal Engineer ski instructors led by a Chief Instructor.
Foundation Level 1 was based on BASI basic ski techniques with safety and incident procedures, weather, mountain hazards and avalanche awareness. Level 2 focused on ski touring capability – the Army’s ultimate skiing objective. Level 3 extended ski touring to overnight hut stops with advanced rescue techniques, route navigation, emergency shelters and avalanche group exercises. Level 4 for a small number pushed beyond this. Incredible progression was made by everyone.
Exercise Monty Merger provided a great opportunity to break the mould and encourage esprit de corps; it allowed the different branches to socialise with each other, irrespective of rank. It has had an immediate effect.
Our Country was the winner. The timing was extraordinary. As soon as the group landed back in the UK they were tasked with support of the national Covid-19 emergency. The team cohesion, communication, mutual trust and resilience skills developed on the Exercise were tested to the full. And passed.
For the Skiers Trust, this is proof that using snowsports to support training and development of young people in the Armed Forces in line with our specific Charitable Objectives is hugely worthwhile. Our ambition is to continue to support more such initiatives through our Armed Forces Fund.