On patrol with the Croatians: Hitchin medics make their mark during Exercise Sava Star

Emily Piper, an Army Reservist from Hitchin's 162 Medical Squadron, on exercise in Knin, Croatia. Pi

Emily Piper, an Army Reservist from Hitchin's 162 Medical Squadron, on exercise in Knin, Croatia. Picture: Garry Fox - Credit: Mr Garry Fox

It’s not uncommon these days for brides to jet off somewhere exotic in the week after the wedding – but for Emily Piper, it was not for a honeymoon but to serve her country.

Emily Piper, an Army Reservist from Hitchin's 162 Medical Squadron, on exercise in Knin, Croatia. Pi

Emily Piper, an Army Reservist from Hitchin's 162 Medical Squadron, on exercise in Knin, Croatia. Picture: Garry Fox - Credit: Mr Garry Fox

Pte Piper, 23, is a member of 162 Medical Squadron, based in Hitchin’s Bedford Road and part of 254 Medical Regiment.

She delayed her honeymoon to take part in Exercise Sava Star in Croatia, leaving six days after she married her husband Davis.

The exercise saw 110 Army Reservists from 254 Medical Regiment live and work alongside 50 Croatian troops on the Crvena Zemlja training area at Knin, about 35 miles inland from the Dalmatian coast, for two weeks.

It was Pte Piper’s first exercise with the regiment after joining the Hitchin squadron in March – and it came after after a busy week that also saw her graduate from university.

Emily Piper, an Army Reservist from Hitchin's 162 Medical Squadron, on exercise in Knin, Croatia. Pi

Emily Piper, an Army Reservist from Hitchin's 162 Medical Squadron, on exercise in Knin, Croatia. Picture: Garry Fox - Credit: Mr Garry Fox

She said: “I got married on September 2 and graduated from university on September 4 before coming out on the exercise on September 8.

“I’ve always wanted to work in the military. My long-term plan is to join the regular army as a physiotherapist.

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“My husband Davis is very supportive of everything I do, and I think he is slowly getting used to the idea that he will eventually have a full-time army wife.

“I’ve really loved the exercise – it’s the first one I’ve been on with the regiment. I am at the start of my combat medic training, so I am learning the basics at the moment.

Army Reservists from 254 Medical Regiment on exercise alongside the Croatians. Picture: Garry Fox

Army Reservists from 254 Medical Regiment on exercise alongside the Croatians. Picture: Garry Fox - Credit: Mr Garry Fox

“It’s interesting to see treatment from another perspective, not just physiotherapy.”

Those observing the final four-day exercise included Damir Krsticevic, Croatia’s Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister – who told the British medics they had “done an excellent job”, with the exercise proving just how closely the UK and Croatia co-operate.

This was the first time a non-infantry regiment had taken part in Exercise Sava Star. The British contingent mostly comprised reservists, including a paediatric nurse, a paramedic and others with jobs in the NHS.

Mr Krsticevic, accompanied by the British ambassador Andrew Dalgleish, observed as British combat medical technicians treated a ‘casualty’ while under direct fire during a patrol with Croatian infantry.

Army Reservists from 254 Medical Regiment on exercise alongside the Croatians. Picture: Garry Fox

Army Reservists from 254 Medical Regiment on exercise alongside the Croatians. Picture: Garry Fox - Credit: Mr Garry Fox

They evacuated the casualty back to the tented medical treatment facility at the patrol base, where the ‘injured’ personnel were met by the Hitchin-based doctors and nurses.

These included London Ambulance Service paramedic Pte Louise Newton, 31, who was on her first exercise with the Hitchin squadron – and said afterwards she had “learnt so much and worked so hard”.

The medics practised providing life-saving interventions in the field before arranging evacuation to hospital.

The exercise’s aim was not only to reinforce the reservists’ skills, but also to link their training with that of other NATO forces.

Those visiting to learn about the medics included civilian employers and the regiment’s honorary colonel, Jane McCue – medical director and consultant surgeon at the East and North Herts NHS Trust which runs Stevenage’s Lister Hospital.

Lt Col Dylan Read, 254 Medical Regiment’s commanding officer, said the exercise had been of huge benefit to his troops.

He said: “Over the course of the final exercise, they treated over 70 casualties at all times of the day and night. And just like real life, there were a variety of illnesses and injuries – ranging from aches and pains to catastrophic injuries such as loss of limbs and gunshot wounds.

“The Croatians have been fantastic and our soldiers have really enjoyed training with them. It was good to have the opportunity to train alongside them in their own country. We have learnt a lot from each other.”

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