MORAY’S Army regiment has hit the ground running in its new home, while also coping with overseas deployments to Afghanistan and Kenya.
Kinloss Barracks has been the base to 39 Engineer Regiment since July 22 this year, following the transition from RAF Kinloss, and the 740 personnel and their families have adjusted well to life in Moray.
That is in large part due to the warmth of the welcome afforded the regiment by the local community, said Commanding Officer, Lt Colonel Andy Sturrock (41).
The regiment’s job is moving soldiers and kit around the world at short notice, so the logistics of the move were not really a problem.
"The hardest bit in all of this is moving families," said Lt Col Sturrock. "When the regiment normally deploys overseas, we don’t take the families with us.
"Here we were asking people to move their home as well as their place of work, and that is always going to be a much more emotional rift for people."
Last November, when the announcement was made that the regiment was moving to Moray, he admitted there was a sense of shock in the regiment and among families.
"There was no corporate knowledge of what or where Moray was; it just seemed a long way away and completely unknown, and that fear of the unknown was quite a strong element in people’s initial reaction," said Lt Col Sturrock.
Those involved began to understand more about Kinloss and Moray, but at the point of moving, people weren’t absolutely convinced it was going to be brilliant.
"Once they arrived, they very quickly had a positive experience. We couldn’t have been in a better position than we are now in terms of the way that people in the regiment and the families have embraced being in Kinloss," said the CO.
"Everyone I speak to is positive about it. They weren’t expecting it to be as good an experience as it has been."
The facilities and amenities on the camp, and the quality of the accommodation, particularly the married quarters, are better than Waterbeach, near Cambridge.
"People have felt this is a place where they can really make a good home. There is no question that the reception from the local community has made people feel that here is warm welcoming place we can enjoy.
"39 Engineer Regiment will be here for a very long time, and while individual personnel in the regiment and families will move in and out, it is important we establish ourselves as part of the community."
Lt Col Sturrock admitted that for some, with family in the south of England, it will still not be an attractive posting.
"For people whose family life or base is in England, Kinloss is a long way away. It will be a posting some people will prefer not to come to because it won’t suit their domestic circumstances, but for others it will be a great posting."
He revealed that since the move, the number of Scots personnel in the regiment has increased, with many looking to be closer to family north of the border.
The day-to-day work of the regiment is training to deploy anywhere in the world in support of RAF activities.
One of its four field squadrons, 48 Field Squadron, was in Kenya at the time of the move, building a new training base for the British Army.
Personnel from 53 Field Squadron, 27 in total, have been deployed to Afghanistan in two separate missions since the move to Kinloss, providing engineering support.
A total of 105 personnel from 48 Field Squadron and 90 from 10 Field Sqn, which is based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, have been deployed to Kenya in the last six months. 10 Sqn will be disbanding, which will lead to some reorganisation of the regiment.
Lt Col Sturrock admitted that the move north was something the regiment had to fit into a very busy programme.
They also had personnel involved in the security operation for the London Olympics.
"Most people who looked at our forecast of events for the last six to eight months would have been surprised by how much we were going to be asked to do, and then we had a move superimposed on that.
"We were busy before the move, but as in many organisations, the busier you are, the more people thrive on it.
"I am immensely proud of the way the regiment has delivered all the commitments it was asked to deliver over the summer period and managed the move, and I am also immensely proud of the way, individually, they have approached being in a new place.
"I am delighted that time and again people in the community praise the individual soldiers they come across. From what I hear, they are making a good impression," he said.
Kinloss Barracks will be home to the regiment for some time to come.
"We see this as our home for the immediate and long-term future," said Lt Col Sturrock. "In 73 years the RAF became an integral part of the community; it will take 73 years before we get to the same stage, but we are already getting involved and being welcomed by the community."
Personnel and their partners are already helping to run Scouts and Brownies in the area, and running with Forres Harriers. Local clubs are using facilities on camp, and the regiment is happy to see that continuing.
On a personal level, Lt Col Sturrock will oversee the development of the barracks as the regiment’s base before handing over to his successor in the next 12 months at the end of his tour of duty as CO.
This means that his own family have not made the move to Moray, and wife Jayne, a respiratory consultant, and daughters Isla (3) and Emily (19 months) have remained in Buckinghamshire. However, they have spent as much time together in Moray as possible, and his children love the sandy beaches close to the base.
As 39 Engineer Regiment lays down roots in Kinloss and Moray, Lt Col Sturrock said he was proud to be Commanding Officer at such an historic time.