Outlook Issue 18 Winter 2014
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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A modern leader
A modern leader The autumn sun is shining, the deer are hovering close by and we are looking out on to a spotlessly well- organized military base. This is Rock Barracks, just a few miles outside Woodbridge and home to around 400 of the fittest fighting men in the British army. My host is Lieutenant Colonel John Clark, an engaging and erudite individual who took command of 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) in July. Over tea and cake, he talks insightfully about the regiment and growing regard for the local area. “There’s such diversity, from village life, to the coast, towns like Woodbridge and the local forests which surround us,” notes the Oxford University educated CO. “The support we get from Woodbridge and the local community also gives us peace of mind when we go away, which can happen at very short notice.” Both the regiment and their new CO have seen active service in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. At any one time half the Rock Barracks contingent of highly trained paratroopers are battle ready and can expect to be in the vanguard of any rapid deployment conflict. The rest of the regiment are in training – a dynamic which keeps both trained and trainees on their toes. Needless to say, St Mary’s and Woodbridge at large have developed a close relationship with Rock Barracks. This stems from Rector Kevan taking on the temporary role of Padre to the Regiment when it moved on to the base in 2006. With a full-time regimental Padre now in post, St Mary’s has continued in a spiritual support role –holding services to welcome the soldiers back from war and helping to remember those who have died in action. It’s a connection much appreciated, says Colonel Clark, as are the wider community links, such as being granted the Freedom of Woodbridge and playing a leading role in local civic occasions, such as Remembrance Day. For the CO, who is married with twin daughters, Suffolk is another link in a chain which includes distinguished spells at Staff College in the US, combat experience, and most recently as part of the Army Strategy team in London. Throughout his career Colonel Clark has managed to combine intellectual achievement – he read Arabic with Islamic Studies and History at university – with physical prowess. He competes for the Thames Hare and Hounds, the oldest running club in the world, and worked as an interpreter in post-war Basra. Rural Suffolk is proud to play host to a very modern military leader. Nick Cottam