ARMY reservists from a Bolton based regiment have honed their skills as an artillery gunner in a pioneering training exercise.

Lance Bombardier Kate Jenkins, who used to work in advertising at The Bolton News's sister paper the Bury Times, gave up her office job to work full time as an Army recruiter while serving in the Army reservist.

She was joined on the exercise by Lance Bombardier Chris Bulley, aged 34, a telecommunications engineer from Bolton, who has been in the Army reserve for 10 years.

The pair, who serve with Bolton-based 216 Battery of 103 Royal Artillery (103 RA), have taken part in Exercise Steel Sabre, in the training ranges of Otterburn in Northumberland.

The training exercise is part of the Army's 2020 reforms, and has tested the ability of full and part-time soldiers in fighting alongside each other.

Kate was completing the training as part of the full time North East Gunners of 4 Regiment Royal Artillery (4 RA), and used the versatile L118, 105mm ‘light gun’, which is able to hurl 15kg shells more than 12 miles with precision on to a designated target.

Kate, from Bury, who joined the Army Reserve just over two years ago, said: "I’m about to start my training on the light gun which requires six people to fire it, sorting the ammunition, loading and then firing.

"At the moment I’m passing the ammunition along which is quite physically demanding. But I train, weights and running, both on reserve training nights and in my own time."

Lance Bombadier Bulley, who has been on previous training exercises in the Falkland Islands, Germany, and Denmark,as well as a tour of Afghanistan in 2009. said: "It’s cold, windy and pretty grim up here, but we’re working with regular Army regiments really closely.

"Our artillery guns have been providing high explosive, smoke or battlefield illumination at night-time. It’s my job to make sure the elevation and bearing of the gun is correct and fire it.”

Exercise Steel Sabre has seen the reservists pushed to their limits in preparing for future operations, and also included them being asked to perform in environments contaminated by chemical, biological or nuclear material.

The headquarters of the 103 RA is in St Helens, Merseyside, and it also has battery locations in Bolton, Liverpool and Wolverhampton.