A HUNTER-FORCE of soldiers, supported by helicopters and dogs, will soon be searching the Monmouthshire countryside for 60 soldiers caught 'behind enemy lines'.

Luckily for residents, it will all be part of a military exercise by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) based in Brecon.

Exercise "Pilgrim's Progress" will take place over eight days between 18th and 25th April in an area stretching from Chepstow to Hay on Wye, and will train and test soldiers in the skills required for evading capture in a hostile environment.

Farmers have been asked to allow their land to be used by the Army of Wales for the arduous training which soldiers must undergo before putting their practice into action in operations abroad.

Some 60 men will be widely scattered in the designated area, and a further force of 60 soldiers in small select teams will attempt to find them before they can make it into 'friendly territory'.

In the first Gulf War, many men survived and escaped from behind enemy lines using the skills they had learnt on previous exercises in the Welsh countryside.

For many years the exercise has been rotated so that soldiers will be unfamiliar with the territory, however it has not always been a friendly relationship with landowners.

In 2005, farmers forced the army to relocate this major nine day training exercise by banning troops from their land in protest over the hunt ban by the Labour government at that time.

The exercise was due to take place from 29th October to 6th November, but was moved to an undisclosed location.

This time, the relationship is more cordial and farmers have been asked to allow for soldiers, vehicles and helicopters on their land for a period of 48 hours in any one area.