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Profile, Ian Stobbs, Royal Engineer

Warrant officer class one Ian Stobbs refers to Vickers' state of the art Automotive Bridge Launching Equipment - code named ABLE - as revolutionary.

He should know. Stubbs was in charge of the Royal Engineers' world record breaking team which set a time of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to erect the 20t, 32m span steel hydraulic bridging system at Asia's largest defence show in Malaysia last month.

In his position as chief instructor at the Royal Engineers' School in Surrey, Stobbs is responsible for training all sapper teams to use the system. But he also played a crucial part in the development of the system in the three years since it first became operational.

Stobbs explains: 'Training recruits to use the new equipment allows us to better understand the system and refine the methods for using it.'

His commanding officer Major Mick Wood has no doubt who is the king of ABLE. 'Stobbs knows more about using the bridging system than anyone else in the world. He is the font of all knowledge.'

Stobbs joined the Royal Engineers as a machine operator in 1974. Since then he has served around the world on projects ranging from village school construction in Kenya to building a swimming pool in the Falklands. Yet he still describes his involvement with the new bridging system as a highlight.

Being a military engineer is something he is very proud of. 'You have a very important role to play in re-establishing infrastructure and providing aid to war torn regions,' he says.

Stobbs says that life in the Royal Engineers is very different from when he joined, as is the equipment. 'Nowadays there is a lot more electronics involved and machines can do a lot more. Soldiers today have to rely on brains rather than brawn.'

He also believes that there is a definite difference in culture between civilian and military engineering. 'The main difference is that we have the luxury of not worrying about hours,' he says. 'When we want something done we do it immediately. I think when we work together both sides are on a steep learning curve.'

And no doubt he will find out more about the civilian side of engineering after August when he leaves the Royal Engineers. 'I love this job, but when your time's up, it's up. I'm very much looking forward to the challenges ahead.'

Richard Thompson

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