144 Troop Diary – Weeks 11&12
After a tough exercise Hunters Moon and a long weekend at home it was time for the troop to get back to business as usual. Our next task was to complete a 2 week range package of live firing at StraightPointRanges in order for us to pass our annual combat marksmanship test (ACMT). Along with this we would also attend Key Skills and physical training. Everyone was expecting a slightly more relaxed atmosphere compared to the previous week, however we still had to be switched on as we were handling live ammunition and had to perform to a high standard as usual. Before we got started we had some work to do for the range team to fix the firing butts thanks to the heavy rain that they had the night before. After getting hot and sweaty it was time to start getting the rounds down and zeroing our rifles with the troop split into syndicates. One syndicate would shoot whilst the others worked the firing butts. Butts duty was particularly interesting as it involved moving the targets up and down under cover whilst hearing the crack of the rounds as they passed a few feet overhead. After a few hours and quite a bit of frustration everyone was managing to hit the targets. We were also able to apply the marksmanship principles which we had learnt in lectures to good effect and this helped us with our shoots. Our live shoots in the day would usually be followed up in the evenings by virtual shoots in the dismounted close combat trainer (DCCT) practicing various firing positions as well as firing at moving targets. Just like duck hunt but more serious. The weather was mostly on our side for each shoot so we were able to progress quickly. Those members of the troop who weren’t switched on would soon find themselves running down to the sea, diving in and collecting some seaweed for a 7 minute Challenge! Good fun but physically demanding. The PT in the Mornings made a welcome change from our usual training. The first week came to a close with a practice shoot of the ACMT on the electronic target range (ETR). There was no butts duty on this range as it was all controlled via a console, the targets would pop up and fall when hit. The waiting party would practice dry firing while they waited. We had the weekend to unwind and de-service our kit for the second and final week on the range.
Our ACMT was held on the Monday and everyone managed to pass with several members of the troop becoming marksman in the process. The rest of the week was extra close quarter marksmanship (CQM) shoots as well as Bayonet training. The CQM shoot ended in a troop shoot off on the 25 metre range. Firing hammer pairs at the target that was called out by Corporal Young. Everyone put £1 in the pot and the winning recruit took the prize. Personally for me bayonet training was a highlight of my time on the ranges, partly for the fact that not many troops get to do it. We were lucky enough to all have numerous goes at taking out the hessian targets with stacks of controlled aggression from everyone. We then all had to move to the top of the hill in loose order and attack the dummies in just our helmets and combat body armour which was hilarious to watch. With more drop kicks and flying head butts than most action films we were a force to be reckoned with!
After a great end to Straight Point we had a day to get ready for our trip to France on Ex Overlord. Our trip over on the ferry was a chance to get our head down. Once we had arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning it was straight onto the coach to start the Exercise. Our guide for the weekend was Smiler. He was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, great things to have when trying to hold the attention of 50 plus recruits who haven’t had much sleep! Learning the pivotal moments of WW2 whilst standing on the very ground where it took place was very poignant and was a huge eye opener for all of us. Hearing about the great adversity that young men had come up against and overcome made us all very proud. We visited a war memorial for various servicemen and each of us had a wooden RM cross to place on a grave. I picked a 22 year old Royal Marine who had lost his life on the 7th of June; being twenty two myself it was something that I will never forget. We then moved along the beach heads, from Utah to Omaha beach. It was quite surreal standing on the sand where so many men had lost their lives. Then we took a trip to a memorial for 47 Commando and their battle for Port Bessin. We all stood to attention on the order or the DL and lay a wreathe in memory of their sacrifices and victory of capturing and liberating the port.
Knowing that our predecessors gave their tomorrow for our today fills us with great pride to be following in their footsteps.