146 Troop Diary – Week 18
146 Troop had reached week 18 in recruit training with a mixture of excitement and anticipation in the air as Exercise SECOND EMPIRE approached. This exercise was the reason most of us joined up, to take part in Ambushes, Deliberate Troop and Section attacks, recce’s and OP’s all the ‘Gucci’ things you want to be doing as a recruit. Monday morning came after a weekend preparing for SECOND EMPIRE. 146 Troop knew we had a cheeky week coming up; it was certainly going to be a physically demanding exercise. We started off with the usual routine of loading stores and moving to Braunton Burrows Training area where the exercise would be carried out. We arrived that afternoon and each section went off with their Section Commanders to run through the mechanics of a section attack. Our second tactical exercise had now started. What followed was a 2 hour yomp in heavy rain to find a suitable harbour location. 146 Troop had come to the realisation this week was going to be cold and wet week with a lot of hard work!! We found a suitable harbour and carried out the harbour drills we had learnt on Ex FIRST BASE. Once this was set up, we got briefed on the objectives for that night from our Section Commanders.
My job for the night along with Rcts Anderson, Bell and Marsh was to carry out a recce on a known enemy location which I was really looking forward to. We got to sneak into a good position and set up a good working routine which consisted of watching the enemy with Night Vision Goggles (NVGs). Once our mission was complete we got back to the harbour and carried on with our harbour duties. After a wet and windy first night we started off the morning with the section getting together for a talk about what was planned for today. It was more sections attacks but with blank ammunition. After the mistakes we made on Ex FIRST BASE we were eager to repay our section commander with hard work. I found the section attacks demanding but with the adrenaline pumping and my rifle on automatic the ache in our legs didn’t even enter our minds as we carried out each attack with more aggression and accuracy under the guidance of our Section Corporal. A lot was learnt this day and our attitude to repay our Section Commander paid off as he was happy with the sections performance which boosted morale. Night time came which doesn’t mean sleep, more recce’s and OPs were on the agenda for the other sections to gather information on the enemy. I spent the night carrying out harbour duties, mainly on sentry protecting the harbour. The rain came down heavily and the wind was hitting our sentry post hard but as always you must be awake and alert to any enemy attacks. Our professional attitude paid off as there was a random attack on our harbour to which we stood too, returned fire and defended the harbour successfully. It was just a reminder that the enemy are constant threat and could strike at any time!
First light on day 3 of the exercise broke and to kick things off our harbour location came under attack to which we had to stand too, this resulted in us having to bug out as soon as possible and get out of the area. We relocated, set up our new harbour and broke down into our sections to carry out more section attacks but this time with enemy firing back. As always 100% effort is expected from you regardless of how tired and wet you are you must crack on with the right attitude towards the job in hand and reflect the commando ethos. This attitude and determination resulted in myself and Rct Long the section IC running through a bush of thorns over our heads with plenty of aggression to storm an enemy position which pleased our Section Commander.
Later on in the afternoon 146 Troop carried out its first troop advance to contact. We came across effective enemy fire and we sprung into action under the guidance of our OC. I found myself on top a huge sand dune providing fire support for 1 section to carry out a right flanking assault. This was really enjoyable and provided a good insight into how things worked especially seeing how each section moved on the ground from above. Late afternoon came and the OC held an ‘O’ Group preparing everyone for the ‘Gucci’ op we had to do tonight….’an Ambush’. After a detailed breakdown with all information gained on the enemy an ambush was to be carried out. Each section, each man had a job to do and mine was to act as one of the cut offs. Our job was mainly to give the OC and killer group an early warning that the enemy was coming. We were successful; the enemy were taken out without any mistakes. This was by far one of my favourite times in recruit training to date.
Regardless of the weather which was constantly changing, the morale of the Troop was pretty high due to the ambush being successful the night before. We were then informed we would be conducting our first deliberate troop attack. A full ‘O’ Group was conducted by the OC who as always was professional and inspirational which adds realism to the situation. My job along with my section was the reserve section. If there was any in-depth enemy positions it was our job to carry out a section attack and fight through that position. All objectives were cleared but there was an in-depth enemy position and under the direction of the OC and our Section Commander, myself and the rest of 4 Section carried out a right flanking assault. We got in our final position and our plan was to use smoke and covering fire from the other sections to execute our flanking assault. The job of smoke man – Rct. North, to provide a good throw of a smoke grenade to provide cover so that we could advance on the enemy but this wasn’t the case… Rct. North provided us with a pretty poor throw which resulted in the smoke grenade landing 8-10 meters away! It was reminder that 9/10 things don’t go to plan which our Section Commanders taught us but Charlie team of 4 section reacted well and with tactical bounds we fought through the in-depth enemy position.
The final day of the exercise saw 146 Troop tired and wet after a honking night in the harbour. Despite the exercise coming to an end there was a sense of anticipation hanging around with a 6 mile load carry on the horizon. We set off on this final evolution of the exercise, for me personally this load carry was most definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve done in recruit training so far, not only physically but mentally. The OC provided an inspirational reminder that ‘you won’t just be given a greet beret but must earn it’ this helped me to keep going. Overall I really enjoyed the exercise and it was a good insight to what you will be doing as a Royal Marine Commando.