144 Troop Training Diary – Weeks 26&27
Week 26 saw the Troop embark upon the first stages of the Commando Course. With the Final Exercise looming just around the corner, many had forgotten about the small matter of a six mile bimble around the lanes of Woodbury and a fun day out in the hills with the ML’s. Monday saw the Troop line up for the six mile speed march, moral was high – for the first mile, but just like the course, it seemed to tumble downhill very quickly. What followed was six miles of blood, sweat and tears, with the constant reassurance from the training team that it was only an hour of hard work. Several brave souls where lost along the way, but on the whole the Troop performed to a very high standard. You are always guaranteed a wry smile when you are told you have made it in with seven seconds to spare.
Tuesday saw 144 Troop embark upon what for many was a low point of training, Foggin Tor, or as more commonly referred to as “ogin tor.” As the latter name suggests what could have been quiet a pleasant day climbing on Dartmoor, descended into misery with most of the Troop being wet all day long. The day began with a bergan run from the coach to the tor, with several stops made for extra curricular phys, it always pays to be a winner, or in the authors case, accept the fact that your doing a lot of running. After a brief demo of how to attach a harness, the Troop found themselves in the water for the first time. The morning activities saw the Troop learning to climb (without a safety harness) and abseil. After a cold lunch in a sun proof quarry the Troop honed there skills in vertical cliff assaults. Learning amongst other things how to abseil with a bergan, climbing up wire ladders etc….
The night time serial started with a crossing of a quarry lake, (due to the thick limestone walls, the lake holds no heat) enough said. The Troop moral was lifted by recruit Radleys late entry to the ten metre diving competition. Rumours from the ground have it that he executed a perfect double pike before hitting the floor. Wednesday saw the Troop start Exercise Final Thrust. This started in Poole; the Troop posing for many “chad” phots” before embarking upon Offshore Raiding Craft. The Troop was split into two Troops to assault a variety of positions of the SouthCoast. Two Troop where lead in by the aptly named seal team six. The Troop advanced rapidly through the beach head and cleared all remaining enemy.
The two Troops rendezvoused and yomped off into the night, for what seemed an eternity, to a tactical coach extraction. Moral went through the roof. We where lulled into a false sense of security. After a brief period of rest on the coach, the brave souls of 144 Troop found themselves on the march again. Oakhampton to an unknown location. Moral was again high, this must have been the “killer yomp” complete…… 2 Troop then settled into the delights of Dartmoor, temperatures peeked at an impressive 2 degrees, the rain seemed to becoming up from the ground and the wind was unrelenting. What followed was a series of OP’s, recce’s and patrols in the area of a suspicious looking building that more closely resembled a very comfortable, well insulated, cosy farm house. In the early hours of the next morning the Troop launched a dawn raid and ambush upon an unsuspecting enemy. With great vigour, courage and determination the battle was won, or so we thought.
Dartmoor prison was built in just a location to ensure that no escapee would make it alive across the moors. Knowing this the Troop took on the challenge. No snow, wind, hail, rain, or waste high bog would stop them. The highlight of the day was watching the 6ft 4 monster, Recruit Lasley, sink up to his chest in Dartmoor finest. It is moments like this that help to create the special bond, that make men go to the ends of the earth to save there oppos. Needless to say there was no rush to go back into the bog. 11 hours later I think it was fair to assume that the killer yomp was complete. The Dartmoor phase of the exercise was concluded with 2 days harbouring on a windy hillside (hoofing) and an assault upon a tor and a woodblock. 144 Troop put to the test there finely honed soldiering skills and 2 Troop watched enviously as 1 Troop launched a full scale attack up an extremely steep slope. Hope was to be close at hand, as when the battle was one the angels decended from the skies and the Troop where extracted from Dartmoor by Helo. It was a welcome end to an extremely testing few days on the moors.The final stage of the exercise was to be conduced at Tregantle Fort. A medieval fort on the south coast, complete with Draw Bridge, moat and battle turrets, a fitting place for the mighty 144 to spend there last few days on exercise. As luck would have it, the weather was now on our side, the perfect start to the day. The solid walls of the fort brought in a new challenge for 144, the joys of hard routine. Rotating through tasks every hour and a half; HQ, to patrolling, to QRF and to sentry duty. The added pleasure of room changes at the end of each four and a half hour cycle added an extra element of chaos for the battle weary troops. This phase of the exercise highlighted to the Troop that even when patrolling stops and the battle is won, there is much work still to be done.
One patrol found the mighty seal team six on a recce patrol near the beach. After being engaged at the bottom of the hill they where forced to break contact and undertake a less than enjoyable hike back to the safety of the fort. The next 24 hours where spent preparing for the final attack of the exercise. Orders where given, dry drills undertaken, recces where sent out and OP’s set up. In one last attempt to catch the evil mastermind Dr Hassan, 144 launched a dawn raid on Scraesden Fort. Having made there approach in the dead of night, sneaking through the woods, 144 made entry to the fort by roping down the side of the moat, shimmying along a walkway on the side of the fort, desperately trying to avoid falling into the depths of the moat and entering the catacombs’ through a small hole. The night was spent in the depths of the fort in total silence, the men preparing themselves for the final assault. The only noise that could be heard was recruit Dodd’s bowels constantly churning.
At dawn the Troop moved silently up through the many levels of the catacombs’ in the pitch black. H hour was fast approaching, the heartbeat quickened, sweat dripped off the brow. A moment to catch ones breath before all hell broke loose and the battle had begun! With 3 section providing cover, the rest of 144 Troop launched there own version of Blitzkrieg with the other sections sweeping swiftly through the outer edges of the fort, securing vital vantage points. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast! CQB technique did go out of the window for Recruit Schultz, who adopted a novel approach to room clearance. No one has any doubt that no enemy could have survived a GPMG attack through a window at point black range. As luck would have it no civilians where harmed in the making of this report. With all positions secured Dr Hassan made one last futile break for freedom. With all guns trained on his position the order was given “rapid fire!”