154 Troop Diary – Week 7
Week 7 started with the Troop set to deploy on Exercise Marshall Star. The majority of us were apprehensive to say the least after we had heard horror stories from other troops before us and the weather was not looking good. We moved straight to Woodbury Common and kicked off the exercise with an instructional period on drawing ‘range cards’ a tool used to quickly identify places on the ground and distances to them. These would be used on sentry so we could all direct one another to possible enemy positions if we came under attack. This all started to add to the sense of being more tactically minded in the field. We also developed our understanding of occupying a troop harbour location by learning the proper tactical way to conduct the occupation. Section commanders were selected and they lead each of the sections in one after another. It was quick and organised for our first attempt at doing it tactically.
On Tuesday the weather started to take a turn for the worst and the rain came in hard. Our morning kit inspection was laid out in nearly 2 inches of water which made our administration difficult to say the least. After the inspection we were taken for morning PT with the troop PTI which we were all grateful for to warm us up. The rest of the day was taken up learning soldiering skills like fire control orders and target indication. This is the ability to describe an exact point on the ground in front of you to the rest of the section or troop and being able to tell them how and when to engage that position. This was an interesting practice with some of the diverse regional dialects amongst the troop.
With the weather getting steadily worst Exercise Marshall Star was feeling more like a survival exercise than a regular field one. Our training team had to work hard to keep us warmed up with some light phys such as kicking trees and squat jumps and when it got really cold we had to resort to a bit of hugging each other. That night we were given a demo on how easily both light and noise is detected at night which brought home the importance and how far we have to come to be tactical in this sense. By far the highlight of the week was a visit from an Apache helicopter landing on the common to give us a tour of the aircraft. As it came in to hover and land it resembled something out of ‘Transformers’ and though we had seen Apaches on television and in video games we had never seen one in real life. It was interesting to be able to look around the helicopter so close and get a brief from the pilot.
The final night we were practiced in being attacked and ‘hasty moved’ whereby we had to quickly pack up everything and get ourselves out of the troop harbour and to an emergency rendezvous (ERV) as quickly as possible. This was tense, particularly as we were all tore from our sleep by the sound of blank rounds in the woodblock. Some of the Troop were slick and were packed and out of the harbour quickly, others however looked like their equipment had exploded across the section when it was time to move.
Finally on Thursday morning we had only the packing away of all the field equipment and the march back to CTCRM. This time we carried 37 lbs of kit which increased the physical work load and it was made even harder after being run down by the weather. The Troop performed well though and dug deep to stick with the march. Exercise Marshall Star was tough, thanks in no small part to the weather conditions. The team made it clear that working in these conditions and enduring the elements is what being a Royal Marine is all about. It put it all in to perspective for us and made us realise that however tough things get you need to have a good sense of humour, it’s what gets you through the worst of it.