154 Troop Diary – Week 14
Week 14 had finally arrived and with it Exercise Baptist Run – the final step before we moved out of Phase 1 of training. We were told it was a confirmation exercise and not a test, as we have been taught all the lessons we will need to get us through the next 3 days. Hopefully we took them all in!
Our first task of the exercise as a Troop would be our first official speed march, over 4 miles carrying 21lbs and a rifle. Everyone was understandably nervous for the test. Even though we had done plenty of weighted runs back from the common this was the first with the standard weight that we will conduct our Commando tests with. Thanks to us being prepared for the speed march we all passed without problems and the exercise was off to a good start.
Typically and like all field exercises to date the weather for 154 Troop looked like it was going to be bad. As we loaded stores and made our way up to the area of Woodbury Common the rain started and would continue in one form or another for the next two days. The bus was more silent than usual as we made our way from camp, everyone already tired and nervous for the week ahead. As we unloaded the rain turned to snow, a new one for the Troop and a sign of the cold conditions.
The exercise was broken down into test evolutions repeated over the 3 days with us needing to pass one test in each module. The modules were personal administration, navigation and field craft. Firstly our administration was checked every morning through kit musters, laying out all the equipment we were carrying to show that we were keeping it clean and more importantly dry. Easier said than done when the rain is coming in and your living in 4 inches of mud. We also needed to prove that we had been eating all of our issued rations as well as cleaning and shaving properly.
The navigation was tested with static and practical map reading exercises and has been something that we have practiced a lot over the last 13 weeks of training. The practical side involved navigating around Woodbury Common, always at night, covering roughly 5km but it seemed a lot longer as we did most of it through marsh and thick gorse. At night we had to rely heavily on counting our paces and trusting our compasses but inevitably a couple of members of the Troop became navigationally challenged and had to be prompted which way to go by a member of the team.
The final module was field craft which was tested through stalking, being able to camouflage yourself and sneak up on an enemy, and also fire control orders, pointing out enemy to other members of the section by describing where they are so that they can be engaged. The first was made harder by the weather as it is hard to blend in to the snow when you are covered in green. Once you had crawled to within 200m of a target you would fire a shot and a member of the team would stand near you. If you could then get another shot and clearly see the target without being spotted then you would score full marks. The fire control orders were done well and are a skill we will all need.
Friday had finally arrived and our chance to leave the training area which was quickly becoming deeper in mud. As we packed away our kit and the stores we looked like we had been in the field for more like 3 weeks than 3 days. The only thing standing between us and the end of the exercise was an 8 mile load carry back to camp carrying our webbing and daysacks, totalling 39lbs, as well as our rifles. We made good time on the lanes back to CTCRM and were met with a water stop and mars bars courtesy of the Troop mentors at the half way point.
Everyone completed the load carry and was happy to be back at camp. Though the de-servicing was still to be done and the uncertainty of whether we had passed the exercise or not. All in all week 14 was a cold and wet one and was as hard as we were all expecting. Hopefully though we will pass and will then have phase 2 to look forward to and all the things that we signed up for.