157 TROOP DIARY – WEEK 10
Monday morning was an early start as it was the start of Exercise Hunters Moon, the week ten survival exercise. Before heading out for this exercise our first detail was to collect CBRN (chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear) suits. After being issued with our new kit we were taken off and shown how to fit our kit as well as how to look after it. Shortly after this we were sent to draw weapons from the armoury ready for the exercise. By this time it was clear the Troop were becoming increasingly nervous, if we had known what was coming, you would not have blamed us. Soon after midday we were going through the usual pre-exercise routines which consist of loading up the four toners with our luggage and other supplies, before heading onto the coaches. It was an hour and 15 minute journey to Dartmoor which most of the Troop made the most of by sleeping as it was obvious we would not be getting much over the next week.
Our exercise started in a pub car park. From here we set of in sections along with our section commanders and yomped over Dartmoor for 5 km. Along the way we took turns in our sections to navigate our way to checkpoints. Our final destination and home for the next three days was a small scout hut which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. After reaching the scout hut we were given time to take care of our feet and take on some food, as we soon found out we were going to doing a night navigation exercise again with our sections and sections commanders. Of course we were not staying in this scout hut, for the next two nights the Troop set up a harbour position in an open bit of land close by which was open to all the elements which became apparent when we were hit by powerful hailstorm on out first night whilst training to set up out ponchos.
Tuesday morning started off with a kit muster and it decided to snow which made it that little bit harder. After an hour of rushing around and trying to make our kit and weapon system look immaculate for inspection, it was finally time for inspection and we already knew we had a long week ahead of us. After inspection and packing kit away we all gathered for a navigation brief from the Troop Commander. The day’s navigation exercise was again at section level but over a longer distance which took 4 and a half hours to complete. Over this time we encountered pretty much all weather conditions which made it tough at times. When we arrived back we were again told to take on food stay hydrated and take care of our feet. This was followed by another night navigation brief. This navigation exercise was to be done in fire teams, which is half a section, which works out as 5-6 men. Most of the fire teams got on fine as it does not matter where you are if you put into practise what you have been taught, you will not go wrong.
Wednesday morning began with another kit muster which most of the Troop passed. Soon after we were gathered for a stalking lecture something that is very important to a marine as it allows you to sneak up on the enemy without being seen. After receiving the lecture the Troop were split into two groups. Before we began we were given 15 minutes to camouflage ourselves. When the exercise began we were given 60 minutes to get as close as possible. After group one had finished up it was group 2’s Turn. After the whole Troop had been through these drills we were debriefed and sent away. Our next detail was to have bergans fully packed ready for yomping. It was soon time to set off and with know one knowing how long or how far we were going to be yomping it was starting to show as people fell behind. As it turned out we were heading back to the pub car park from Monday – only on a different route. We arrived in the car park still very unsure of what was going on. We were told to eat as much as we could out of our rations and then pack our day sacks with only warmers suit and a light thermal suit. Next we had to pack our bergans onto a 4 toner and were left with webbing, weapon and a day sack. People now began to ask questions but still no one knew what we were in for.
We then all split up into mini buses and were driven about 15 minutes up the road into another drop of point which seemed in the middle of know where. It was from here we would set of on a night walk across Dartmoor; the walk took four and half hours and was across very boggy and uneven terrain. This walk was a big testing point of the week as we did not know it was coming and caught us all by surprise. A few hours later after the last couple of men dragged there way to the finish, we arrived at our new location which was a wood. We were lined up in 3 ranks and given a detail that some of the Troop found hard to digest. We were told that tonight was also a survival night, we were not allowed to build fires but we had to survive the night. A few sections broke off and used what we had learnt from the Mountain Leaders and built a shelter where as others simply curled up by a log and did there best to keep warm. The night was long and an eye opener too many of the lads in the Troop, many of the men said it was the worst night of there lives.
After a long cold night we awoke and were told to pull down any shelters we had made, we then moved down a long steep track lead by the Troop Sergeant and shown our new area in which we were to spend the next day and night. We were given a detail which was to build shelter and a fire, the shelter was to fit your fire team in (5-6 men) and the fire was to be burning all night. After the previous night everyone pulled together and made a good effort on the shelters. Later on that day the Troop was joined by two Mountain Leaders. They came around and inspected our shelters and fire wood supply. They also inspected our survival tin which we were told to have ready for this exercise. We were then given a lecture and practical demonstration on how to prepare food from scratch when out in the field. We were shown how to gut and clean out a fish and then how to kill, skin and prepare a chicken. We were then given the chance to try this ourselves and get a feel of how to do what we had just been shown. Each fire team was given 3 fish and one chicken. After preparing all the food we were to light out fires and cook the food which was much needed by this time. As darkness fell on the woodblock the main priority became keeping your fire alight to provide warmth. Most were successful in this and had a fire all night.
Although we had fires in the night, we all arose shivering after another cold and this time wet night. Again we were told to pull down our shelters and fully extinguish our fires. We were then told to fall in at the top of our woodblock where we were given the order to take off any thermals and pack bergans ready for yomping. Soon we were standing with full kit ready to set off, again unsure of how long this would last. Luckily it was not long at all before we were met by a mini bus and a 4 toner for all our kit. Moral amongst the Troop quickly grew but this was all too soon. Instead of a nice ride back to CTCRM we found ourselves in the middle of a woodblock with our webbing and rifles. We were then told we would be staying another night in this new position which almost brought some of the men to tears. The idea of this was to teach the men that a mission is never over until you are home and that thing can change very quickly. After a de-brief and a light reminder of what we were all here to achieve we set off through back to CTCRM. When we arrived back at camp we were to carry out the usual unloading procedures before cleaning our rifles and returning them to the armoury. All that was left now was the dreaded de-servicing of kit and as we were told that on Sunday night we would have a full field kit muster. Everyone got moving rather quickly in order to get away for the long weekend after a long week.