155 Troop Diary – Week 10
We returned to Lympstone after leave under heavy influence of ‘the blues’. Civilian life and all its trappings had taken a stranglehold once more, making our various journeys back to the reality of training uncomfortable. The sight of the accommodation was not particularly pleasing, however, seeing the guys and knowing we were all going through the same emotions was reassuring and even amusing at times when people burst out with certain profanities amidst deadly silence.
We had all heard various stories about what we were about to encounter through the highly accurate ‘nod vine’. Exercies Hunters Moon would welcome us abruptly the following morning. Last minute preparations were made to bergans etc. and then into our lovely beds. The Exercise commenced with an insertion yomp, which was the first time we had actually carried our bergans for any length of time or distance. We were split into our respective sections and took it in turns to individually navigate to various checkpoints and eventually our destination.
The load carrying was at times horrendous. It presented us with a completely different physical challenge to what we had become accustomed to. It was no longer the lung bursting runs, rather a slow unrelenting monotonous pain. The yomps were accompanied by various navigational exercises during the day and by night. We performed one particular night nav in exceptionally difficult conditions, even by Dartmoor’s standards. We were forced to completely rely and trust our bearings which proved daunting at the best of times.
We then entered the survival phase of the exercise. An extraction yomp followed shortly by an insertion night nav into our designated area. Conditions were once again unagreeable. Reality became a little distorted for some recruits during this particular phase, with some claiming to have seen some rather exotic animals along the way. We were duly reminded by our Troop Commander that the pain we were facing was only superficial compared to the real pain of losing someone close to you.
On arrival we were promptly searched and subjected to a variety of heavy metal ballads while being simultaneously led around by our thumbs. This was designed to disorientate us. The Training Team achieved the required effect; we were then laid down into our sleeping positions which also proved to be successful. The following day we were led into the woods with only the clothes on our backs and survival tins in our hands. We were then left largely to our own devices to build our respective shelters and fires. The Mountain Leader then taught us the correct method of dispatching and skinning a chicken and also filleting a fish. This was performed in the most humane way possible, not that it was any great concern to us at the time, or our stomachs.
Fire sentries were conducted throughout the night and shelters were slowly deconstructed and subsequently used for fire wood as supplies dwindled. It was a long sleepless night for most, especially for those whose fires faltered. We encountered the evasion phase the following morning. The objective was to reach a checkpoint 4 km across the moor, whilst remaining undetected by ‘the enemy’. This was fairly challenging considering what we had all just undergone. However, it was also exhilarating. The thought of being captured and the resulting consequences proved to be quite sustaining and provided the much needed energy to complete the exercise.
Very few of the Troop talk about what happened during Exercise Hunters Moon and even fewer manage to laugh about it. However, the shared experience without doubt brought the much needed camaraderie required for our future endeavours.