158 Troop Chronicles – Week 16
Having successfully passed Phase 1 of training the Troop were now able to commence and move forward to Phase 2 of recruit training. The Troop were optimistic with the training ahead as now the focus would be on the tactical skills and the knowledge required to operate as a rifleman in any operation of war – what being a Marine is all about.
Monday morning began with Signal lectures on how to use Personal Role Radios (PRR’s) and 354 Radios which we would be using on exercise this week; the emphasis being on the importance of maintaining good communications at all times. After a quick change the Troop were doubling to Bottom Field for a 2 hour hard phys session, although the session soon turned for the worse as our PTI was not happy with the Troop’s effort levels bringing an onslaught of lung busting exercises. Quickly moving forward then, we had a few lectures on Harbour Drills, Rifle Troop responsibilities and types of patrols before the end of the day and a chance to crack some personal admin.
Tuesday morning started with some more lectures on Observation Posts, Battle Procedure and Surveillance techniques before preparing to deploy on Exercise First Base at midday. The Troop was told we would be deploying to Woodbury Common by two Merlin Helicopters, morale rocketed and the troop was ready for what challenges the exercise might bring. The flight was fast and aggressive and got us to our objective safely. However, the Troop Commander was not happy with our position resulting in another flight to a different location. Our kit was weighing in at 45kgs the heaviest it hass been so far. We quickly exited the helicopter on landing and began yomping to our Harbour Position where the Troop would be operating from over the next few days. The night’s activity involved a reconnaissance patrol on an Enemy Location.
CONTACT FRONT!!……Wednesday morning was a quick insight into Enemy break contact drills and how a section should act in order to avoid causalities and be able to continue on with the mission. We fired a lot of blank rounds, and practiced fire and manoeuvre. It gave us a good appreciation of the speed required; our section will need to practice this time and time again before becoming efficient in the drills and ready to deploy on Ops – only another 16 weeks to crack it.
After eating some tasty military rations we started yomping to the helicopter landing sight again. Before we knew it we saw a green Sea King in the sky landing on our position, grass flying everywhere as the large rotors span. The aircrewman soon jumped out and told the Troop we would be fast roping today something that took the troop by surprise. We started fast roping out of the Sea King at 20ft before moving upwards to 30ft, 40ft and finally 50ft. Coming back down to earth slowly after the Sea King flew off in the distance we started yomping back to our Harbour position where we would receive orders on the night’s activities.
We were soon back at the helicopter landing site in an artic huddle around our bergen’s waiting for another helicopter to pick us up and take us to an unknown location (Dartmoor?) in order to conduct more reconnaissance patrols. However, this time our luck had run out and the two helicopters that were due to meet us had technical issues and were cancelled. Instead we conducted another Reconnaissance patrol in the surrounding area. Having any sleep that night was very low on the agenda.
Thursday was another day of practicing our patrolling as a section and break contact drills in addition to how to conduct an Observation Post (OP) – something we would be doing that night. After setting up an OP we continued to watch the enemy throughout the night noting any information that may be of use. We got back to our Harbour position at 05:00hrs Friday morning. After conducting morning routine we then had to pack our webbing with 21lbs of weight ready for the 5 mile speed march back to camp. Everyone was feeling fatigued and drained due to the little sleep we had over the last few days, although that is no excuse and the Troop still had to perform well on the speed march in order to get back to camp on time – the emphasis was on working for one another.
On arriving back at camp our Troop Commander asked the Troop if we were fit enough and ready to fight, we all replied ‘YES SIR’. He then handed us back over to the PTI and told us to prove it by conducting some fireman carries and drags. Fighting over that marked the end to a hoofing exercise that was physically and mentally challenging but extremely enjoyable. The training team clearly put effort into the exercise and hopefully our performance on exercise reflected this.
Finally, the advice we got from our PTI is to remain positive and eliminate any negative thoughts in order to overcome the variety of obstacles during training and the hardship when on operations. We must now continue to develop that Commando state of mind as training progresses and utilise it to my advantage. Training is only going to get harder from now on but the effort levels must remain high; the ability to work as a team is critical.