Monday, an early start and a long, anxious train journey to Lympstone. Singling out other recruits at each station was easy as we all had similar characteristics – smart suits, short hair, massive bags and putting on the big boy poses when really we all looked like rabbits in the headlights. We quickly got to know each other quite well over the following week particularly our initial strengths and weaknesses, whether we were ‘Phys Ninjas’ or an ‘Admin Vortex’. The initial gym sessions consist of the Gym Tests that we were all familiar with from PRMC spread out between Tuesday and Wednesday, interspersed with administration lectures on Pay, Kit Insurance etc. Our kit is drip fed to us in admittedly large drips and the evenings consist of our Drill Instructor teaching us how to iron those bits of kit and then to ‘Globe and Laurel’ them, folding jumpers, shorts, shirts and everything else down to A4 size in order to get our lockers to emulate the display locker provided for us. Ironing and folding may not sound like much but, trust me, it is the lament of every recruit ever, causing late nights and many minor break downs.
The excitement begins to peak towards the end of the week as the training and lectures start to take a more militaristic shape, PT sessions being used to drill unthinking obedience into us by loud, large, intimidating Instructors. Recruits quickly learning to dread the pounding of feet and the yells of “Stand by!” On the plus side, PT is actually enjoyable, in spite of the horrid camp circuits. Friday begins our introduction to rope climbing which, as with a lot of things, is far easier horizontal than vertical.
Having received our uniforms, our next aim was to rid ourselves of the little orange ‘Lumi Tabs’ that single us out as the credulous new guys in training.
The first weekends work consists of 4 hours drill Saturday morning then preparing and packing our Bergans for exercise Early Night the following Tuesday. The afternoons are a generally relaxed affair as we are released back into the civilian population. After 5 days cooped up you feel like you’ve never seen a woman again. Exeter is a very beautiful City.
Week two really consists of much of the same as the latter stages of week 1 though the intensity rises noticeably. All lectures teach us very basic skills required for use in the field and our introduction to weapons handling begins Tuesday afternoon, learning safety procedures and the anatomy of the SA80. PT sessions are harder and more numerous, regularly there are 3 hours in a row! The training team also become far less tolerant of mistakes. Exercise Early Night leaves us all buzzing as we basically jump into the Regain Tank in full kit then camp out for the night, performing simple roaming sentries in a non tactical environment (meaning we won’t be attacked). The week carries on with a regular cycle of Drill, PT and more Weapons Handling, evenings still consisting of late nights scrubbing the days honking clothes and praying they dry by morning. They don’t.
I sit here on my second Friday anticipating another day in Exeter, my afternoon so far being a lecture on the application of close quarters combat and an introductory session – pure cathartic fun.
Hopes are high for the future.