172 TROOP DIARIES
The biggest week of recruit training so far started off with our fourth ever period of bottom field; gut wrenching circuits with the assault course, low obstacles, regains, bell ringers and fireman carries. All sandwiched between mini camp circuits and jump pull ups. After the usual shower and quick change routine it was a day full of pre-field admin, with a little CBRN training thrown in at the end.
Tuesday was the start of our end of Phase 1 Test, with a four mile speed march before we set off for Ex BAPTIST RUN. The pace was fast but everyone seemed to enjoy the challenge, with Corporal Rainey and the Captain demonstrating how easily a trained Royal Marines Commando should pull ofF the task. Gasping and sweating we finished the evolution and re-entered camp to do our final prep before the exercise. A fun experience all in all.
Once we’d arrived on Woodbury and rapidly designated our harbour and set up team stores, we launched into our practices of the real assessments, completing a stalk and a static map stance before dark. Everyone rushed through the first change we’d had to cam up since week seven and we got a wide range of different disguises, from overgrown, untrimmed hedgerows to cam that looked like it’d be scavenged from the savannah during a drought. Almost everyone had a good stalk regardless, although the lack of practice led to some simple errors. Our group switched with the static map stance and spent the next hour and a half sitting atop one of the many ridges that crisscross the expanse of Woodbury. A high exposed location might have been an ideal place to spot features for a resection but it doesn’t seem like it when your toes seem to go solid inside your boots. Luckily we warmed up by doubling back to the harbour, starting meals and getting our brief for the night nav.
Route cards done, we set off alone at two minute intervals, one person heading clockwise and the other anti-clockwise. Most people made it round the route and back well under time, with a few cutting it fine and one or two not completing the exercise in the allotted time frame. We marched back to the harbour, those who’d fallen asleep waiting for the rest of the troop to come in feeling a little worse for wear, and jumped into our sleeping bags, dreading the moment when you’d be roughly awoken to hear the words “Sentry in fifteen minutes”. I still took the time for a ration pack hot chocolate before I settled down for the night.
Tuesday was much the same, with proper assessments in stalking and static map stances and practices of observation, fire control orders and target indication. Open ground at the start of the stalk led to several people being pinged immediately but the majority managed to demonstrate competence across all activities.
Night fell and preparation for the night nav began again. Route cards were quickly prepared as we were slightly behind schedule and despite a few flapping bouts the whole troop seemed to churn out a decent card. We assembled close to the team tents and awaited our start times. Three hours later and nearly everyone was back, even with a few tumbles into ditches, twisted ankles and a near concussion from a recruits own rifle butt (and where the previously mentioned recruit lost fifteen minutes stargazing and wondered why he was wandering round the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night).
Inspection the next day came and went uneventfully and the troop headed out to do the same tasks as the day before, except all of today’s tasks were the real deal. We had a rapid march back to the harbour and prepped for the final night nav.
Once again we trekked off individually through fields of seemingly never ending gorse, falling down strangely deep and unnatural holes and tripping face first into deep bogs that had been stagnant since the first Royal Marine recruit took his first misstep onto the fated grounds of Woodbury. And it started to rain, not heavily, nor just a drizzle, but enough that after an hour you’d be soaked to the skin. Even if you wore Gore-Tex the trapped heat would conspire to soak you with sweat. Bedraggled recruits returned to the harbour one by one, relieved to be exiting the common the next day. Even cracking wet and dry, the news of an unexpected kit muster the next day and the looming eight mile load carry the next day didn’t do too much to dampen spirits.
The pace was punishing from the start. Somehow more hills appeared then I knew existed around Woodbury, with one continuous uphill slog carrying on for at least a mile, killing recruit’s legs early on in the march. Throughout the evolution the speed was similar, more of a half jog than a march, a painful experience with weight on your back. However coming into camp was all the more enjoyable for it and brought with it a sense of achievement, making the whole strenuous event worthwhile.
De-servicing lasted the entire night, with recruits getting a few minutes of sleep whilst waiting for washing. By seven the next morning, in a half lit drill shed (since no one could spare the time to locate the lights), every recruit’s kit was gleaming, if damp, and ready to return to the field. The inspection was over quickly, probably half due to the brief glimpses of sleep and nodding heads whilst the corporals’ attention was elsewhere.