Week 10 – Exercise Hunters Moon
We’d all heard the stories. The lost patrols, the unforgiving terrain, horrendous ever changing weather and the odd nod who had never returned. Therefore we were all apprehensive as we headed out on our first exercise on Dartmoor: Exercise Hunters Moon. Consisting of 5 days of navigating and honing our map reading skills during day and night, as well as a 2 day survival exercise made it a memorable week we will all remember. As one recruit put it “Basically it was survive or die.”
The first couple of days consisted of day navigation with our sections, taking it in turns leading across the wild landscape. During the night we would do the same thing, except with a bit more stumbling and explicit language! It was here navigating at night that we learnt the importance of trusting your bearing and compass.
We finished the navigation stage of the exercise on Wednesday with a stalk, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards we yomped 7 km to the trucks to be picked up and taken to the forest for our survival phase. Unfortunately the trucks didn’t want to take us all the way there, so we found ourselves on the side of the road rushing to get our 69 lb bergans on and yomping the rest of the way. A lot of the Troop found this the hardest part of the exercise, both mentally and physically. Not only was it the first time we had yomped properly with bergans, it was the fact of not knowing how far there was left to go. 14 km later, half of that in the dark, we had made it, much to our relief! Immediately we were searched, ensuring all we had were the clothes on our backs, our survival tins, head torches and a knife. we were then led out to out areas where we would survive for the next couple of days, setting to work putting our shelters together, collecting fire wood and lighting fires.
The first night wasn’t ideal, after constructing our shelter and admiring our handy work, we tried to squeeze 4 blokes into it, only to realize the shelter was slightly too short, so it was only our legs getting the benefit of it, all night on fire sentry was definitely the wise choice.
Once the sun came up we were able to spend the day adding an extension to our shelter and collecting fire wood. Some of the lads ventured to a farm, but were stopped by a rather unfriendly bull, which wasn’t to impressed by the group of nods in his field, the farmer probably thought the girl guides were around, because that’s what everyone sounded like as they were being pursued by the bull.
This kept us all busy until the ML’s came, and we eagerly watched as they showed us how to kill and prepare our food. Each group received a chicken and 3 fish, at this point all beliefs and morals went out of the window as 50 odd nods ran around frantically like headless chickens ( excuse the pun) trying to prepare the food and meet the ML’s timings.
With the food cooked and eaten, we settled in for a long cold second night. Fire sentry was tasked and everyone else tried to sleep as much as the could, but unfortunately through the night we would all be woken with a sudden temperature drop in the shelter, only to find the fire was just a pile of hot embers, due to the fact the fire sentry had wrapped and dozed off. (You know who you are).
At first light we were woken up by the training team, and after ensuring we destroyed our handy work we were ran back to our kit.
We started the yomp back with the belief we had to go 10 km to go, so moral was pretty low, and with the lack of food and sleep, the majority of the Troop struggled, however after 3 km the sight of the mini busses was well appreciated, and clearly the training team were having us on. After a long and tiring week I think we were all glad it was over. We all felt the long weekend was well deserved and very much needed another week down, and a step closer to Christmas.