166 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 30 & 31: FIELD FIRING / KINGS SQUAD PASS OUT
1. Returning from Christmas leave, we were each enthused with a renewed vigour having passed our Commando tests, and now very aware that in two week’s time, we would be genuine Royal Marine Commandos. We therefore deployed onto the second week of our field firing with an enthusiasm to further demonstrate and develop the personal infantry skills we had shown during the first week of field firing, which had been immediately prior to our tests before leave.
2. We made best use of the first day to refresh our skills and conduct some dry-fire training to polish off the rust from leave. By the end of the day we were feeling confident that we could demonstrate the same soldiering proficiency we had been commended on during Field Firing 1. The purpose of Field Firing 2 is to progress from the Section manoeuvres of the first week into Troop level tactics. We were already well conversant with the mechanics of Troop attacks, manoeuvre, advances and withdrawals from our many weeks on tactical field exercises. Now we would just need to adapt to executing these tasks with live rounds instead of blank ones.
3. The second day was a revision of the live run-throughs of Section assaults conducted during Field Firing 1, only the terrain was more complex and the objectives larger. This allowed us to get right in and amongst the vegetation and streams to tactically approach our targets, breaking out with smoke to assault the objective from perpendicular angles.
4. By the Wednesday, we were chomping at the bit to progress into the Troop level activity. Following quick battle orders, we set off on an advance to contact – only to be halted before firing because the range had been fouled by poor weather (and was therefore unsafe). It would be Thursday before we could re-deploy, but once we did, it was well worth the wait. We swept through wave after wave of enemy targets, assaulting each position, to then occupy good ground for the suppression of the next. Each time, we would send a Section one way as a deception whilst another would covertly approach under cover, and protected by fire support. We crawled under bridges through swollen streams, around walls, rocks, tree’s – anything that would allow a good approach to the enemy. Once the enemy were beaten back, we withdrew step by step with fire until we were in a secure location. We then conducted casualty evacuation under fire to draw the day’s training to an end. All that was left was an immensely enjoyable night attack, under the illumination of pyrotechnics. The atmosphere of tracer and sound was enhanced by the glow of light on the wet ground and stench of cordite – we truly felt like Commandos!
5. On return from Dartmoor, life became really busy. The next 7 days were to be some of the most tedious ones during training. After completing the post-exercise instruction, we started preparing our uniforms for Pass Out. We would have to complete a full day of arm’s drill before we could enjoy the delights of our King’s Squad Pass Out on the Saturday night. This was held at the bar owned by one of our Troop mentors, and was a fantastic opportunity to spend some time socially with the training team – who were finally able to welcome us into the Corps. We awoke on Sunday with sore heads ready for the King’s Squad church service. Then began the drill…
6. From Sunday afternoon until the early hours of Friday morning would be an endless rotation of learning parade drill, practising it, refining it and repeating! In the few hours we were not asleep, we were polishing kit or packing down our rooms. We had drill indoors, we had drill on the parade ground, we had drill in the Falkland’s Hall – we even had drill in our sleep. The timing and complexity of the display is hugely is hugely impressive and it will have a dramatic impact when set to the Band’s music, perfectly aligned with the motions of our rifles, hands, and feet. We know the effort will be worth it for our families – we just wish it wasn’t so difficult to achieve! But then that could be said of everything when training to be a Royal Marines Commando!
7. And so to the King Squad Pass Out itself. The final rehearsal is conducted at 0630 on the Friday before the families arrive. The steady flow of our beaming families into the function room for a reception begins around 0800, and by 0900 they are sat in the Falklands Hall awaiting the presentation of Green Berets, prizes and several speeches/videos. The biggest moment is when the curtain opens to the surprise of the audience and there in front of them is the whole Troop. This part is all very informal and entertaining for the benefit of the families but it gets serious by the time we step onto the parade ground. The audience will have moved to the parade stands whilst we change from our Lovats into our Blues uniform. Then comes the moment of truth – after meeting the Inspecting Officer VIP (ours was an American general), we conduct our full routine with all the hours of practice finally coming into fruition. Then, after many long months and trials we finally hear the prestigious words “Royal Marines, to your duties, Quick March” and finally we are officially a member of the family.