It is Week 26 and I have woken up on the Monday with a bit of apprehension for the week to come, but then I reminded myself that today is the day I receive my cap comforter and pass into the Commando phase of training. The day started off with lessons from the Mountain Leaders on river crossings and the correct wearing of a climbing harness; all in preparation for Tuesday at Foggin Tor. Eventually the time came to do the final test to enter the Commando phase; the 6 mile speed march. We set off and I made sure I was in the right mindset and thought of anything else other than the fact I was bursting my lungs in a speed march (it worked for a little while but you can’t help but feel it somewhere along the way). But as all things do, it ended. Happily for the Troop it was with a 100% pass.
Tuesday was a totally different ball game to the day before as we were off to Dartmoor to do cliff assaults and river crossings with the Mountain Leaders. It didn’t start off promising, as it was raining and we did a run with our bergens to the cliffs. But when we got started we probably had one of the best days training; climbing cliffs and then abseiling down them at high speeds. It was awesome.
Wednesday passed us all by in a bit of a blur, as we were all thinking of Thursday and the start of Ex FINAL THRUST, our final exercise. Thursday eventually came and we all departed CTCRM in a Chinook helicopter, there were smiles all round. We landed and quickly moved to a farm house to close with the first enemy of the exercise. We attacked the house, sprinting from cover to cover and had covering fire all the way from the section in the fire support position, which gave the whole thing a very real touch. Luckily for us we spent the night in the farm house so we were out of the rain.
The next day we were transported to Dartmoor to start what I consider the worst yomp we’ve had so far, we got out of the truck into high winds and snow smacking into our faces. We then picked up our bergens and walked off in the direction we were told, not knowing what to expect. What we got was 8 hours of driving snow, rain and wind (a few people were even knocked over by the force of the wind). Eventually when we stopped I almost felt like a broken man, but in a bootneck world that’s just the opening act, you are still expected to be able to fight and of course show no fatigue. We went straight into patrolling and vehicle checks which kept us on our toes. So came the end of Week 26 but we were still deployed and had Week 27 to come; where else would you rather be on a weekend than Dartmoor!
Sunday was different to our usual Sunday, waking up at 0130 to set off with bergens over the moorland into an ambush position. The aim was to capture the High Value Target (HVT) as he left a farm building. The ambush was sprung, but no HVT. We knew we had to leave the area as soon as possible, so we made use of the enemy vehicles to move us to a pre-designated rendez-vous (RV). We drove quite a few miles which in my opinion was great as if we didn’t have the vehicles we would be yomping with our bergens to wherever we were going. But of course nothing is as good as it seems, as once we were dropped off we found out we were just at the start of our next yomp. But being thankful for the small things, the sun was out; then we stepped off.
After what seemed an age, we arrived at our harbour position. Recce patrols were deployed, and an observation post was established overlooking an enemy position. The reports indicated enemy presence in that area so that night we received orders for a deliberate attack onto the woodblock to our South. Early in the morning we moved to the Final RV before setting up our positions for the attack. Then it was all guns blazing (well apart from my LMG, I kept having stoppages for the first half of the assault). After successfully clearing the wood of enemy, and seeing the HVT drive off in a vehicle we embarked trucks and were driven down to Plymouth. Here we boarded a Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP) which took us to HMS Brecon, our floating base, which was luxury compared to being in the field.
What came next was probably the best things in training so far; attacking a fort after a beach landing to capture the HVT. The HVT then gave us information about the main enemy headquarters. Then we moved back to the ship for a few hours before moving to a LUP to prepare for the next attack, where we received orders for a cliff assault onto the enemy HQ.
The last morning was another early start, straight onto the LCVP to move to the cliff. Due to the weather we had to conduct a beach landing rather than assaulting up the cliff, but that is something that we can’t plan for. We quickly assaulted the enemy, clearing the area then we set off some explosives to deny the position and the equipment. After moving back to the beach, we got back onto the LCVP, ready to move to the next objective.
That was our final attack, and we moved to RM Stonehouse to get a coach back to CTCRM. While de-servicing our kit I had the feeling that I had just completed my last exercise in training; I must say it did feel good.