181 RECRUIT TROOP DIARY: WEEK 7
1. 181 Troop began this week with a foreboding anticipation of another field exercise. This time was Exercise MARSHAL STAR – the longest exercise to date: 4 days up on the austere terrain of Woodbury Common. The focus of this exercise would be practical navigation by day and night, interspersed with some field-craft such as stalking and patrolling skills.
2. Stalking was a particularly enjoyable serial, and takes a lot of skill and commitment. It involves constantly changing your camouflage to match the changing terrain whilst you carefully edge yourself into a position of cover from which to engage a target. There are observers trying to spot your movements and position. You must elude them by selecting the best covered routes and vegetation – then using slow, deliberate movements. At this stage, few of us were able to get close enough to engage the targets but we certainly learned a great deal about our trade. There will be plenty of opportunities to practice over the coming exercises.
3. The most rewarding serials were the navigation exercises at night. We had the opportunity to practice following a bearing and apply the pacing skills to measure distances we had learned over the past few weeks. We also consolidated these skills with new ones such as aiming off onto linear features, using attack points and boxing around difficult terrain. It was really satisfying that we were able to find checkpoints in the pitch dark using the skills we have been refining. The whole Troop managed to find every checkpoint which gave us great enthusiasm going forwards onto Exercise HUNTERS MOON which will be similar, but on Dartmoor.
4. This week really seemed to be a turning point for us, each of us able to take a more robust approach to the challenges of field-craft in austere conditions. The majority of the Troop are really starting to feel proud in their ability to soldier in difficult conditions, a factor that is helping us to bond and form a Troop identity. We’re almost a quarter of the way through training now and the military skills we are developing are really becoming enjoyable.