Troop Diary weeks 26 and 27 (Final Exercise)
Finally a landmark day in recruit training had arrived!! The day we receive our cap comforters, the woollen hat that is synonymous with the commandos of World War 2. For us it means that we are soldiers and that we have graduated into the Commando phase of training. It also sets us apart from the rest of recruits in training. But before we could receive them and wear them, there was the small matter of a little 6 mile speed march. This proved to be a lot more difficult than expected as the Troop had not done much running in the weeks since bottom field pass out, but with a nicely timed water break and a few downhill’s the Troop made it in to receive their cap comforters from their corporals.
The rest of the day was spent in lectures, to prepare for Tuesdays training, which was to take place in the infamous Foggin Tor.
Foggin Tor strikes fear in the hearts of recruits for 2 reasons, the first is that it involves abseiling and climbing in an old abandoned quarry filled with freezing cold water, the second is that it is run by the ML’s, which places you entirely at their mercy for the day, any mistakes, loafing the ML’s will thrash you until your eyeballs bleed, or so the nod vine would have you believe!!
This actually turned out to be a great day as the Troop performed well and stayed switched on. We climbed up small cliff faces using the techniques taught to us by the ML’s and then abseiled back down. Some of the quarry walls were as high as 30m. Before lunch we were introduced to the Lungathon, which is, as the name suggests, a lung busting race between the sections around the quarry combining climbing, abseiling and sheer all out sprinting, in an effort to avoid a forfeit. Thankfully our section didn’t come last as the loosing section had to perform a long jump across a bog hole that Jonathan Edwards would have done well to get across.
Wednesday was quite an easy chilled out day, which enabled the Troop to get some last minute admin done before setting off on Final Ex the following day.
Thursday morning and the high of earning the coveted cap comforter on Monday was nowhere to be seen as this was the day Ex Final Thrust began,
Our first mission of the exercise was, as a Troop, to attack a farmhouse which was part of an old lime works. 3 Section was to be fire support. We were dropped off by coach to a lay-by some 4 km from our objective. After Troop battle prep we yomped into the FRV. We took the farmyard before nightfall and harboured up in a field. So far so good, everything had gone well and there was a sense of achievement among the Troop, we were starting to feel like real soldiers. Two sections were sent out to perform ambushes on known enemy positions.
The next morning we were given details of our next task, we would be heading to Oakhampton where we would begin one of our big yomps. Yomping may be the bread and butter of the marines but that doesn’t make it easy. The distance was only about 12 km but we seemed to be struggling a bit as a Troop, the Corporals were not happy with the pace but after a few hours we made it to our harbour destination.
Over the next few days we attacked different targets honing our MUC skills with the different sections cycling through the different roles of assault, fire support and support. The attacks became swifter and more precise with the different sections effectively communicating with each other and the section commander.
On Sunday morning we packed our Bergen’s well as this was the day we would attempt a killer yomp, famous in Nod lore as being a bit of a Nod slayer.
This is a 22 km yomp across Dartmoor to the Scout Hut, passing through Princetown. We had heard tales of some troops taking 14 or 15 hours to complete it, but the mighty 172 dug out blind and beasted it, completing it in under 6 hours, including a polaroid moment at the summit of the infamous Great Miss Tor. The training team rewarded us with Kit Kats and bottles of coke, which after 4 days in the field, felt like winning the lottery.
After some more section and troop attacks it was time to leave Dartmoor and head to our floating FOB HMS Brecon. This was the highlight of the trip for many of the recruits as it offered some relaxing time in comfortable surroundings with an endless supply of hot water!! It wasn’t all down time however as we performed a cliff assault in the early hours of Wednesday morning. This involved teaming up with the ML’s who put the ropes in place, and with the LC’s who brought us to the cliff location using a combination of LCVP, ORC’s and Zodiacs.
The Final assault was to take out enemy in Scraesdon Fort, which was built in 1859. The attack took place at night with all soldiers equipped with helmet mounted Night Vision Goggles. There was quite a lot of adrenaline flowing as we climbed the many steps leading up from the catacombs where we had broken into the fort. Using the skills and drills we had been taught and playing on the previous missions and tasks, the different sections combined to systematically clear the different rooms in the fort and complete our objectives.
It had been a good exercise with the recruits evolving into soldiers. Onwards and upwards and bring on the commando tests.