183 Troop Diary
The Shock of capture. March 3rd 2014 saw the arrival of 35 new hopefuls of 183 Troop at CTCRM, and it did not disappoint. Week one was every bit as stressful and demanding as promised.
Upon being introduced to the infamous Foundation Block, which would become our home for the next two weeks, our first task was to attest and swear our allegiance to the Queen, a very real moment for us all.
The time in Foundation Block is a ‘break-down and re-build’ process. Our training team are our surrogate parents and are tasked o begin our transition from lazy, unkempt civilians into sleep-deprived press-up machines. Be it the issue of seemingly endless amounts of kit, the introduction to drill and Initial Military Fitness (IMF), or the impeccable high personal standards we must uphold, the first week was a shock to the system to say the least!
However, regardless of how much of a learning curve we encountered, morale was high as we took our first steps towards that green beret.
Recruit HUCKLE, 183 Tp.
After a short but sweet bit of free-time over the weekend, the troop was thrown straight back in to the 100mph pace of life we had yet to get used to. However, during week 2 we would be experiencing our first exercise, Exercise EARLY NIGHT, and we would finally be leaving the Foundation Block.
Ex EARLY NIGHT is an introduction to field conditions, sentry and the dreaded ‘wet and dry’ routine. Wet and Dry involves getting one’s kit soaked through and only getting in to dry kit when getting in to our sleeping bag and poncho. Only to then get back in to the soul-sapping wet kit for sentry or for the morning. Conducted on camp, our first objective was to erect a poncho multiple times under the watchful eyes of our newly appointed Section Corporals. Once satisfied with our efforts, we were marched over to the re-gain tank to receive our Wet and Dry lecture. Stood on the edge of the tank, our Troop Commander displayed a backwards ‘swan-dive’ that Tom Daley would have been proud of. Once out and squared his kit away, we knew our turn was coming. The water temperature (‘icers’) took our breath away and from one un-named individual, a high-pitched “Help Me!” could be heard, although everyone strenuously denies it was them. Meanwhile, one of our Scottish recruits could be heard calmly saying, “Cold? This is nothing…” Once displaying our ‘cheerfulness in the face of adversity’, we were able to carry on with the rest of the exercise.
Back at our harbour position we were back in to dry kit for a couple hours sleep, only to be woken, one by one, for an hours sentry which meant back in to our wet kit. Splendid!
Once back to camp the troop concentrated on preparing to leave Foundation at the end of the week. However, not everything went to plan and as a troop, we had wrongly placed a piece of kit so had to re-organise our lockers for re-inspection on the Saturday morning. Thankfully things went a lot better the second time around.
Two weeks down, thirty to go. The troop is beginning to gel and friendships are forming through shared discomfort. Foundation over, we are looking forward to week three with eagerness.
Recruit HUCKLE, 183 Tp.
Week 3 saw 183 Troop settled in to K Block and under the constant gaze of our Section Corporals. Having already been introduced to gym fitness, the gloves were off and the intensity built with the introduction of rope climbing, which proved a challenge for the whole troop. Along with all the new words of command being taught, it was no surprise that we made mistakes. No matter, we were corrected by the ever helpful and sympathetic Physical Training Instructors!
Along with drill, which has been an enjoyable aspect of training, especially when a couple of lads impressively forgot the difference between left and right, the troop undertook a lot of weapon handling lectures in preparation for an upcoming assessment. When previously the most dangerous thing in our possession has been an iron, it’s nice to be reminded of the soldiering aspects to training every once in a while!
The troop’s personalities are beginning to flourish and its refreshing to have such a diverse range of lads all committed to the same cause, with the same amount of enthusiasm as yourself. Week 3 finished with our longest period of ‘Shore Leave’ to date, which was spent socialising over a burger and a drink. Or two.
Recruit HUCKLE, 183 Troop.
Week four began with Ex FIRST STEP. This included basic field administration, which entails preparing rations to eat, preparing ‘Bivvies’ to sleep, and washing and shaving during the ‘morning routine’. After this we had a few more basic lectures on the duties of a sentry, and why things are seen. Following this, we moved in to our harbour position, set up our bivvies and built-up our sentry positions.
In the morning, we had a kit muster which most of us failed. A kit muster involves laying out the entire contents of your Bergen, cleaned and waterproofed, ready for inspection by the Section Corporals. Our failure resulted in some ‘minor’ remedial physical training. After ‘hanging-out’ throughout the 4 mile march back to camp, we de-serviced all our kit and weapons, which took a very long time. Hopefully we will become quicker as training progresses.
PT in the gym became more intense as Families Day drew closer. This included more of the dreaded camp circuits, on top of the three gym circuits we had to survive!
On the Friday, we had our weapons handling tests, for which we had had plenty of practice. Everyone passed… eventually. We then used the weekend to prepare ourselves and our equipment for Ex QUICK COVER.
Recruit DRAKE, 183 Troop.
Week five started with Ex QUICK COVER. This consisted of three days and two nights in the field. Unlike previous exercises, we practiced wet and dry on both nights, making the whole experience a little less comfortable but still bearable. The exercise consisted of lectures on why things are seen, how not to be seen and how to move whilst remaining unseen. We also used blank rounds for the first time when covering basic fire and manoeuvre, fighting across open heathland against static wooden targets. The exercise finished with another march back to camp with our weapon, webbing and day sack.
Once we had returned from the field and de-serviced our kit, the final preparations for families day could commence. This included extra tuition on rope-climbing, so we could put on the best display possible in the gym.
Once families day had arrived, everyone in the troop was ready, but everyone was nervous also. This showed, with several minor mistakes during drill, much to our families’ amusement. Despite this, the troop proved themselves quite capable in the gym, where we showed-off our rope climbing and make-fast abilities. After the gym, all the troop had to do was a bit of final administration and then we were free to meet our families and we were away for a long weekend.
Recruit DRAKE, 183 Troop.
Once we had returned from our long weekend off, it was straight back into training. PT continued as usual with the exception of a 5-mile run, the last mile-and-a-half of which was timed. After this we were praised for our efforts – the slowest time was less than 9 minutes 30 seconds, which is apparently a minute faster than the average pass time.
During lectures, we focussed primarily on map reading, in preparation for Ex MARSHALL STAR, but we also covered more weapon handling. On the Thursday of this week, we had a whole day at the 25 metre firing range. This included tuition from the marksmanship team at CTCRM, as well as from our Section Corporals. This consisted of firing at targets whilst in the standing, kneeling, sitting and prone positions.
Once we had finished with the live firing, we de-serviced our weapons and then prepared the accommodation for inspection the following morning. The Friday before Easter Leave consisted of more cleaning and administration to get the rooms up to the required standard and then one final map reading lecture before we were secured for two weeks Easter Leave.
Recruit DRAKE, 183 Troop.
Back to Lympstone!
First day back and in to the field. Surprisingly, everybody was in high spirits and looking forward to the next four days to be spent on Woodbury Common. The exercise was called Ex MARSHALL STAR and covered navigating by day and night, learning how to stalk an enemy position across difficult ground and, as always when on exercise, plenty of sleep…
During the days we consolidated our class room knowledge in a field environment, using our new skills to map read and get a better understanding of map-to-ground and plotting bearings. This was tested by a night navigation covering the ground we had been using throughout the week. Walking through gorse bushes in the middle of the night was an interesting experience, even if you think you k now where you are!
We were given the task of stalking a fixed target, and had the opportunity to fire two blank rounds, with the aim of remaining hidden at all times. The longer you could remain unsighted, the more points you would collect – firing both shots without being seen would mean full marks. This sounded easy, until the training team explained that next to the target would be two highly trained, eagle eyed Royal Marines with binoculars, looking for the slightest of movements. Or in our case, blatantly obvious human-shaped bushes. The ground was hard going and the stalk physically hard, but the general consensus was everybody enjoyed the chance to do some actual soldiering!
The end of the exercise and the end of a good week, brought on some tired faces and sore bodies, but also a feeling of accomplishment and high morale throughout the troop.