181 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 10
1. With Easter leave bearing upon us and the Gym Pass Out complete, the start to Exercise HUNTERS MOON brought a mixture of excitement and apprehension. We had worked the Saturday, undertaking orienteering on Woodbury Common and fitting our respirators back at camp. The respirators had been particularly entertaining, especially regarding the one recruit who necessitated an extra large respirator for his extra large head! This was a pleasant distraction from the anticipation of what is known to be one of the more demanding exercises in Phase 1 – especially with the weather forecasted to be so inclement.
2. The weather did not disappoint and a wind driven deluge greeted us off the coaches arriving at Dartmoor. With Princetown being so high, the entire first three days promised to be spent engulfed in the cloud of a raging storm – our first taste of soldiering in inclement conditions. The reduced visibility also proved a real challenge to our new navigation skills but our bearings and pace counting remained true, allowing us to hit each checkpoint on the way to our harbour.
3. The following few days followed a cycle of navigation marches, one each day and one each night. As we progressed and attempted more challenging routes we had less and less input from our Section Cpls, until finally we were able to undertake the marches entirely independently, in small groups, at night with poor visibility. This was greatly rewarding, empowering us with the sense that we could begin to soldier and operate more autonomously. The weather made Dartmoor one giant quagmire, difficult and demoralising to negotiate. We kept up our spirits through cheerfulness in the face of adversity and it wasn’t long until the weather broke somewhat.
4. This was fortunate as the final day of the navigation phase entailed a sniper’s stalk to covertly approach and engage a target, and then a static map reading stance. Once completed, we set off on our long march into the survival phase. This began with a belt order speed march conducted at pace for 8 km before linking up with our kit in order to finish on a 10 km load carry into a secluded wood block. We were subsequently stripped of all kit and equipment other than our small survival tins before being dispersed into the woods to fend for ourselves against the elements and our hunger over the next 48 hours.
5. In our small groups we set about building densely thatched shelters with deflected fires. Being proactive with concurrent activity and initiative is the key to successful survival and to maintaining morale. We therefore concurrently collected firewood whilst setting snares and fishing lines, kept our fires fed and constantly foraged or sought to improve the shelters. The highlight was the arrival of the Mountain Leaders who furthered our survival education with demonstrations on the killing and preparation of chickens, fish and lamb. We each gutted and filleted our quarry before returning to the woods to forage the vegetables which had been distributed around the area by the training team. Then we boiled up a true feast – 24 hours of frenzied activity without food made this meal the most deserved and delicious we had maybe ever tasted!
6. We continued to survive and prosper from our surroundings until the final morning which began with an early load carry to the pick up point. A bumpy sleep in the four-tonners ensued before a busy 24 hours of equipment de-service prior to our well deserved Easter break. Ten weeks in for 181 Troop with some short respite before continuing our quest for the elusive Green Beret.