“Ready, Steady – Admin!”
“It’s only thirty-two weeks lads” was the phrase passing around the dinner table at ‘9 o’clockers’ on the evening of the 28th of April. This was to be the beginning of Royal Marines Commando training for 185 Troop. Training begins for all recruits at Foundation Centre or simply ‘Foundation’ as it is known. Foundation consists of the first three weeks of training, two of which are spent living together as a troop in a 60 man room – it doesn’t take long before friendships are forged under these conditions. The third week sees the troop moving into 6 man ‘grots’ providing they pass the final inspection at the end of week two. The first evening you are introduced to your troop Drill Leader (DL), he becomes a pertinent character in a recruit’s early life as he is both your mum and your dad. He teaches you the very basic skills and drills required to function as a Royal Marines recruit.
A tradition the Royal Marines has adopted from its naval heritage is cleanliness of the highest standards. Cleaning is an art every Royal Marine must master – whether cleaning his kit, grot, weapon or himself. Foundation seeks to instil this passion for sparkling rooms and crisply A4 folded clothes – only perfection is accepted. During the days that followed in week one the troop’s DL expertly taught us the famous ‘Globe and Laurelling’ (folding clothing to A4 size which is then measured using the Royal Marines’ magazine, the Globe and Laurel). These lessons would take place in small instalments throughout the week, combined with lectures and introductory ‘phys’ with our Troop PTI. His presence as a PTI can only be described by matching him next to the tallest recruit in our troop (6ft, 6) who, standing next to our PTI, looks like a figurine. As the workload increased and sleep became something of the past, laughing at your ‘oppo’s’ nickname given to him by the DL provided some much needed cheerfulness in the face of adversity.
The first weekend arrived and we were ready for a few hours ‘ashore’ in town to relax, phone home and collect any essential kit we were missing. Week two saw the DL’s already exacting standards for our lockers increase – this invariably involved the rearrangement of an individual’s locker and lots of press ups! As the week continued we learned rope climbing, had longer IMF sessions with the PTI and the dreaded camp circuit, a lung bursting sprint around camp in around 3 minutes 15 seconds. The highlight of week two however was our first experience of the field and conducting ‘wet and dry’ routine. After a demonstration from our Troop Commander, who jumped into the regain tank with slick efficiency and continued to conduct the wet and dry drills. After observing the Troop Commander we threw ourselves into the regain tank to get wet and sodden. There was much laughter as some of the troop failed to address the Troop Commander correctly in their eagerness to get out and so had to endure a little longer in the water. Better still was when one of the troop found out that asking questions like “Corporal, how deep is the tank?” generally results in the response “why don’t you find out!”. All provided much needed morale for the evening’s evolution of wet and dry sentry routine in the harbour. When we returned to Foundation the DL showed us the correct way to clean and de-service our sodden, filthy kit.
The next goal for 185 Troop was to pass Friday’s final ‘grot’ and locker inspection. When Friday morning arrived it was characterised by a frenzied bunch of recruits dusting, brushing, polishing and mopping. The inspection was with our DL and the head of Foundation. We passed the inspection however not to the DL’s standards, therefore the troop had a room change and re-inspection later that evening. On observing this evolution one would’ve seen boots, berets and bergens flying in the air around a group of recruits running as fast as possible with ironing boards and bed sheets stuffed into their shorts. This was to prove that even when we think we’ve done enough we can always work harder and improve our standards. The Royal Marines aim for perfection and then some. Week three saw us placed into the care of our training team, split into our 6-man rooms in our sections where we finally met our Section Commanders. During the week we were inspected by them, instructed by them in rifle lessons and received an interview at the end of the week to discuss our progress. In addition to this the PTI increased the intensity of camp circuits, IMF and swimming workouts. We were rewarded at the weekend with our Saturday afternoon off and Sunday to relax and prepare for the rigors of week 4.