Weeks 11 and 12 were our two week live firing package at Straightpoint Ranges. The package was led by the Training Team and assisted by the Combat Marksmanship Team. Over the two weeks we covered a lot, moving from basic firing positions to Close Quarter Battle (CQB) shoots.
After we had zeroed our weapons to make sure they were firing where we were aiming, we conducted a series of shoots at various ranges at a static target. We then progressed on to targets which popped up at different distance and fell down if we hit them.
To progress onto the next stage of firing we had to complete the Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT) where we had the opportunity to earn the marksmanship badge. Some of the troop got some very good scores and just under half earned the marksmanship badge .Either side of time spent on the range we conducted troop ‘phys’, preparing us for Bottom Field. In particular we were taught and practised regains on the ropes where you have to dangle on the rope by arms before swinging yourself back on top of it. We also practised fireman’s carries. Luckily the weather was very good so once our weapons were clean we could then continue to improve our tan.
The package ended with a CQB shoot, learning to conduct hammer and controlled pair shots. This was done at the 30m range, moving as close as 10m to the target. This was particularly enjoyable and concluded what has so far been the most enjoyable 2 weeks of training.
Week 13 saw 185 Troop finally return to CTC after a week on Dartmoor and 2 weeks at Straightpoint Ranges. This week we got our first exposure to CS gas during our chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) training, our first time on the Bottom Field and Ex BAPTIST WALK in preparation for our Phase 1 assessment. Bottom Field is the assault course located on at the bottom of the camp by the train station and it lived up to its reputation of being a ‘hang out’, the benefits of which were felt for days later.
Our exposure to CS gas, known as tear gas outside the military, whilst wearing our CBRN suits gave us the ‘warm and fuzzy’ that the suits worked. We were able to immerse ourselves in it without any effects. Hever when we took the respirators off things went south. Normally there is competition amongst the troop over who is the fittest, in the chamber this changed to who could get the most words out before coughing and spluttering our way to fresh air.
Ex BAPTIST WALK was a practise exercise for our Phase 1 assessment exercise, BAPTIST RUN. It involved various fieldcraft stances, a night navigation and kit muster. It gave us a good idea as to what to expect come the actual assessment.
Overall week 13 was a good week that gave us more experiences to add to the growing pile.
Week 14 started off with a 4 mile speed march with 21 pounds in our webbing and a weapon. Speed marching is moving as a body of men from one destination to another. The reason why we do it is to get used to running as a group and appreciate the pace when carry some weight. Everyone passed and then it was straight back to camp, shower and get our kit ready to deploy on Ex BAPTIST RUN, our Phase 1 pass or fail exercise. We got to the training area, set up the equipment and rolled straight into our first test.
Each day consisted of a series of assessments; an observation stance, where we had to pick out military items hidden in the undergrowth from a distance, a map reading stance, a sniper stalk where we had to sneak to within 200m of a target and fire at it, fire control orders, target indication, night navigation and then a kit muster. Everyone worked hard on the exercise, contending with the summer heat on top of the assessments. Before we knew it we were packing our kit to weigh 46 pounds ready to do the Combat Fitness Test, an 8 mile march back to camp with our rifles. This was one of the hardest parts of the exercise and everyone had to ‘dig out blind’ to complete it, but after a gruelling 2 hours we were back on camp. We then had the afternoon to clean our weapons and prepare for our post exercise kit inspection Thursday morning. We all had a good inspection which was followed by an introduction to signals ahead of Phase 2.
The week ended early on Friday morning where we proceeded to go on 3 week’s summer leave which couldn’t have come sooner for 185 Troop.
After 3 weeks of summer leave it was fair to say morale was low on returning to the gates of CTC. Everyone found it hard to be back, but after ‘spinning leave dits’ with the lads it was back into the swing of things with an early morning locker inspection. We also had a bottom field session Monday morning where it was evident that 3 weeks of minimal ‘phys’ had taken its toll. Everyone had forgotten what it felt like to be ‘goosed’ around the assault course and it was certainly a wake up from three weeks sleeping, eating and bronzing.
The rest of the week was spent on camp. We had lectures about tactical fieldcraft which we would put into practise on Ex FIRST BASE at week 16. Alongside this we got our drill kit ready for our Phase 1 passout at the end of the week.
Friday was a good day. We had our week 15 Arms Drill passout which everyone passed. This progressed onto our Phase One Passout which the OC attended to give out the troop awards. These included best overall recruit in Phase 1, PT superior certificates and the sections were awarded their ‘white tabs’, small white markers worn on our uniform to indicate the top two recruits per section.
After the prize giving we were handed our leave passes and went home for another long weekend. Overall week 15 was a quiet week mainly focused on fieldcraft theory before we employ it next week on Ex FIRST BASE.
185 Troop Week 16
This week was the beginning of our Phase 2 training. On Monday we had several lessons on section-level battle drills, patrolling and constructing observations posts (OPs). As the Training Team stated during Phase 1, the pace is now rapidly picking up as we start to learn the art of soldiering. Tuesday we received a set of deployment orders from the Troop Commander before deploying on Ex FIRST BASE.
Everything we were taught in the classroom at the start of the week we now put into practise in ‘the field’. We learned how to conduct close-target recce (CTR) patrols, crossing over obstacles and all round defence drills. We were under the instruction of our Section Corporals, and when they were satisfied we moved on to basic break contact drills – what to do when you come under effective enemy fire. Throughout the nights we were conducting CTRs on enemy positions and reporting any activity back to the HQ. If we weren’t patrolling we were busy building up a covert OP, overlooking enemy forces. All the information we gained we then passed up our chain of command.
This was the first time we used the Personal Role Radio (PRR) and other communications equipment which meant that talking to one another was significantly easier. It did however expose weaknesses in our voice procedure (‘VP’) which the Training Team were keen to emphasise; “too many Hollywood movies…”.
The extraction from the exercise was a five mile speed march back to camp which the whole troop, despite their best efforts, found very difficult. This was a sharp reminder that in a matter of months we will be running 9 miles as part of one of our Commando Tests and that although we are fit, we’re still not quite there yet.