Week 4 on the path to becoming a Royal Marine Commando.
To start the week off our safety net of having ‘lumi tabs’ were no longer part of our everyday uniform. These are orange tabs that signify that a troop is in foundation. We are now starting to settle into block accommodation and as we are a small troop most rooms have 4 men in them. This has helped the troop bond and get to know the other lads in the section, and even more so the ones you share a room with who you iron alongside late into the night.
Week 4 was crammed with lots of weapons training, a weapon handling test to prove our competence, plenty of IMF, field craft lectures and Exercise FIRST STEP, our second night under ponchos. The exercise concentrated on teaching us how to administrate ourselves in the field and cooking rations. We also had another practise at the ‘wet and dry’ routine with a pleasant dip in Peter’s Pool. The morning of the exercise we had our first attempt at a kit muster, I think everyone was put on the famous ‘flank’ after our abysmal efforts! This didn’t dampen our morale and we were soon ready for a 4 mile march back with our Troop Commander. We were carrying 17lbs of weight, the beginning of load carrying…
Our week ended with the sad news that our current PTI was to be drafted elsewhere so could no longer take us for PT. Nevertheless we have been placed in the experienced hands another PTI and look forward to the challenges he will bring.
Week 5 started off with an introduction to our new PTI in the form of a 4 mile run along the local roads at 0700. Run over and after a quick dhobi we were in the classroom for a lecture on learning styles. We then conducted a quick change into our field rig, drew our weapons and loaded up the SV with stores and our bergans ahead of Exercise QUICK COVER. We marched up to Woodbury Common and after setting up the team tents we began our first lesson in camouflage and concealment which contained an amusing demonstration of what too little or too much camouflage looks like. Once the lessons were over we then marched to our harbour area and found ourselves in Peter’s Pool for a little wet and dry practise.
Tuesday started at 0450 with a full morning routine and kit muster. On completion we continued with our lessons in further camouflage and concealment and judging distance. After a short lunch we had a lesson on reacting to enemy fire which was our first introduction to blank firing and thoroughly enjoyed by all the troop. We then learnt such techniques as how to leopard crawl effectively with a rifle. The Troop Commander then gave us an introduction into how to establish a triangular harbour before we set up our own harbour and began sentry routines.
Wednesday started off similar to the day before but with more people passing the kit muster. The day consisted of an introduction to moving as pairs followed by a blank firing exercise which was the definite highlight of the exercise. Once all the stores had been packed away we had to get our webbing up to the weight of 27lbs for the march back to camp.
After a good breakfast on Thursday morning and a night’s sleep under a roof it was on with the normal working day. We spent it practising drill and PT in the gym in preparation for Families’ Day. We had a lecture in the church with the padre where we examined faith and also the church’s tea and biscuits. Once we had finished our lectures we went back to de-servicing our kit in preparation for an inspection.
Friday was the day the whole troop were looking forward to, Families’ Day. It started at 0500 to prepare everything for the arrival of our families. It was then off to the Parade Ground for a quick final practise before our families see our drill demonstration. The demonstration itself allowed us the opportunity to stitch up some of our family members by getting them to swap places with us and attempt some of the drill they had just seen under the DL’s watchful eye. We then went on to the gym to conduct an IMF session in front of our families, no pressure! Although not the most physically intense session (which we were expecting) we all worked hard on the movements and beats to impress those watching. On completion we then took our families to scran for a ‘mega hoofing’ pusser’s lunch and then showed them the accommodation to collect our leave passes, change into civvies and go on a long weekend leave!
Week 6 was the beginning of live firing and putting into practise all the weapon drills we have been taught. We also started our map reading and emergency first aid lectures. As a troop, we believe we’ve picked up map reading relatively well as most of the troop have done something similar prior to joining.
Monday was the first day back from our long weekend leave. Most returned with high spirits ready for the week but more importantly the 5 mile run in boots, map reading and IMF session. The multiple ‘phys’ sessions provided us with the jolt back to training that we were expecting.
Tuesday involved a series of lectures which proved testing and the majority of the troop lived up to the name of being ‘nods’. Some even managed to fall asleep standing! Among the lectures was the Unthinking Moment, a stark wake up to the realities and consequences of poor weapon handling which can result in a negligent discharge but more importantly seriously harm your ‘oppo’.
Wednesday was a day to remember as it was the first time for many that they had fired live rounds. After ‘dry’ firing to alleviate any ‘flapping’ likely to occur whilst on the point we conducted a series of grouping shots. On the whole the troop produced respectable results that hopefully we will carry over on to our Straight Point package.
Thursday consisted of more lectures, IMF and a swimming session. Having not been in the pool for a while we were reintroduced to hypoxic training and how much of a ‘hang out’ it can be. We finished the week with a field kit inspection before our deployment onto Ex MARSHALL STAR.
Overall a good week for 185 Troop where our ‘phys’ alongside general standards improved ahead of what we anticipate to be a busy week next week.
Exercise MARSHALL STAR is a three and a half day exercise that covers basic fieldcraft and soldiering skills. We covered fire control orders, observational skills, stalking, writing route cards and night navigation. As well as learning these new skills we also practised what we had previously been taught, especially with regard to kit musters and sentry positions.
The exercise began with an insertion ‘yomp’ onto Woodbury Common with a daysack and webbing. After everything was established in and around the team tent we had a chance for some ‘scran’ and a ‘wet’ before lectures began. We then headed to a potential harbour area, established our harbour and had the opportunity to ensure the wet part of ‘wet and dry’ was enforced.
The first morning on the exercise was our kit muster, inspected by our Section Commanders. On completion of the kit muster we had an introduction into stalking and how to do it effectively. We then proceeded to practise it by having to evade detection from two of the training team as we moved closer to their position and fire two shots at them without being seen.
The following day’s main focus was on navigation. We were taught how to write route cards so that we could effectively navigate ourselves without the need for constantly checking the map. We were then put into pairs and sent out on a night time navigation exercise. Once we had all returned it was daylight and so had to roll straight into another kit muster before our extraction ‘yomp’ back to camp.