Week 8 started furiously, with rounds immediately post Ex MARSHAL STAR on the Monday morning. This was in preparation for OC’s Rounds later in the week. Standards were high as there was a flurry of activity. Despite the troop’s efforts they were still not up to the required standard so there was further dusting, mopping and polishing to be done. This set the tone for the rest of the week with continuous inspections in anticipation of the Company Commander’s visit, a major event during Phase 1 training.
The rest of the week involved various first aid and navigation lectures to teach the necessary skills required as a Royal Marine. We learned skills such as how to take a bearing, convert that bearing to a grid bearing (for maps) and how to find out where we are if we become lost. These are assessed during week 9’s first aid exam and Ex HUNTERS MOON next week.
Towards the end of the week we conducted our interval drill pass out. This is an assessment to demonstrate that we understand all the drill movements and are able to perform them to a good standard. After passing this we progress on to arms drill during week 9’s drill periods.
Week 9 was an exciting yet nerve wracking week for all of us as we had our Gym Passout. Those that are successful can go on to the ‘Bottom Field’. As well as Gym Passout the week would also be busy with first aid lectures and exams.
The first test of the week was our first aid written exam. The troop has varying confidence with first aid as some come from a background of first aid related jobs whilst others had no prior experience. As a whole we were confident with the outcome due to the lectures given to us by the Royal Navy staff.
Wednesday, the day of our Gym Passout, was a busy one as it was also the day of our first aid practical assessment. To that end, we started the day with revision sessions for first aid, making sure that we were confident with the assessments that were going to take place in the afternoon. Then the big moment arrived, Gym Passout. This was the culmination of all the IMF sessions we had been through in the eight and a half weeks of being at CTC. The troop performed well but unfortunately we let ourselves down slightly in the smaller parts of the test. Altogether though we were pleased to achieve a high superior score, narrowly missing out on a distinction.
With Gym Passout complete, the day was not yet over. Next we had to pass our first aid practical assessment which involved a number of stations for us to work around, each one presenting a different first aid situation. These included; an unconscious casualty who was not breathing, an unconscious casualty who was breathing, a conscious casualty with either burns or lacerations and finally a combat casualty who would be missing at least one limb and have other major wounds to his body. It was challenging but the whole troop still managed to pass.
The final test of the week was our Battle Swim Test, taking place on Friday. This involved each of us to jump off the 3m board wearing uniform, webbing and rifle. We then had to swim to a marker in the pool and back, hand our webbing and rifle to an ‘oppo’ out of the water without touching the sides and then tread water for 3 minutes. The troop has a varied swim ability so unfortunately not all the troop managed to pass, but they will be given several other opportunities. These assessments were small hurdles we had jumped with plenty to follow in the coming weeks.
Week 10 began with much anticipation as to whether the stories about Ex HUNTERS MOON were true or not. Apparently the exercise included a 60km ‘yomp’ and a white noise interrogation by the MLs. With our bergens packed and rifles ready we were as prepared as we could have been. Everyone was happy to get a coach to Dartmoor as this allowed us to chill out for an hour and get into the ‘state of mind’… .
The bus got into Princetown and we disembarked ready for our insertion ‘yomp’. We had prepared our route cards the night before and were confident about the type of terrain we would be covering. We reached our last checkpoint shortly after with aching shoulders, but felt good about our first exposure to Dartmoor. Luckily the weather was on our side and we were able to enjoy perfect navigation conditions, sun shine and blue skies. Once we had arrived at the Team Shelter we were given some time to ‘scran up’ and establish our harbour. We then set about preparing our route cards for that night’s navigation exercise. That night we got an appreciration for that “warm and fuzzxy” feeling everyone talks about as soon as we had found what we were looking for by following our bearing in the night.
The next morning saw kit musters followed by another day time navigation exercise. The best part of this was reaching one of the highest points on Dartmoor and looking out at the amazing scenary on a cracking summer’s day. Once this had been completed, whilst having ‘scran’, we completed another set of route cards ahead of the second night navigation exercise. Overall it went well and we managed to finish it with time to spare on our two hour limit.
Day three was when we completed the stalk. This saw the Training Team on the high ground looking out for us as we crawled through the undergrowth, fully ‘cammed’ out, trying to reach them without being seen. Whist that was happening the other half of the troop were conducting a static map stance with the Troop Commander. Once that was over we prepared for the ‘yomp’ back to Princetown to begin the survival phase of the exercise. Whilst we were preparing to set off we say 40 Commando doing their Unit 30 miler just for fun! They all looked completely unfazed. The extraction ‘yomp’ however was one of the hardest things we had done but on reaching the end we gained a massive sense of achievement, being able to push through the pain barrier and keep going.
The survival phase which followed was one of the best parts of recruit training so far. The lean-to our Section had made was that good that it was commented by the Troop Commander as being the Hilton of shelters and the Troop Sergeant referred to it as Steptoe’s back garden. As an ex-butcher, I was in my element when it came to gutting and skinning a chicken ahead of cooking it. It tasted exactly like rubber once it had been boiled but was one of the most welcoming meals I’ve had.
The final day of the exercise was our extraction from the survival area. It was a brisk pace and by the end everyone was ‘hanging out’. It was therefore a much welcomed sight of relief when we saw the cooked breakfast laid on for us and the transport turn up to take us back to camp. Ex HUNTERS MOON was one of my favourite exercises and by the time we reached camp we were all in high spirits, looking forward to a hot shower and a long weekend!