181 Troop Week 29 & 30

1. Having completed the final tactical exercise of training, we have progressed onto tactical live firing in the field. The Commando Tests have also started to bare upon our minds as we near the culmination of recruit training but before we could contemplate the tests, two weeks of intense field firing at Dartmoor was our immediate focus. The first week of field firing trains and develops the battle drills and infantry fighting mechanics we have been learning at Section level. The second week moves into more complex Troop level manoeuvres.

2. We started by rehearsing our fire and manoeuvre drills, practising without live rounds to revise the techniques at Fire Team level. Soon we were fighting as a Section with live rounds. Darting between cover at speed, heavily camouflaged, to minimise the opportunity to engage us; we would then build up a firing position and accurately engage our targets, always in small groups before changing position to avoid return fire. As we deployed smoke grenades, and called to each-other to ensure momentum/coordination, it soon became apparent that the skills we have been developing are becoming well refined. Before long, we were confidently creating our own plans, dropping off firers for deception and using innovative approach routes.

3. Towards the end of the first week we progressed into casualty evacuation exercises and also practised breaking contact – to disengage from a fire fight with an enemy. Then we got the opportunity to fire the Under-slung Grenade Launcher, using chalk-marker rounds to fire at increasingly distant targets. It’s a very satisfying weapon to fire because the round is slow and therefore uses a high trajectory that must be significantly aimed off for wind. This means that you can watch your round all the way to the target.

4. Following a weekend of leave, we were each enthused with a renewed energy from the excitement of the first week, and now very aware that in two week’s time, we would be genuine Royal Marine Commandos. We therefore deployed onto the second week of our field firing with an enthusiasm to further demonstrate and develop the personal infantry skills we had shown during the first week of field firing.

5. The purpose of Field Firing 2 is to progress from the Section manoeuvres of the first week into Troop level tactics. We made best use of the first day to again refresh our skills and conduct some blank fire training to consolidate our execution of Troop level tactics. We were already well conversant with the mechanics of Troop attacks, manoeuvre, advances and withdrawals from our many weeks on tactical field exercises. Now we would just need to adapt to executing these tasks with live rounds instead of blank ones.

6. The second day was a progression of the live run-throughs of Section assaults conducted during Field Firing 1 by using more challenging terrain with more complex scenarios and larger objectives. This allowed us to get deep amongst the vegetation and streams to tactically approach our targets, breaking out with smoke to assault the objective from innovative angles. We then continued the training under the cover of darkness using our specialist night equipment and pyrotechnic illumination.

7. By the Wednesday, we were chomping at the bit to progress into the Troop level activity. Following quick battle orders, we set off on an advance to contact. We swept through wave after wave of enemy targets, assaulting each position, to then occupy good ground for the suppression of the next. Each time, we would send a Section one way as a deception whilst another would covertly approach under cover, and protected by fire support. We crawled under bridges through swollen streams, around walls, rocks, tree’s – anything that would allow a good approach to the enemy. Once the enemy were beaten back, we withdrew step by step with fire until we were in a secure location. All that was left was an immensely enjoyable night attack, under the illumination of pyrotechnics. The atmosphere of tracer and sound was enhanced by the glow of light on the wet ground and stench of cordite – we truly felt like Commandos!

8. With all training completed by the Wednesday we were able to enjoy an annual combat marksmanship test with the Light Machine Gun on the Thursday prior to cleaning down all the ranges we had fired on and returning to CTCRM. Friday was a quick check of our rifle zeroing on the range and preparation for the upcoming Commando Tests – the first of which, Endurance Course, will begin on Saturday.


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