193 Troop started week 17 in high spirit after performing well on exercise First Base and then having a long weekend where some of the guys managed to travel home to see friends and family. The week started with an exercise on camp designed to test our voice procedure when using radios. It is important that each recruit is able to use the correct keywords and phrases when operating radio systems. We split into 4-man fire teams and set off around the camp, making our way to 10 different checkpoints. Each checkpoint had a message that we had to deliver to zero (headquarters) over the radio, making sure that we used the correct keywords and delivered the message clearly. These messages ranged from calling in an ammunition re-supply, to giving a grid reference of an enemy location. The troop performed well, with each recruits voice procedure being up to standard.
We had our first fitting for our blues and lovats on Monday afternoon. Each recruit tried on both outfits, and for only a moment, pictured themselves on the drill square passing out as Kings Squad. However, we was brought back down to reality with a double session on Bottom Field. This consisted of a full run-through of bottom field pass-out, and then a circuit around the assault course to finish us off.
Tuesday started where Monday finished, on bottom field for a triple period. The PTI’s gave us an interesting warm up, a game of the playground favourite ‘stuck in the mud’, which must have looked hilarious to the people on the passing trains. We spent the rest of the day in the classroom and on the top field learning ambush techniques which we would be using on an upcoming exercise, and then packing our kit for exercise Viking Break.
193 Troop moved to Bovington on Wednesday where we started our Viking training package. A Viking is an all-terrain armoured vehicle used to transport Royal Marines or offer armoured support to troops on the ground. We moved into Stanley barracks and had lectures about the Royal Marines Viking Squadron. We then had a few lectures about the vehicle itself, and was able to have a look around one for the first time. Our day finished at 1600, which allowed us to have an early night, as Thursday was a day most of us was apprehensive about, with ‘dunker drills’ and the underwater ‘rat race’ on the agenda.
We woke early on Thursday morning and got our swimming gear together. After arriving at the pool on the barracks, we started our Shark re-breather tests. The Shark re-breather allows an operative to have an additional 3-4 big breaths underwater, and is used as an aid to escaping submerged vehicles. The session consisted of 4 tests: half submerging the re-breather and checking we could use it, fully submerging the re-breather and checking we could use it, fully submerging ourselves for 45 seconds (with the instructors holding us under) and checking we could still use the re-breather confidently, and then the final test was the underwater ‘rat race’. This consisted of pulling ourselves along a zig-zag of submerged ropes without coming out of the water. Once everyone passed this test, we moved to Yeovilton to commence dunker drills.
After having the initial safety briefs and performing another ‘rat race’ at 3 meters deep this time, we started the dunker drills. These drills re to ensure that when on operations, if we are ever in a vehicle that rolls and fills with water, we are able to remain calm and get each operative out safely. Seeing the unit in the pool, and the small window that six of us at a time would have to escape from, I have to admit that it was a little daunting. We would have to perform 4 different escape drills. The first 2 are performed with the lights on, and the unit remains upright for the first, and rolls 90 degrees for the second. The final 2 drills are performed with lights off, and the unit rolls 90degrees on the third drill, and approximately 120degrees on the final drill. The final drill was the toughest of them all, especially when you become very disorientated and can’t find the exit window as myself and one recruit discovered. However all of 193 Troop passed, which we found was a great result as some troops lose recruits at this stage.
We spent Friday being driven around in the Viking vehicles, practicing embarking/disembarking drills, and then the vehicle went ‘swimming’ on the pond. As the vehicle moved across the pond, we was told to exit via the roof hatch and sit on the roof for a few minutes. This was a surreal experience, being sat on a floating armoured vehicle.
After moving back to Lympstone Friday afternoon, we received our orders for exercise Second Empire. Saturday morning was spent learning new manouvers in RMCC, and then we had our long awaited water polo match , which was a reward for having a good week 9 gym pass out.. The final score differs, depending on which recruit you speak to. Some say the score was 6-5, however this is wrong, as it was definitely 5-5.
Week 18 started with the normal pre exercise rush for 193 troop loading all the kit needed for the exercise onto the S.V’s along with all of our own kit. As well as this we also had an hour and 45 minutes of bottom field to squeeze in that morning. Apart from the fact that it started to snow the session went very well for the troop so the pti’s didn’t make us do a regain over the tank, which was completely frozen over.
The exercise started with another trip in a Sea King helicopter. After everyone was flown over to Brautnon Burrows in north Devon we set up the team tents and troop harbor and we were left alone for the night, which came as a surprise to the troop. Tuesday morning started early as always on exercise and after morning routine we went straight into section attacks, this was something we were all very exited about. We continued to spend the day in our sections patrolling around the sand dunes then coming under attack from a real enemy. We would need to use what we had been taught to get ourselves into the correct positions to send a fire team (half the section) to assault and destroy the enemy with the other fire team in the section offering fire support. Apart from being extremely hard work everyone thought it was one of the best days we’ve had on exercise. That evening carried on with our normal night routine with sentries posted around the clock to protect us from any enemy patrols however the weather conditions were not on our side and as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky the temperatures dropped rapidly to freezing and a thick layer of frost formed on every piece of kit we had, including freezing the top part of the water in our black water bottles. Wednesday was much the same as Tuesday but we took what we learnt as a section and scaled it up to troop level, learning how to use the higher man power of the troop to help take out a larger enemy force and also adding in a troop headquarters to the movement which included our Troop Commander and Sergeant. That night we planned and carried out an ambush on an enemy location which was particularly challenging for the troop- having to lay out on top of a sand dune on the ground without moving for several hours while we waited for the enemy to travel down the road. It was absolutely freezing.
We finished off the exercise in the early hours of Friday morning with a full scale troop attack after the area had been recced the day before by half of the troop. We woke at 0200 on Friday morning to have troop orders. We then prepared our kit and headed out at around 0500 after carrying out rehearsals, H hour (the hour at which the attack begins)
Was at 0700 or first light. With two section as fire support on top of a high sand dune the other two sections went to work clearing the four buildings as quickly and as aggressively as possible once all four positions were clear we all re grouped for a troop reorg.
After re-loading all the kit back onto the s.vs to be brought back to camp we were flown as a troop on a Chinook for the first time to Woodbury common for a 6 mile load carry back to camp which turned into more of a run, which was quite a shock to a few of the boys.
All in all exercise Second Empire was the most exiting and action packed exercise we have been on to date and we are now looking forward to week 19 also known as crash week, an intensely physical week which will prepare us for bottom field pass out on the Monday of week 20