Like every other week, week four was packed with lectures, lessons and plenty of phys.
However, this week was a little different as we had lost power of the ‘lumi tabs’ (an orange strip worn on the rank slide to indicate we were very junior recruits), therefore nerves were heightened as there could be no excuses. As well as this, Ex FIRST STEP was upon us, our first real experience in the field.
On Monday we got our daily orders, packed for the field, performed some more rifle practices and tried to enjoy our last night on camp before deploying on exercise. Tuesday soon came around and we were on our way to Woodbury Common before 0800 and as we pulled up the ground was still crisp with frost, a pessimistic sight for anyone camping that night. Before we knew it we were soon into the classic 100 mph routine and setting up camp. The day in the field went smoothly, carrying out lessons on how to cook a ration pack meal, how to make a hot wet (hot drink) and how to administrate yourself in the field.
We got into pairs, set up our harbour (triangular defensive formation) and began to erect our individual poncho positions whilst our oppos (opposite man) cooked the scran (food). A hot meal and a hot wet later we were tucked away in our sleeping bags thinking “this isn’t too bad…”, famous last words. We were all instructed to then collapse our positions and move to the HQ location, we were then given some activities designed to ‘warm us up’ and ‘stimulate our minds’ because our admin in the harbour had been below the standard expected from us. I think after hill sprints, squats, shoulder raises and plenty of running I was thoroughly warmed up!
Back to setting up camp and sentry duty began, three positions that have to each be manned by two men throughout the night ensuring that the Troop have some protection whilst sleeping. It was good and gave you a sense of protection and responsibility.
We had settled into a routine and the night was going smoothly until… we got told to all get out of our sleeping bags. A few lads from the troop were caught wearing clothing they had been told not to so, again, we need our minds ‘stimulating’ and our bodies ‘warmed up’. This warm up worked a lot better than the first and the lads didn’t want to wear the extra clothing again!
First Light came over the harbour and a mass panic erupted as the lads tried to square away a kit muster in time. Lo and behold the majority of the Troop lived up to our world renowned time keeping ability and soon found ourselves on ‘the flank’, (the flank is where a recruit goes for remedial training if he fails to pass an inspection – usually goes hand in hand with extra phys.) The two rules for the flank are to put 110% effort in and to keep smiling.
Once we were told to ‘keep smiling’ we had a good idea of what lay ahead, lots of running and lot’s of hills. All in all we kept smiling throughout and it built our character and improved our cohesion. We shook it off, packed away the camp and loaded our webbing and daysacks for the lovely morning 4 mile yomp (march) back to base.
Once back, the Troop looked relieved as our first real exercise was complete, all there was to do now was to spend countless hours servicing our kit back to a perfect state. By this point we all knew the consequence if didn’t produce the required standard – the flank!
The next few days ran smoothly, a lot of work was done in the gym practicing our rope climbing and ‘make fasts’, something to impress our families with on the 13th of Feb. With the odd beasting here and there moral was high and the Troop was smiling.
The week was concluded with a weapons handling test on everything we had learnt on the SA80 (the service rifle) over the past weeks. Nerves were to be expected but almost everyone passed and the week ended on high. After a few more bits of phys and drill to do on Saturday we found ourselves with a pint in hand watching the rugby. Be under no illusion, we were all tucked up in bed and out cold by 2200.