197 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY WEEK 13
1. For many in the troop the week started with a few nerves and a bit of trepidation as we were going to get gassed. Due to the threat of Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear (CBRN) weapons in today’s sphere of conflict the importance of this training is not lost on any of us. Although it sounds extreme ‘getting gassed’, the practical purpose is to expose us to the full effects of CS gas (the simulator for a chemical agent) so that when we do test drill in a controlled chamber at a later date we are able to identify if we have done the drills wrong, by recognising the symptoms in our selves, it also has the added bonus of a motivator to get the drills right to avoid getting exposed to CS again. The training involved donning all our protective gear and sitting in a chamber full of CS gas. We then proceeded to remove our respirators, report our Name, Rank and Number and finally ask permission to leave the chamber. For many we got as far as Name before feeling the effects of the gas. For some it was a bit more uncomfortable than for others. After a lot of coughing, streaming eyes, snot and laughing at our oppos we moved onto some lectures explaining the wider threats faced.
2. The next day was the start of Ex BAPTIST WALK. This is the final preparation exercise prior to Ex BAPTIST RUN next week. Ex BAPTIST RUN is a test exercise that assesses us on everything we have learnt so far, from administration to navigation and field craft skills. After setting up the team tents in the usual fashion, we went straight into a Troop split between stalking and map reading. For many it was a great opportunity to iron out any final issues and practice the format ready for Ex BAPTIST RUN. Once completed it was straight into an observation stance, fire control orders and target indication practice. The day finished with our first individual night navigation across Woodbury Common and was a real test of everything we had learnt so far with regard to navigation, having to get around a number of check points in good time. The day was a busy one, but a great opportunity to revise important skills ready for next week.
3. The morning started with our most thorough kit muster to date and the weather wasn’t helping with a nice light drizzle. After the kit muster it was straight into an 8 mile load carry back to camp. This was a little bit on the cheeky side for some of the Troop, but with grit and determination we cracked on and all completed the march. Once back at camp there was no respite, but a quick turn around to go for a lecture in the church on taking stock. It was a great opportunity to appreciate the stage of training we were at and how far we had all come together. The day finished with an introduction to grenades and how to throw them.
4. Thursday started with our first introduction to the notorious bottom field. This is the assault course at the bottom of camp on the banks of the Exe Estuary where we’re told true Commando spirit is forged. Moving on to the bottom field signals graduating from the gym onto advanced military fitness, all geared to making us combat effective. With weighted rope climbs, obstacles, fireman carries and the not so warm and pleasant regain tank we got a good of taste of things to come. By the end of the period we were left with no illusions that the bar had been raised and what was now expected of us. After yet another swift turnaround the rest of the day was dedicated to spending time on the ranges getting to throw live grenades. The idea of using live grenades is awesome, however there was definitely some nervous laughter at the thought of pulling out the safety pin and actually throwing one.
5. After an early start we travelled by coach to RNAS Yeovilton to conduct dunker drills and helicopter (helo) training. Dunker drills as the name suggests is where we are strapped in to a mock helo that is then dunked into a pool to simulate having to ditch (crash) over water. To make things more realistic still the drills progress from being dunked straight in, to being dunked and then spun upside down, and then dunked and turned upside down with the lights tuned off! Despite this probably being most peoples worst nightmares, the lads were all quite excited about it. Once finished with the dunker drills we paid a visit to Commando Helicopter Force who gave us a brief on the kinds of helicopters we would be using later in training and our careers. It was good to see a naval base other than CTCRM, especially one as busy as Yeovilton. With training completed and bag rats (packed lunch) eaten it was back to CTC to finish the day
6. We started the day with drill giving us a good opportunity to revise some arms drill and practice being ‘smart as a guard, but twice as hard’. After an immaculate turn out and good performance on the drill square it was back for our second bottom field session. Having upped the weight we’re carrying to 10lb plus our rifles, we practiced applying the techniques we had been taught previously for crossing the obstacles. The session also started to introduce some more fireman’s carries which were a little bit of a leg and lung burner. However like everything we do it has a real world application e.g. extracting a casualty from the battlefield. Despite the intensity and physicality of this kind of training it is vitally important as it is this that enables Royal Marines to be physically robust enough to win battles.