204 TROOP TRAINING DIARY
‘Week one day one of Royal Marine training’. We will never forget that sentence.
Straight away the pace is a lot faster than you would think. We stepped off the train and headed straight into foundation block for our very first lecture – no rest from this point on. With barely any time to settle in, we were on a steep learning curve. The majority of the first week was spent learning the basics of washing yourself, ironing your uniform and your bed and cleaning the accommodation, all to a very high standard. We were also taught about health, hygiene, foot care and diet. Later in the week, we were issued all of our military kit – every man was very impressed with how efficient everything works around CTC. After our kit issue, we were taught how to clean and maintain it.
This was a fast and furious week which focused on looking after yourself and all your kit. It also became clear that the correct attitude and mentality will become hugely important if we were to successfully become Royal Marines Commandos.
Into week two of recruit training, Initial Military Fitness and drill on the parade ground is still high on the priority list. Our main focus in the gym at this point was getting to grips with the thirty foot ropes and team games. Confidence aggression and developing discipline within our own body is what the troop needed in order to take on the task ahead.
This was 204 Troop’s first opportunity to deploy with most of our issued field kit and be taught how to work as a unit when it comes to setting up a Troop base or harbor and maintaining a basic sentry routine. We also were dunked in the water tank on bottom field in order to simulate bad weather conditions and how to survive when all your kit is soaked – known as ‘wet and dry’ routine. Our first exposure to wet and dry routine was quite an experience in itself – a deep breath is needed to get changed in the early hours of the morning before going out of your sleeping bag for your sentry shift. However knowing that you have an oppo out in the cold allowed us as a unit to shape up and move quickly in order to allow him to get warm and dry. We quickly came to realize that this was only a bit of rough camping and it came to an end before we knew it.
Or so we thought. We soon realised that we had kit that then needed to be de-serviced and cleaned before our main inspection early Friday morning by the Foundation Colour Sergeant. The outcome of this inspection would determine the Troop’s future for the next two weeks – if we would remain in foundation or be promoted into one of the recruit accommodation blocks. We wasted no time in getting together and realising that many hands makes light work. Coming together as a team as we did in week one benefitted the Troop greatly in getting on top of all the admin and passing our inspection. However, it was far from a perfect pass and we were told to improve our attention to detail within our locker spaces – each day truly is a steep learning curve in itself. At this point the Troop feels like we have made some progression and now with our new boost of moral we move into our accommodation.
Over the weekend after week 2, we started to move out of foundation and into our new accommodation block – this was a big morale boost. We finally felt like things would begin to settle.
We enjoyed a little more freedom such as being able to go to the galley without our suits on, as well as having a little bit more time for ourselves at night, which meant just a little bit more sleep! We also finally got to meet the entire training team and the phys sessions seemed to get harder and harder by the day. The phys, despite being a ‘hangout’, is very enjoyable. The Corps’ values are really starting to show in the physical side of life at CTC, such as integrity, cheerfulness in adversity, determination and selflessness. We had a couple of ‘fun’ phys periods where we did team games and swimming and we could really see an improvement in our fitness and our team cohesion.
We also started with the first couple of weapon lessons, which was a little step closer to doing the fun stuff and becoming a marine. At the beginning, weapon handling felt like a lot to take in and remember. But before we knew it we had the muscle memory and it was all done without thinking about it. The training team worked really hard to get everyone on the acceptable standard. In conclusion we can honestly say that despite the hardships, week three was a good week.
Week 4 of Recruit Training was now the chance for 204 Troop to put into practice all the new skills we have learnt over the past weeks. Firstly we were handed greater responsibility around camp by being given permission to remove our luminescent orange tabs off of our kit, which now made us as fair game on camp if we messed up. However, at the same time it made us feel as though we blended in more.
We embarked on our first field exercise, Exercise First Step, where we were shown step by step how a Troop prepares for a deployment into the field, from packing the troops kit into a HGV as well as setting up camp on arrival. We had our first taste of properly sustaining ourselves in the field including morning and evening routines, how we get ‘scran’ (food) prepared as well as how to generally maintain yourself. We learnt how to ready a Troop to form up to take up a harbour position as well as how to conduct ourselves on sentry. We returned to camp with a brisk 4 mile speed march carrying webbing and rifle which made us all realise just how much hard work was on the horizon.
The rest of the week was much the same as what we had now all become more accustomed to from the previous weeks of training – spending hours de- servicing our field kit on return from exercise. Moving into the later part of the week, we found ourselves working hard in the gym during IMF (initial military fitness) periods. Week 5 will bring our next field exercise (Quick Cover) of which we can now build on our experience from this week’s deployment.
Week 5 for 204 Troop commenced with a relaxed 4 mile run interspersed with some sprints and press-ups that woke everyone up after a fairly relaxed weekend. Once back at the camp, the troop packed the stores and loaded their bergens up for Exercise Quick Cover. As soon as we reach Woodbury Common Training Area, we soon realised our harbour for the next two nights appeared to be positioned very close to Peter’s Pool (a part of the Endurance Course) – an ominous sign. We setup the Headquarters and stores and immediately had some ‘scran’, followed by our first lesson on observation – why we’re seen, and how to observe and find. This was an interesting lesson showing us all how much we fail to observe. Next, we were briefed in Camouflage and Concealment (Cam and Con) and given the chance to test our skills in the art. The Troop Commander then led us through the routine of setting up our harbour position for the night with the threat of getting wet coming to fruition as we were led down to Peter’s Pool for a ‘dip’. Once the work routine of setting up the harbour defences, sentry list and inner workings was completed, we were set for the night with rifles loaded with blank rounds.
Our morning routine started with only our second ever kit inspection in the field. This was an eye opener of how quickly time can slip through your fingers, with hardly any of the troop utilising the time frame to compete their muster. Apart from the 10 recruits who passed the muster, the troop was lead through some remedial training in the form of a ‘kit relay’, more commonly known as a ‘flanking’.
The lessons for day 2 involved more Cam and Con, and then fire and manoeuvre – the method of moving while under fire. Working in pairs within our sections, these lessons perked the troop up after our morning of remedial physical training as we were given the chance to fire blank rounds. For most of us, this was the first time we had fired a rifle at all. The troop set up their own harbour under the Troop Commanders supervision – a rope to either hang ourselves or prove to the training team that we were learning what we had been taught. The fact that we did not have to get wet for the night should have made the whole night much easier, but when the kit muster was laid out it was clear that we have a great deal still to learn about field administration.
Lessons for the final morning of the exercise focused on CQB (Close Quarter Battle) – this helped to perk up the Troop before the 4 mile march back to camp with webbing, daysack and rifle. The night and early morning hours were then filled with de-servicing and re-servicing our kit and cleaning our weapons ready for a kit muster on camp. Thursday involved a run through of the gym and drill routines in preparation for Family’s Day, and cleaning the accommodation for our families.
Family’s day drill and gym sessions seemed to impress the multitude of family and friends who gathered for the day. However, they were not as happy as the members of the troop were in being able to see their families and get away from camp for a weekend to rejuvenate and regroup ready for week 6.