197 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 21.
1. The week kicked off with a detailed series of lectures with the AE’s (Assault Engineers) aimed at preparing us for the upcoming exercises, Urban Warrior & Violent Entry. These covered everything from how to spot and deal with IED threats to searching vehicles at VCPs (Vehicle Checkpoints). We finished the day off with a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) test to ensure our skills were top notch, then a long and rare day indoors was done.
2. CQB (Close Quarter Battle) is the methodology of urban warfare and one that the entire troop was raring to learn about. Starting with a quick brief and demo of how to clear a room, it was then time to start drilling these new skills. CQB is all about communication and efficient teamwork and as simple as it seems there is a lot to think about in a very short space of time. After some initial run-throughs that were far too rushed the importance of the phrase “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” was introduced to us and instantly things improved. Next we were introduced to military dogs. A few members from the local police dog unit came down to show us just how effective dogs can be as part of a military unit. Demonstrating how they are able to search not only swiftly but safely for any potential threats, whether that’s human or even IED form. Then the dog unit brought out a padded defence suit which one of us was pinged to wear and told to run, and run fast. Despite best efforts the dog chased the recruit down and with a swift jump took the ‘potential threat’ down with no chance of escape, much to the amusement of everyone except the volunteer.
3. With everyone working as a perfectly fluid CQB team it was time to add moving around corners and corridors into the equation. A seemingly simple movement like moving down a corridor is an art form when it comes to CQB requiring absolute precision and perfect timing. This then allowed us to start moving into more complicated layouts of rooms as realistically you would be very lucky to find a perfectly square house. This was a real test of our freshly learnt CQB drills but again 197 were able to quickly adapt and learn to get the job done.
4. Things were about to get realistic today with the addition of simunition (mini paintballs that can be fired from our weapons after making a slight part adjustment). With our sections arranged and gear prepped ready to go we had to enter the CQB compound and clear it of all threats. One by one each section moved through and successfully cleared the compound. Next it was a debrief to clear up any aspects which could have been better and ensure we were ready for Ex URBAN WARRIOR later that day. After a rushed kit prep it was time to head to 40 CDO (Taunton) to use their CQB village and truly test our skills with live enemy using the simunition. Stepping off the coach it was straight into being tactical as we headed into the woods to find our harbour area to get a brief bit of sleep before an attack at first light.
5. Waking just before first light our adrenaline was pumping. With sections spread out into various areas to best assault the village we were ready and waiting for the Troop Commander to give the green light. Building by building we cleared the village putting 21 week’s worth of knowledge through its paces and after each section had moved through we cleared the entire area. Despite only having a week’s worth of CQB specific drills the exercise was a great success and a true testament to the rapid learning skills of a Royal Marines Recruit.
197 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 22.
1. Kit preparation was the order of the day. With our most technical exercise yet there was more kit than ever and after issuing everything it was time for the mammoth task of actually making it fit in to our bergans. Finally with everything packed it was time to head off to the Black Mountains in Wales and begin Ex Violent Entry. After a 3 hour coach journey we stepped off the coach only to be swiftly greeted with the harsh Welsh winds and endless views of mountains reminding us that this was going to be a harsh location to work out of. With bergans on we stepped off and walked into the night until we found our first harbour location in a woodblock so dark our NVG’s (Night Vision Goggles) only just worked. With the harbour set up the day was definitely not over yet though. Recce parties were sent out to assess the village that we planned to attack later that morning.
2. With recces back and orders given it was time to start our assault. While it was still dark we headed out to the village (a specially designed military CQB village) and at first light the fire support started going in. With each section clearing a building at a time, until we managed to sweep through the entire village and “Village Clear” was called. After a quick debrief to give us some feedback on how the attack went it was time to start building up defences so we could efficiently hold the village from any potential enemy threats. Having these defences meant we could enjoy our first bit of hard cover and actual protection from the elements in the field, a true luxury. With vehicle checkpoints created and enough defences on our building to ensure no one was getting in we set up sentries, a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) and an admin detail (allowing for cleaning of weapons, eating and if you’re lucky maybe even some sleep!). The towns local population and the enemy ensured that we were kept busy testing out VCP procedures, trying to re-infiltrate the village leading to lots of clearance patrols and the local elder wanting to sort out compensation for taking over his house.
3. After the comfort of hard cover for just one night it was time to move on already. We yomped to a nearby woodblock that intelligence suggested was occupied by enemy forces. Clearing the woodblock we found no one, however there was the evidence of people having been there recently. As the troop commander led us out of the woodblock we were taken to our next lay up point, a series of fighting trenches. We dug in, knowing all too well the ins and outs of living in a trench courtesy of Ex HOLDFAST. Thankfully these trenches were pre-built so we jumped straight in and got on with our working routine.
4. During the night and the morning we were attacked a few times in the trenches but successfully managed to hold the enemy back each time. By midday we were out of the trenches and off yomping yet again with a few more cheeky hills to conquer this time too. Arriving at the next woodblock we headed in and almost immediately encountered an enemy threat. With some clear communication, calm heads and solid aggression we pushed through and defeated the enemy swiftly and efficiently. Immediately we began setting up our next harbour location and sent out some more recce’s to the next location.
5. As dawn broke we were already up and closing in on the next location, a small building on the side of a valley. We quickly cleared this building with our ever improving drills and skills enabling us to set up defences and get into another working routine as soon as possible. Next was to locate an OP (Observation Post) for our next and final attack on a small village. As we headed to the OP we knew the cover would be good simply by how tricky the terrain was to navigate through. While observing, small recce parties were sent out to get a closer look on the enemy and their buildings to give us the most information possible.
6. OP’s and recce’s were continued night and day gathering more and more information on the enemy. This was taken in turn by sections allowing for admin, food and rest while not out of the secure location of the building.
7. The final day had arrived and we were watching another dawn break with eyes on the enemy location, ready to go at a moments notice. As we heard the command to start the attack all the sections moved through to their positions and carried out all their roles with true military precision. Moving from building to building and even covering the large open ground with no real trouble to move onto the final building and take that to clear the final objective. With ‘Village clear’ called we thought that would be ‘End Ex’ and we could finally relax. However, a Royal Marines Recruit’s job is never over so it was time to yomp all our kit to the extraction point. After being told we would be covering 20km we headed out knowing the end was in sight. However after 5km our Troop Commander told us he was having us on a bite (or a joke) and we had already reached our extraction point. Spirits could honestly not have been higher, having prepared ourselves for a long yomp through the Welsh mountains the knowledge that the coach was 5 minutes away was true bliss. We sat on our bergans and with morale through the roof discussed the highs and lows of another weeks training and the excitement that we now only have one exercise left in training.