201 TRIANING DIARY WEEKS 11 & 12
Weeks 11 and 12 were our two week live firing package at Straightpoint Ranges. The package was led by the Training Team and assisted by the Combat Marksmanship Team. Over the two weeks we covered a great deal.
We were lucky with the weather and encountered, for the most part, sunny skies in the first week. Each morning we did ‘physical trainig’ with our physical training instructor (PTI) which often involved going down to the beach or running over to Exmouth beach to return with a full sand bag. Although it was all hard work, we still had a laugh and, as it was so warm, normally ended up in the sea. We were also taught and practised regains on the ropes where you have to dangle on the rope by your arms before swinging yourself back on top of it. We also practised fireman’s carries.
After we had zeroed our weapons to make sure they were firing where we were aiming, we conducted a series of shoots at various ranges at a static target. We did this lying down before moving onto kneeling and standing positions. We then progressed on to targets which popped up at different distances and fell down when we hit them.
To progress onto the next stage we had to complete the Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT) where we had the opportunity to earn the marksmanship badge. Some of the troop got some very good scores and just under half earned the marksmanship badge which they will wear on their Blues at passout. Once everyone had passed the ACMT we moved onto close-quarters shooting. We learned how to fire our weapons in a controlled manner at short range. This was also about speed. Once we had mastered this we moved onto incorporating pivots into the shoots. When the command was given we would have to turn 90 or 180 degrees before aiming and firing at the target, all under time pressure.
These thoroughly enjoyable two weeks ended with a battlefield tour to Normandy. We took the ferry over to France and spent the weekend touring around the allied objectives on D Day. This was a really interesting trip and we all learned a lot about what the Americans, British and Canadians did to turn the tide of the war. It was unusual to be in a relaxed atmosphere with our training team and when we were told that we could go out for a drink in the evening no one knew what to make of it. That didn’t last long however and we were soon out exploring the streets of Bayeaux.
201 TRIANING DIARY WEEK 13
Week 13 saw 201 Troop finally return to Lympstone Commando Training Centre after a week on Dartmoor and 2 weeks at Straightpoint Ranges. This week we got our first exposure to CS gas during our chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) training. Our exposure to CS gas, known as tear gas outside the military, whilst wearing our CBRN suits gave us the ‘warm and fuzzy feeling’ that the suits worked. We were able to immerse ourselves in it without any effects. However when we took the respirators off things went south. Normally there is competition amongst the troop over who is the fittest, in the chamber this changed to who could get the most words out before coughing and spluttering our way to fresh air.
During this week we also had our first ‘Bottom Field’ session. Bottom Field is the assault course located on at the bottom of the camp by the train station and it lived up to its reputation of being a ‘hang out’, the benefits of which were felt for days later. This is something we are going to have to get used to until we reach the end of training…
We also deployed on Exercise BAPTIST WALK, an exercise designed to practise and rehearse the assessment we would be required to do on our Phase 1 pass-out exercise BAPTIST RUN. It involved various field craft stances, a night navigation and kit muster. It gave us a good idea as to what to expect come the actual assessment.
Overall week 13 was a good week that gave us more experiences to add to the growing pile.
201 TRIANING DIARY WEEK 14
Week 14 started off with a 4 mile speed march with 21 pounds in our webbing and a weapon. Speed marching is moving as a body of men from one destination to another and this was our first attempt at running with weight. The reason why we do it is to get used to running as a group and appreciate the pace when we carry some weight. Although it was noticeably harder, everyone passed. It was then straight back to camp for a shower and get our kit ready to deploy on Ex BAPTIST RUN, our Phase 1 pass or fail exercise. Everyone was nervous of this exercise as it dictates whether you stay in Phase 1 or are ready to progress onto Phase 2 and the ‘gucci’ part of training. We got to the training area, set up the equipment and before we knew it were rolling straight into our first test.
Each day consisted of a series of assessments; an observation stance, where we had to pick out military items hidden in the undergrowth from a distance, a map reading stance, a sniper stalk where we had to sneak to within 200m of a target and fire at it, fire control orders, target indication, night navigation and then a kit muster. Everyone worked hard on the exercise, contending with the summer heat on top of the assessments. Before we knew it we were packing our kit to weigh 46 pounds ready to do the Combat Fitness Test, an 8 mile march back to camp with our rifles. This was one of the hardest parts of the exercise and everyone had to ‘dig out blind’ to complete it, but after a gruelling 2 hours we were back on camp. We then had the afternoon to clean our weapons and prepare for our post exercise kit inspection Thursday morning.
With the post-exercise inspection done we then moved on to learning about the signals equipment we use in Phase 2. This consisted of an introduction to the kit followed by walking around camp with the equipment practising our voice procedure (‘VP’). Once we had finished this it was time for the weekend and a good break from some intense training.
201 TRIANING DIARY WEEK 15
If you make it to week 15 you’ve made it through Phase 1 of recruit training and you also have a long weekend to look forward to. There was obviously a high degree of anticipation within the troop as everyone was eager to find out how they had performed on Ex BAPTIST RUN the previous week and getting home to see their families, friends and girlfriends.
The week itself was spent on camp. Moving away from basic fieldcraft lessons (looking after yourself in the field) we were now looking at how to patrol, establish a troop harbour and carry out a Section-level attack. All exciting stuff we had all joined the Royal Marines to do. We knew this would be put into practise during Ex FIRST BASE in week 16 so it was important to understand some of the basics now. What also brought us down to Earth was the ‘Bottom Field’ sessions we had with out PTI. Preparing us for our ‘Bottom Field Passout’ (still some weeks away) ‘phys’ involved several gruelling laps around the assault course followed by a dunking in the ‘tank’ to stop us from over heating. As pleasant as going in a tank of cold water sounds in the boiling sun, you still come out shivering.
Friday was a good day. We had our week 15 Arms Drill passout which everyone passed. This progressed onto our Phase One Passout which the OC attended to give out the troop awards. These included best overall recruit in Phase 1, the most improved recruit, PT superior certificates and the section commanders were awarded their ‘white tabs’, small white markers worn on our uniform to indicate the top two recruits per section. Despite being in recognition of performances in Phase 1, the Training Team made it clear that those who have been awarded a role of responsibility will by no means keep it for the remainder of training. If they don’t perform to the required standard their ‘white tab’ could be taken off them or given to someone else.
After the prize giving we were handed our leave passes and went home for another long weekend. It then became a race to see who could get off camp first!
201 TRIANING DIARY WEEK 16
This week was the beginning of our Phase 2 training. On Monday we had several lessons on section-level battle drills, patrolling and constructing observations posts (OPs). As the Training Team stated during Phase 1, the pace is now rapidly picking up as we start to learn the art of soldiering. This was all in preparation for our first tactical exercise, Ex FIRST BASE, where we were expected to demonstrate an element of tactics from the start.
Tuesday morning was met with much anticipation as there was a rumour we would be flying out to Woodbury Common by helicopter. As we sat down for our first set of orders given by our Troop Commander excitement was in the air. As we were told what we would be doing on the exercise we glanced anxiously out of the window to see the weather. Bad weather normally results in a couch ride to the training area followed by a ‘yomp’. The bubbling excitement was then aired when the Troop Commander told us we would be flying up to the Common. This was a great start to Phase 2 of training.
After flying the short distance and landing in a field we went straight into practising the skills we had been taught at the start of the week. We learned how to conduct close-target recce (CTR) patrols, getting as close to an objective and reporting on it as possible whilst crossing over obstacles and using natural foliage for cover. We were under the instruction of our Section Corporals, and when they were satisfied we moved on to basic break contact drills – what to do when you are shot at from the enemy. We spent most of Wednesday practising these drills so that we could confidently do them at night. If we weren’t patrolling we were busy building up a covert observation post (OP). This is when a team of 4 try and hide (in our case underground) from the enemy and monitor their movements, weapons, numbers etc. All the information we gained we then passed up our chain of command to build into an overall battle picture.
This exercise was the first time we used the Personal Role Radio (PRR) and other communications equipment which meant that talking to one another was significantly easier. It did however expose weaknesses in our voice procedure (‘VP’) which the Training Team were keen to emphasise. A generation growing up watching Hollywood movies and computer games started to frustrate the Training Team as everyone forgot their basic ‘VP’ in favour of lines from Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.
The extraction from the exercise was a five mile speed march back to camp which the whole troop found very difficult, but finished. This, combined with the summer heat, was a sharp reminder that in a matter of months we will be running 9 miles as part of one of our Commando Tests and that although we are fit, we’re still not quite there yet.