We started the week with a refreshing four mile run on Monday morning around the local lanes, helping us regain focus after the weekend and prepare ourselves for the week ahead. After the run, we prepared to deploy on Exercise QUICK COVER, our third exercise, with each becoming more progressive and intensive, we were eager to get into the field and crack on.
Quick cover was a 3 day exercise which covered lessons on judging distance, observation lane, why things are seen, methods of movement, introduction to map reading, and our first intro into CQB(close quarter battle) lanes. The CQB lanes were the highlight of the exercise, as we got the first real introduction to fire and manoeuvre, working in pairs to move forward, close in and kill the enemy(the enemy being wooden targets!). All the troop really enjoyed this, as well as having a little swim in peters pool just to raise morale.
Another very important lesson we got taught was morning routine, this allows us to wash, shave and maintain our bodies in the field, so we can deploy for long periods of time without our bodies deteriorating and becoming susceptible to infections and injuries. As well as maintaining ourselves, we have to maintain our kit, and most importantly our weapon system, this was all inspected in our first kit muster. To end the exercise we carried out a 4 mile load carry back to Commando training centre. After coming back from the field, we carried out our de-service and re-service routine, which involves cleaning all of our field kit, then re-servicing it so we can deploy at a moments notice back into the field. The rest of the week we had an IMF(individual military fitness) period preparing for families day, which all of the troop was looking forward too, especially with the long weekend home edging closer each day.
Once family’s day came we carried out our normal morning routine of washing, shaving and cleaning the accommodation ready for when the families came to look round, after that we then got ready for drill and did a two hour preparation session before the families came, so we had the best chance to impress our families. Once the family’s came we waited in front of the drill office and then the drill instructor brought us to attention and marched us round where our families sat waiting. We started by doing a few turns on the halt and then a few on the move whilst our families took pictures, we then halted and a few of the lads grabbed there parents and family members so they could have a go.
Once we finished drill we then got ready for an IMF session which the family’s watched where we carried out some rope climbs and a few sprints and a set of four corners for them to watch. The troop all put in 110% to impress the families, and show them our increased physical fitness.
Once they finished watching we carried on the session for 45 minutes whilst the families had a lecture in Falkland’s hall. After IMF we then got changed into rig and met our families outside of Falkland’s hall, where we then took them to the galley for lunch and then back to the grots to look round and they got to see our lockers and where we sleep. This was a valuable aspect of the day as it allowed us to show our families our new found ironing and folding skills, as well as where we live and spend our time. Following this, we were allowed to go on our weekend leave, which we all thought was thoroughly deserved!
After enjoying a weekend off with our families we started week 6. During this week we continued to work in the gym, perfecting the different components we had learnt ready for the gym pass out on week 9. We did a lot of rope climbing, a lot of sprinting and a lot of pushing the floor away from our faces!
We also continued to progress our knowledge and understanding of the SA80 A2 rifle as well as getting to fire live rounds, a first experience for many. We learnt about bore sighting which is making sure the barrel is aligned with the sight on the rifle. This helps make the zeroing process easier which is what we did later in the week down at straight point range. Zeroing is making sure where you aim the pointer is where the rounds go and not too high/low/left/right and can be corrected by moving the position of the sight.
Week 6 was also an introduction to two new topics, first aid and navigation. Both essential skills for our job role.
The navigation lessons we started were very important this week. Navigation is a key skills to have as a Royal Marine and is a skill we will use time and time again throughout our careers. Week 6 was a busy camp week with a lot of new skills learnt and previous skills improved. Next week we are deploying on exercise Marshall star.
Everyone was excited to deploy for EX MARSHALL STAR. Bergen’s on, webbing packed we deployed for our 3 long nights in the field. One of the first things we did on arrival at Woodbury Common was find out our individual pacing method which would let us to gauge distance as we navigate at night. We also had an introduction to the use of night vision equipment and a demo on the importance of sound and light discipline at night. This was the first time the majority of us had even seen Night vision equipment and it was amazing the difference this equipment made to your vision at night.
The following morning we had our usual kit muster ready for inspection. This was so that the training team could check we were cleaning and maintaining our selves our kit and most importantly our rifles. A poor turnout led to a remedial physical training session for members of the Troop that failed the inspection. Later on that day we had map to ground lectures, familiarising ourselves with what we learned in the classroom. We then planned route cards for our night navigation detail. That night we had our first taste of solo night navigation most of the troop did well and got round in the given time with only one or two needing a hand from the training team. The next morning we had our usual kit muster most of the troops passed this kit muster.
Immediately followed by a stalk, which we got camouflaged for using our previously taught skills picked up on previous exercises. Later that night we were led into and occupied a tactical Troop harbour, which we later had to defend and conduct a ‘hasty move’ as the training team simulated an attack. Kit musters followed the next morning prior to a 5 mile extraction march back to CTC. The rest of that Thursday we spend deserving our kit and we had a swim. On the Friday we had three separate PT sessions and an introduction into first aid training. All in all week seven was a busy and productive week.
With gym pass out around the corner, week 8 was one of anticipation, trepidation, and press ups for the recruits of 203 troop.
Monday morning began with pacing the tarmac on God’s golden acre, the drill square. We had been working hard in previous sessions, mastering the movements of interval drill; marching without weapons, executing about turns, saluting and reporting to officers. After perfecting this with practice and a little verbal encouragement from our drill instructor, we had a quick lunch and a map reading lesson on how to fix position when out on the ground. The best tool we learnt in that lesson was how to do a resection, taking bearings with your compass to three visible targets, and then drawing those bearings on your map to ascertain your location.
We finished Monday with Initial Military Fitness (IMF) in the gymnasium.
As preparation for gym passout, we had a run through of what we would experience on the day of the test. After rope climbs, sprints, camp circuits and a tasty beam sequence we were done for the day.
Tuesday focussed on close combat training in the morning and first aid in the afternoon. We had a revision on how to escape from locks and holds, and moved onto throwing punches and kicks at an assailant. A little bruised and tired, but happy, we sat down in the lecture room, ready to learn first aid. The importance of being able to treat life threatening wounds had been highlighted to us, and how this had been applied in Afghanistan. We learnt how to check people’s pulses, treat breaks, burns and dislocations, and administer morphine. We were discouraged from self-administering morphine.
Wednesday morning started the less appetising side of 0400, with the troop preparing the accommodation and their personal lockers for company commander’s inspection. After a little scrubbing and folding of clothes, we stood by our beds at attention, waiting and fretting that perhaps we had missed a little dust. Though our fears manifested when the training team pre-inspected the rooms, we were able to ameliorate the situation and when the OC inspected he was satisfied with 203 troop’s efforts. We rounded off the day with a four mile run in boots, and drill.
Thursday was an exciting day for everyone in the troop. We travelled to Stallcombe for survival training with the Mountain Leaders, in preparation for the latter phase of Exercise Hunter’s Moon in two weeks, where we would be applying what we learnt this day. We learnt the construction of shelters, the setting up of traps and snares, and how to navigate without aids such as a compass.
We finished the week with the first part of our gym passout assessment, a Vo2 and pull up test. Our physical training instructor was happy with our performance and we spent the sunny afternoon practicing our map reading skills. All round it was an intense and packed week, but we learnt a lot and we made the most of our well-earned weekend.
Monday 18th may was our first introduction to arms drill where we learnt basic movements and changes at port arms and the slope. This was followed by the RMBFT (Royal Marines Battle Fitness Test) in preparation for week 9 gym pass out, which was quickly looming on us. In the afternoon we had practical lessons in first aid, working up to become qualified later in the week.
On Tuesday we started the morning with a kit muster with the Training Team inspecting all of our equipment to ensure it was being properly maintained, before then moving on to more weapons lessons. After some more gym sessions in the afternoon we had our first map reading assessment in preparation for navigation on Dartmoor during Exercise HUNTERSMOON.
Wednesday, we started the morning with our first aid practical assessments which consisted of triage, treating catastrophic haemorrhage, clearing air ways and checking breathing and circulation. This was followed by an IMF session and more first aid assessments in the afternoon, which everyone eventually passed.
Thursday was a much more relaxed day with a swim and then a mobility and flexibility session. In the afternoon the troop moved to Straight point ranges for LSW training and live firing on the DCCT (Dismounted Close Combat Trainer).
Friday 22nd at 0800 we started our gym pass out where the troop performed to a very high standard with 3 recruits achieving PT superior and the whole troop passing with a superior grade. Afterwards we had a lecture on training on Dartmoor which covered the safety aspect, rules and regulations of training on Dartmoor. This was followed by drill in the late afternoon and completing our route cards for Ex Huntersmoon. On Saturday 23rd those who failed certain aspects of the gym pass out where retested. The week drew to a close with a church service on Sunday which was followed by tea and biscuits with the padre.
After the success of the troop in the week 9 gym pass out the next major hurdle lay in the form of Exercise Hunters Moon, a 5 day navigation/survival exercise set on Dartmoor National Park. As word trickled down from the ever present “Nod Vine” it had been mentioned on a number of occasions that this Ex was notoriously “Cheeky”.
We started with a 7km insertion yomp carrying rifle, webbing and daysack which broke us in carrying some weight, as well as giving us a small taste of navigation for the other exercises to come. Upon arrival at our destination the first serial was a day navigation done with our section corporals who were there to ensure we had no issues. Darkness fell and with it came a night navigation much the same as earlier however without the presence of our corporals who instead were manning different checkpoints we were to reach through out the night. In syndicates of 4 we set off into the darkness hoping to rendezvous at the different points around Dartmoor and get back to the start point for some all important head down time. Day two was much the same as the first with the day navigation leading to different tors where we would do some static map questions putting our ground to map skills to the test. Later came the second night navigation which much as the first came with very little issues for the troop and everyone making it back to the start location within the time.
Following this came the extraction yomp on the Wednesday which was the first time we had carried a full bergan for any substantial distance. 24km and 7 1/2 hours later we arrived at our destination exhausted both mentally and physically however delighted to have completed what was so far in training the hardest day. We were stripped of all our kit except the clothes we stood in, rifle and survival tin then required to build a survival shelter to sustain us for 2 days and have a fire sentry on at all times. We were taught how to survive in the wild including killing/preparing fish and chicken for consumption, before being given our own to prepare along with a few vegetables to throw our pots. The Friday brought about the collapsing of our shelters and the final 1.5 miles uphill with all our kit, the whole troop dugout and i’m sure the knowledge of a long weekend coming our way got everyone through. All in all it was a very mentally and physically demanding exercise with the whole troop setting off on the long weekend content with what we had both learnt and achieved over those 5 long days.
On Monday we got a coach from CTCRM to the straight point ranges. When we arrived our accommodation for the week was sorted out, half the troop were at the top of the hill and the other half at the bottom. We then got a health and safety brief/tour from the range staff. The Royal Marines marksmanship team came down and we went through all the different marksmanship principles and put them into practice by dry firing using all the firing positions taught. In the afternoon we zeroed our weapons to us so that we could actually hit the target. To zero we fired 5 shots from each position and a member of the training team would guide us on to the centre of the target so we could acquire our point of aim.
On Tuesday we had another few lessons from the Royal Marine marksmanship team then back onto the ranges live firing. Only 12 at a time can go onto the range so when you weren’t firing you were practicing all the different firing positions. That night we had a practice night shoot on the DCCT which is an electronic range.
On Wednesday we went straight into live firing 12 at a time doing a practice ACMT which is something everyone in the armed forces has to pass each year. For the ACMT you have to hit the targets at different ranges which are 100m, 200m and 300m in different firing positions. On Wednesday night we did a night shoot which is part of the ACMT.
On Thursday again we went straight into live firing but the real ACMT.
On Friday anyone who failed the ACMT had to retake It in the morning. Then after that we a shooting competition between the 4sections, 1 section which is my section came first.
Week 12 was our second week at the straight point ranges at Devon cliffs and for 13 of us the last test to get our marksman badges. This week consisted of a CQM (Close Quarter Markmanship) module which the troop really enjoyed. We would be shooting the SA80 a2 rifle at ranges of 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 meters with targets that pivoted to give timed exposures, we would be practising pivot turns, hammer pairs, control pairs, box drills, failure drills, walk downs and automatic shooting.
We were very lucky with the weather conditions for the whole week which gave us some really good shooting for both of the weeks on the ranges. We also had a practise on a the lsw rifle on a 25m range this was on the last day.
This week we would also start to prepare for the bottom field as our Trooop PTI would give us phys lessons for three of the mornings, learning rope climbs, half regains, full regains and a short two mile speed march. All of the troop really enjoyed the two weeks we spent at the straight point ranges and learned some valuable skills that we will use for the rest of our career if we are successful in passing recruit training. The 13 of us who achieved the marksman badge in the Annual Combat Marksmanship test in the first week all held onto it after the CQM shoots.
On the Friday we the set out for Normandy for a battle field tour. Over the course of the weekend, we visited British, American and German war graves all of which were extremely moving. We also visited the sights of the Normandy landings, going inside the museums and witnessing some of the things that the men who fought there experienced. This was an extremely humbling experience and one that I am sure the Troop will not forget.
Week 13 started with us just coming back from Normandy, we started the week with a fairly normal week of various lectures and bottom field acquaintance which involved learning how to do a regain over the rope chasms, getting over the different obstacles and rope climbs.
Following this the next day was a fairly busy day as we had to pack the equipment for the field exercise Baptists walk later on in the day. Once we had finished packing a coach was ready to take the troop to Woodbury Common, a training ground used often by the Royal Marines for exercise. On Arrival we set up the training teams HQ and stores to work from. The exercise was to test all aspect learnt so far in phase 1 of training only difference being it was a run through of the actual test that is Baptists Run. We started with a map reading test including re-sections and pointing out locations given to us in a grid-reference. Next was the obstacles stance where we had to identify different objects hidden in a small area in front of us, fire control orders followed which was to give an order to fire at an enemy and target indication this is to point out said enemy.
On completion of the exercise we ended the day with an 8 mile load carry with a weight of around 60lbs, the rest of the day was spent de-servicing and re-servicing kit and equipment to be re-used and maintained although we did go through grenade training in the evening to conduct a grenade handling test.
The Thursday was a very good experience as we learnt how to handle and throw grenades correctly spending the day at the grenade range this gave the troop an idea of the potential damage grenades can cause.
Finally Friday morning came and we where preparing to go to Yeovilton to conduct dunker drills, this was to allow us to conduct the safety procedures in case of emergency situations such as a crash. We started with a brief from the staff there and went straight onto the different drills of escaping from inside a simulated aircraft in different lighting and rotated. Through this we gained a certificate to say we had done the course.
During the weekend we spent time conducting any administration such as catching up with affairs folders or bonding as a troop through different activities.
At the start of week 15 the entire troop were nervous because Monday was when we were to find out the results of the previous weeks exercise and we would find out if any of our troop was to leave, but first thing we had was CBRN. CBRN is where we practiced different drills with our respirators to elevate our chances of survival if we were to be gassed. We had signals after and learnt how to use different radios and also the proper voice procedures when operating one. We also passed our AMF which is were we had to pass a serious of timed physical challengers on bottom field with 15lbs in our webbing which we all managed to pass and found it reasonably easy. Then later on we found out that we had lost two members of the troop unfortunately but were very pleased that we passed.
Tuesday- Tuesday was a busy day with a lot of lectures throughout the day. They mainly consisted of learning military tactics such as patrol types, section formations, harbour drills and also the role of a rifle troop. It was a lot of information to take on board bit it was a decent day overall learning some very vital information.
Wednesday- On Wednesday the majority of the day was spent learning military law such as what we can and cant do in a battle environment and back home as well. Then in the evening we practiced the respirator drills we did Monday but in a room with CS gas which was a unpleasant feeling for some who did manage it first time but that was at least funny for the rest of us, we all managed to do it properly and efficiently at the end of the lesson.
Thursday – Thursday started off a little different for me then the rest of the troop because I had a combat fitness test re-run (which I managed to pass) while the rest of the troop had armed drill. Then we had to go sick bay to get vaccinations which is never pleasant. But we had a good hard swim session after lunch.
Friday – on Friday we had only two main events we had but they where very important ones. For the morning we had Arms Drill practice and then pass out where the First Drill inspected our troops ability and competency in Arms Drill and he seemed very happy with us. Then the main event of the day was when we had phase 1 pass out, this was a ceremony where we were handed any awards that we earned such as PT Superiors, Marksman, most improved recruit and finally best all round recruit. I personally got awarded a Marksman and was exceptionally proud of this and you could tell everyone else who received rewards was, plus the troops morale was at an all time high. We then had a smaller ceremony where we had speeches of the training team to mark the end of the Phase 1.
Monday 06 July
On Monday I had lectures on how to set up and use a bowman radio and how to enter a fill to secure the line .I was then tested on this to make sure I could do this in the correct way. Then in the afternoon I had my BPT introduction on bottom field with 18 pounds in the webbing and a rifle. Later I had lecture on how to handle CPERS (Captured Personnel) in the correct manner so we don’t break their human rights.
Tuesday 07 July
On Tuesday I moved out to the field to conduct exercise first base which is all about reconnaissance patrols. When I got there we setup and secured a harbour location before we got a demo on model pits which are used to show the shape and features of the land to be covered, they are used for giving and receiving orders, so the section has a better understanding of the ground being covered and how to cover it.
After my section went away to build our own model pit while the section I/C planned a route, when it was finished he then gave us a brief on what we were doing where the RVs were and what the objective was.
That night we then moved out to conduct a standing patrol moving through a series of RVs then standing in cover watching a enemy position to gather information.
Wednesday 08 July
On Wednesday I learnt how to fire and manoeuvre as a section using different types for different situations. Later that day after another brief, we moved to do a observation post which is a small hide in which a 4 man team would sit 1 observing 1 taking notes and operating the radio to check in at certain times 1 person on sentry and 1 person on admin and you would do an hour on each trying to gather information.
Thursday 09 July
On Thursday I conducted a recce patrol with this the section moved to just a couple of hundred meters away from the objective then Charlie fire team would move to the objective observing an taking notes then move back, finally delta fire team would wove to the objective and do the same then go back to the FRV.
Friday 10 July
On Friday we packed away all our kit made sure to leave no ground sign and then I did a 5 mile speed March with 21 pounds in webbing and rifle. When we got back to camp we then began the process of de-servicing and re-servicing our kit ready to go again.