197 Troop 29 & 30


1. This was our first day of a two week package of field firing exercises, giving the troop the skills and experience of using live ammunition in fire team, section, and troop level evolutions. The day started with a move to Willsworthy camp, followed by a ‘zero shoot’ (a target shoot from the prone to ensure weapon sights are correctly aligned). Next was an individual shoot utilising a number of different types of cover (walls, boxes, windows etc), designed to test our ability to move and shoot safely and our ability to effectively switch fire positions.

2. Starting the day with a run (with extras) over the the hills of Dartmoor, it was a refreshing opportunity to run without weight on our backs. We then moved over to the range that would be our home for the next two weeks. We set about setting up the tents, the ammunition area and getting around our personal battle prep ready for the day’s first evolution, individual fire and manoeuvre. This involves one man firing whilst the other man covers, advancing towards and eventually through the target. As the troop was working well we moved onto pair’s fire and manoeuvre, this time working in fire teams and eventually breaking down into individual movements. As the day progressed the speed and aggression needed to clear the positions became more natural (even over the baby heads and bogs).

3. Yet again kicking off the day with another phys session, this time it was a bit more intense with a much faster pace but nothing 197 Troop couldn’t handle. Having completed working together in fire teams the previous day it was time to move up a scale and work as a section. Moving out as groups of 8-10 sections moved through the range successfully clearing any targets that came up with precision and aggression. With a fair amount of down time between each attack it meant that we were able to give 100% to each attack which was a real eye opener to the realities of just how exhausting it could be. As night broke it was time to head out once more to experience what it’s like to use tracer rounds (a red tipped round that allows the troop to see where you are firing in the dark).

4. We were also able to get some hands on with the UGL’s (Underslung Grenade Launchers) to allow us to use them in the upcoming troop attack next week. Moving back to working in even smaller groups, today it was all about working as pairs. With only two of you to carry out the entire attack 100% focus is required to make sure you’re doing your job and consequently looking after your oppo.

5. With kit packed we headed back to CTC while 2 section headed to the range for a final sweep of any gash that might have been left. Once back on camp it was time for a quick sort out of any kit and then it was off to the Tarzan Assault course. With test week looming our PTI wanted us to have a couple of brief run throughs on just the high obstacle sections to ensure we had the best chance when it came to the real test.

6. With all the kit prepped, weapons ready and vast amounts of ammunition loaded onto the wagons it was time to head back to Willsworthy Camp to continue Field Firing. Heading straight onto the range the order of the day was a large scale troop attack with blank rounds. With 2 section hiding out in the unknown barrens of Dartmoor we headed up the hill and soon came under contact. With 4 section peeling round to the unknowing 2 section the enemy was soon taken down. Even after a further in depth enemy position popped up the troop continued to fire and manoeuvre forward to overpower them.

7. With less than a week to go before tests began it was vital to keep our running and base level fitness up so it was back to normal duties of early morning phys. Post phys it was up to the ranges once more to set up the tentage and arrange the required ammunition for the day ready to go. Moving back to section attacks to really cover them as in depth as possible we headed out section by section clearing whatever targets popped up our way.

8. Once everything was good to go the entire troop moving forward in a NATO T (a formation allowing a quick return of fire if necessary while safeguarding the majority of the troop who can then follow up with more fire if required) it wasn’t long before the first contact came up and with each section taking up their appropriate role effectively the enemy was soon overwhelmed. Utilizing sections as fire support, reserves and attack allowed swift movement on to the next target until finally all enemy had been cleared.

9. The final day of field firing was to consist of section deliberate attacks. With our QBO’s (Quick Battle Order’s) before setting off we had intel that a helo had gone down and we needed to rescue the pilot and destroy the helo remains. With every skill over the past 30 weeks being put into practice 197 Troop echeloned through the landscape swiftly and efficiently destroying each target before rescuing the pilot and accomplishing the mission. Once that was all completed the troop did a full sweep of the range ensuring all rounds and any gash left over were collected to leave the area as clean as possible.

10. On arrival back at CTC it was straight back onto the Tarzan Assault course for one final run through before test week began. Completing this clean fatigue (no webbing and rifle) the focus was on technique and consequently speed through all of the obstacles. Once completed we headed down to the 25m range for a final zero in preparation for the Endurance Course the following day.

11. The time had come for 197’s first commando test: the Endurance course. All had previously passed the course and there was a feeling of quiet confidence in the troop as we walked up to Woodbury Common in the early hours of Saturday morning. Starting early to avoid the midday sun, the Endurance Course was as challenging as ever, and it must have been the extra adrenaline on the ‘day of the race’ that meant almost every man in the troop recorded a personal best time on the course.

1. 197 Troop’s second Commando test saw us face the 9 mile Speed March. Carrying 21lbs plus a rifle, the purpose of a speed March is to move a body of men across ground at speed, being fit to fight at the other end. The men of 197 disembarked the coach with a degree of apprehension, and following a light warm up formed up in three ranks before stepping off under the direction of the PTI. Moving across Woodbury Common, an area 197 have become particularly familiar with throughout training, the troop eventually made it onto the lanes surrounding CTC, before coming to a stop outside the main gate. Having completed a 9 Mile Speed March it is tradition for the troop to be drummed into camp by a member of the Royal Marines Band service, upon doing so receiving a degree of applause from camp personnel recognizing the troop are at the halfway point of the infamous commando tests.

2.Tuesday saw the troop face the penultimate Commando test, the Tarzan Assault Course. Beginning with the infamous Commando slide, the test consists of a series of high obstacles followed by a run through of the Bottom Field Assault Course culminating in a summit of the 30 foot wall. Following a brisk warm up and motivational segment from the PTI 197 moved across to the Tarzan course ready to move a step closer to the coveted ‘Green Lid’. Having tackled the test’s various obstacles the troop moved back to the accommodation, any thought to the amount of lactic acid in their legs overcome by the concoction of emotions at the thought of possibly only being 24 hours away earning their Commando Flashes and Green Berets. The rest of the day saw the troop briefly get their Green berets to apprehensively shape before the 30 miler the next day, before packing their bags and moving to Okehampton Camp from where the final Commando test was to begin.

3. 197’s day of judgement had come. 31 weeks of the hardest and most arduous training in NATO had led us to this moment on a muggy Dartmoor morning. Knowing we were potentially only 8 hours and 30 miles away from achieving a lifelong dream the troop set off in 3 syndicates into the darkness upon a path only a select few before had undertaken. Having seen the ‘rollercoaster’ segment of the 30 miler route reintroduced, 197 troop endeavoured to overcome all Dartmoor had to throw at them, from boggy marshes to moderately steep hills. Led by each respective section commander, the syndicates made their way through 5 checkpoints along the route, met by the increasingly undesirable yet necessary sight of a banana or pasty. 8 hours after setting off the recruits of 197 troop emerged crossing the bridge to applause from all those involved in their journey through training and finally earning their Green Berets. Forming a hollow square each member of 197 troop was awarded their Green Beret in the understated way it has always been presented, and reminded of both the sacrifices they had made to get to that point and significance of representing the Royal Marines from that point onwards. Following various speeches from personalities and a number of photographs, 197 troop boarded the bus back to Lympstone, green lids atop.

4. The rest of the week was dedicated to recovering from the arduous commando tests and preparing ourselves for The Kings Squad Parade the following week


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