To start off the week we had our final signals lesson as well as our signals test where were given radios in syndicates and had to prove we could use them correctly by completing different tasks around the camp. Things we had to cover were relaying messages, correcting information, sending long messages as well as other tasks. For the rest of the Monday we then had lectures in fighting patrols, looking at how they are conducted and how to react to different scenarios, as well as phys in the pool and on bottom field.
For the phys periods we were not as switched on as we normally are so, to that end, we ended up treading water whilst holding up canoes in the pool and doing a camp circuit with a large log on bottom field as well as our usual activities.
Tuesday was similar as we had lectures and phys like Monday however this time we covered ambushes, night attacks and troop deliberate attacks. All the key skills we would need for Exercise SECOND EMPIRE on week 18.
On the Tuesday something else happened that wasn’t on the initial training programme. We all got introduced to the estuary. Since we were not performing to the standard of a week 17 Recruit Troop, the training team needed to provide us with some corrective physical activities. We had to Don our webbing and daysack and did lots of crawling and rolling about in the mud. A mud bath is something on civilian Street you would have to pay for, but the training team generously provided it to us free of charge!
For the rest of the week we went onto Exercise VIKING BREAK. It was a really good few days as none of us had done anything like it before and it also allowed us to get off camp for a bit.
It was located in bovington and I’m sure I’m not the only one that was glad of the long drive as it meant guaranteed head down…which is like finding gold for any recruit at CTCRM.
On the Wednesday we covered the safety aspects of the viking as well as how to get in and out correctly. The viking is a small troop transport vehicle that can cover pretty much any terrain as well as having amphibious capabilites. We then looked at how a re-breather worked which would be essential for our evolutions the next day. I’m not sure of the science behind it but with the re-breather you exhale your breathe and then re-breath the air and regain the oxygen, allowing you to last longer underwater.
In the evenings we had something we had not experienced for a long time…time off in the week. It was a nice change to have a decent amount of head down without having lots of admin to do.
On the Thursday we got onto the fun practical aspects. We had to complete an underwater rope course at a depth of 3m with our re-breather to show we could confidently use it. All of the lads passed it which was great as it was criteria, fail and that’s you done! After this we then got to go into the dunker again and practise escaping the dunker from one side to replicate the viking capsizing. We once again did it in different light states and everyone passed.
For the final day we got go out in the vikings and do a lake crossing. I was in the front seat for this and it was an awesome experience as it went into the water, your mind is telling you it shouldn’t be floating but it did and it did it well (thankfully!)
Finally during this week we got to try on our blues and lovets for our initial fitting. It was a good motivation booster for the troop as we got to try on the uniform that hopefully we would all be wearing on our kings squad passout, signifying the end of recruit training and then moving onto being a royal marines commando in one of the units.
Week 18, Exercise SECOND EMPIRE. After recent miss-haps of the past few weeks the Troop was keen to turn things around, with Exercise SECOND EMPIRE the perfect opportunity to impress. Collectively we were all excited for the Exercise, as lads from Troops ahead had told us good things about it, although they also told us to expect little sleep and lots of phys, which un-nerved a few.
The Monday began like any other, rounds of the accommodation followed by a double session on the bottom field. Things didn’t start well… rounds were not perfect, and worse was to follow on bottom field, accused of lack of effort, the PTI`s ensured they would leave there mark before our departure for the field… not ideal.
However un-deterred we cracked on to exercise, making the most of the two hour coach journey to recuperate from the mornings phys by living up to our label as nods. Once on location we set up team stores and moved to our harbour location. The week that played out generally consisted of learning throughout the day, and carrying out actions at night. Firstly we concentrated on section attacks, these were great fun but an absolute hangout, and we were criticized by the training team for not showing enough aggression and cutting off each other’s arcs of fire. This unfortunately set the tone for the most of the week, troop attacks, ambushes and further section attacks suffered from the same issues. Further to this we also had a large problem of being able to stay awake, with almost 75% of us being caught foul of this, most notably one recruit was caught whilst on sentry adopting the reverse turtle position, flat on his back, snoring and failing to notice his rifle had been taken away from him and a member of the training team stood over him for a good while. This was not good enough, and for the team to repeatedly warn us, it did not bode well for the rest of the week.
After a positive end to the week with a really good Troop attack at dawn followed by a strong extraction yomp of 6 miles back to RM Chivenor, we had a Helo extraction to Woodbury. This was our first time of being on a Merlin, but we were all so tired it was extra time to get our heads down!
The week as a whole certainly could have been better, although we were good in areas, consistency across the board is needed to show we all have what it takes to be both good bootnecks, and maybe more importantly a good troop.