211 Troop Foundation
The first day of Foundation began with 43 men apprehensively arriving at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines train station and being greeted by our Drill Instructor. We settled into our accommodation, and after arrival paperwork we conducted our Attestation, formally joining the Royal Marines. Nervous and excited about what lay before us, we retired to bed. The first week was a whirlwind of fitness assessments, lectures and drill lessons, with plenty of early mornings and late nights. We were issued uniform and learnt how to iron it, issued boots and learnt how to polish them. At first it was difficult to fit all our kit into the lockers, however with practice we got a lot better at it, important for when we serve on ship and have limited space in which to store things.
During the second week the nerves began to subside slightly, and the lads began to relax and get to know each other. We bonded in the evenings, helping each other sort out kit out and prepare for inspections. During the latter half of the week we got ‘hands-on’ the SA80 Rifle, learning how to operate it safely, and spent a night outside under poncho, practicing ‘Wet and Dry Routine’. We have two sets of clothing, one wet for working in, and one dry for sleeping in. The two must never mix! This is an important skill that will prevent us suffering from hypothermia in cold and wet conditions, but an unpleasant one to practice nevertheless! At the end of the second night we moved into our permanent accommodation before proceeding on leave. As we left we were proud of our achievements, and looking forward to picking up where we left off after summer leave.
211 Week 3
Week 3 saw the Troop return from Summer Leave fresh and raring to continue where they left off. The break was welcome, but we soon found ourselves missing our mates, and the camaraderie that had developed in the Troop in the short but intense amount of time we spent together. The week kicked off with a locker inspection by the Drill Instructor and members of the Training Team. The standard was meticulously high, and despite our best efforts they found plenty of errors. There is so much equipment and clothing to clean, maintain or prepare we sometimes wonder how on earth it is all possible! However practice makes perfect, so I’m confident in time we will get there.
After the inspection it was over the gymnasium to continue with Initial Military Fitness, or IMF. Conducted in trousers, trainers and a t-shirt, IMF is a strange blend of aerobics, circuit training and running designed to condition our muscles and joints for subsequent weighted training. We also practice our rope climbing techniques, key for safety when climbing them on the Bottom Field Assault Course, or fast-roping from helicopters one we are trained Marines. The sessions are also designed to promote uniformity and attention to detail, with every action being observed by Physical Training Instructors, and any errors in our movement or technique being corrected immediately.
Drill forms another major part of our day. Drill is a key part of military training, teaching us uniformity, attention to detail and discipline. Before we begin every inch of our uniform is inspected by the Drill Instructor, to ensure it is correct and the highest standards are upheld. Attention to detail is key, and while the consequences for lack of it at this stage are minor, on operations they could be catastrophic, hence why it is hammered in to us at this early stage. Following the inspection we move onto the Parade Ground, marching up and down, turning left, right and about, all in time with each other. This teaches us how to conduct ourselves around camp, and later with introduction of the rifle, how to conduct ourselves on ceremonial duties such as the State opening of Parliament or Trooping the Colour.
A welcome respite from the intensity of Drill and IMF was a visit to the church. After a ‘hot wet’ (cup of tea) and a biscuit we were invited into the chaplaincy to receive a lecture on the emotional pressures of training, and coping strategies to help us get through the dark times. It was during this period of reflection that we began to understand the change we undergoing, and noticing the change in each other. After training ceased on Saturday morning we were given the afternoon off, immediately heading into Exeter for a pizza, a cold beer and to catch the last rays of Devon sunshine. Next week we face our biggest challenge yet, an exercise in the field.
Monday saw the Troop conduct the now familiar serials of an accommodation inspection, drill and IMF before preparing our kit and equipment for deployment on our first field exercise, Ex FIRST STEP. This was our first night in the field and an introduction to living in the field, where we would learn how to maintain both ourselves and our equipment in harsh outdoor conditions. The Training Team delivered lessons teaching us all we needed to know, from how to put up a ‘poncho’ (the waterproof sheet we erect to protect us from the weather when sleeping), to the contents and preparation of the ration pack to how to wash and shave in the field. This culminated in the Troop tasting a ration pack for the first time. They were surprisingly good, with a variety of popular meals such as curry, chocolate cake and all-day breakfast. For the pickier among us, there was plenty of Tabasco sauce to mask the flavour of anything we weren’t keen on! By far the most popular item in the pack was the teabag, which we all used to make a ‘hot wet’, the saviour of Royal Marines throughout time.
Through the night we rotated through a sentry position, practicing getting up and packing our kit away in a short space of time, then getting it out again after Sentry, all in the dark! Needless to say when first light arrived, there were more than a few odd items lying around the training area that had ‘disappeared’ during the night! As first light came we attempted to clean our weapon, cook, eat and wash simultaneously with varying degrees of success. After that it was time to lay our kit out for the morning muster and inspection by the Troop Corporals. The less said about the success of this the better! Moving on swiftly we returned to camp to begin cleaning our weapons, our kit and ourselves, otherwise known as ‘de-servicing’. Our priority is to clean our weapon, without which we are combat ineffective, then our equipment such as radios and night-vision optics when we get them later on in training. Only when all those are clean are we allowed to eat, usually stew eaten out of big flasks. Then we shower, get changed into clean clothing before moving on to our next detail.
Looming in our minds was the rifle weapons handling test on Thursday, a test designed to confirm our ability to safely strip, assemble, load and fire our weapons ready for the blank-fire lessons on Ex QUICK COVER. There is a lot to remember, and one small mistake means failure of the whole test and then a subsequent re-test. No pressure then! The majority of the Troop made it through first time, with a small handful staying behind to receive remedial training from the Training Team. This behind us we started to look forward to the weekend, and deploying into the field on our second field exercise, Ex QUICK COVER. All the Troop are looking forward to seeing their families next Friday, and showing them what they’ve been doing for the last 5 weeks.