Royal Marine Recruit Training – Week 20
Monday, the usual slow start to everyone’s week after they’ve normally enjoyed the weekend off. Not for us, we had worked all weekend and the summer holidays were in our sight, so fatigued from work we battled on to our normal morning routine; wash, breakfast, clean.
So onto the day, lectures! We were to learn about minefields and rescue drills with the AE’s.
We learnt how to look, feel then prod for the mines using a special prodder given to us. (Remember, don’t use your bayonette!)
After this we are shown various types of mines from large vehicle destroying mines to the small Russian made toe clipper, which are almost impossible to see.
Tuesday sees the deployment of the troop on Exercise Holdfast, a 2day exercise which tests our knowledge on trench warfare and chemical sentries. For the first 24 hours we dug to our hearts content, only stopping to go on sentry, get scran down us or go on small missions to collect equipment for the trenches. There would be no time for sleep.
By the next day, our trenches were ready for inspection, each pairs trench had turned out very differently, even after given exact measurements of what our trench was meant to be, however this was to be expected with the variety of soil in the area. (I’m just glad I didn’t find myself in the rocky area).
After the inspection of our trenches we were given the go-ahead to add roofing and camouflage to it, this straight away made them feel like we could settle down a bit more and it couldn’t have come soon enough, because then the heavens opened and for the rest of our time in the trenches we were rained upon…
‘BANG BANG BANG’ the clash of metal tins was the warning sign of gas approaching, and as if planned a plane flew overhead. We rushed to get our respirators on, already in the appropriate clothing, we started the decontamination process, tap, roll, rub. Fullers earth is messy, but not as messy as the muddy trenches we were in, so plenty was added to make sure we didn’t miss anything on our suites or gas masks, once the threat was over we could take off our suits and get back to our trenches.
For the next 12 hours we had the supposedly simple job of keeping watch over our trenches making sure we replenished any equipment and kept our rifles clean. We failed.
Come the morning, everyone was feeling a little worse for wear, most assuming the trench would give them protection from the elements and respite from the rain, nobody used there sleeping bags. As a result the troop looked rough, lesson learnt.
But it was time to do our job, pack up and get ready to yomp. 5 miles in what was probably our heaviest yomp to date, over some challenging terrain, but most of the troop did well and made it to the end feeling relieved knowing all they had to do was de-service their kit and it was summer leave.
This was to be a long night; our kit looked like we’d taken it into the estuary for a voluntary mud run and we only had a few hours to get it clean and dry before the bus In the morning, knowing if we didn’t, we would have either mouldy kit on our return or worse a delayed Summer leave. Neither would be ideal, so 3 days without sleep we worked through the night to get everything clean, people falling asleep standing, cleaning and scrubbing was a common sight. Keeping each other awake was the aim of the game; somehow we had managed it however. 3 weeks of summer was here…
Sunday night back was bitter sweet as we had all become accustomed to being a civilian again, after three weeks off. We were soon snapped back to reality after reading orders And seeing a 0530 start! After spinning summer leave dits Sunday soon turned to Monday and the lads of 203 troop were to start one of the best subjects they teach during training.
MUC (modern urban combat) week couldn’t have come at a better time, the lympstone blues were offset by such a fast and interesting subject that all the lads were keen to tackle.
In the capable hands of the training team, we were thrown in at the deep end down at the compound with practical teachings all day. The troop quickly got to grips with the principles taught and progressed onto more challenging scenarios. The assault engineers also dropped into the compounds throughout the week teaching us how to breach doorways and deal with IED threats.
As we progressed through the week things became more of a reality as we started to use simulation rounds. This meant having to put into practice all we’d being taught to avoid getting caught up by the pellets flying through the air. One of the highlights of the week was when Devons police dog unit came to the compound and gave us demonstrations on how vital dogs are in operations. One of the demonstrations was seeing how the dogs take out suspects and of course one of the recruits was chosen to run as the 40 kg beast soon chased and tackled him down.
The week of learning and practice culminated to an assault on an afghan compound. It was very enjoyable and helped apply all the drills we had gained in the week in a realistic scenario.
Week 21 has been one of the most enjoyable to a lot of the recruits of 203 troop. With the training team happy with the troops efforts this week, morale was high which is much needed for the week ahead.
Week 22, Exercise Violent Entry.
Week 22, with summer holidays still fresh in everyone’s thoughts our first exercise post leave is one of the most feared amongst recruits, famed for long gruelling yomps, horrendous weather and sleep deprivation.
Before departing for exercise stores were loaded as usual and orders given, in which morale immediately hit a high once the troop commander read the weather prediction…..sunny and cloudy with little chance of rain….YES!!! Furthermore it was confirmed we were to travel by coach rather than helicopter, another huge win for us as it was an opportunity to get head down on the way there.
We left CTCRM later than we usually deploy, meaning upon arrival to the Sennybridge training area it was pitch black (literally could not see your hand infront of your face). From here we had the insertion yomp, which was gruellingly slow and full of rolling hills, however throughout was hilarious as the sound of somebody falling over with a fully laden burgen (a profound clunk most often followed by an abundance of fluent French words), does hit a certain comical nerve, until two seconds later you find yourself doing exactly the same and realising karma does actually exist.
The following two days comprised of various troop attacks and yomps, which in all did not go as well as we had hoped, and many lads were letting the side down with lots of individual silly mistakes. This lead to some tough and honest words given by our corporal and sergeant on what it meant to be a Royal Marine, hitting home harder than the physical aspect did.
Moving on to the rest of the week we met up and worked alongside the corporals on their senior command course (to gain promotion to sergeant), this was the first time this has been done and it was brilliant. We worked and trained with them as though they were members of the troop, rather than just being taught, which was exciting and very helpful. On to the main effort, two simultaneous troop attacks on a village, working in and amongst trained ranks. This was brilliant, we were doing the things that we exactly wanted to do, rather wash yourself in a field with a mild warm cloth and wind numbing the bones. The attack went well, and our training team received good feedback from the command course, back on a high!
After a couple of days we split from the command course and moved into the village on our own, practising our entry and room clearances to a good level, but again we got comfortable and made more and more mistakes. Eventually punishment came, a case of moving out of the village (lovely hard cover) to a field nearby, in which to our delight the rain came just in time for….not ideal. However once again we picked our game up and ended the exercise on a high, another gruelling and hilarious night yomp, followed by a troop attack on a cluster of buildings.
EXERCISE COMPLETE!!!….or so we thought, the training team decided to play a small joke and informed us we were to re-deploy onto Woodbury common rather than return to camp, which in hindsight…hilarious, but at the time, absolutely devastating. This diary would not complete however without mentioning beyond a doubt the funniest moment in training so far… during a set of orders given by the senior command course, most people (including the corporals themselves) were nodding off here and there and stumbling, dropping things etc through tiredness. After around and hour and a half of fighting the natural desire to sleep, one recruit had enough, and in a moment of random comical magic literally fell like a log into a model pit and did not wake up until his face was introduced to the ground, no hands, no turning of the head or anything, just the best faceplant ever. Now this would be funny just on its own, however the ground into which the recruit fell into was the ground we were using for the model, so essentially destroying the model in which we were supposed to work from. At fist nobody said a thing, until one of the corporals laughed and we all burst into tears laughing, a truly great moment.
After an arduous weeks training on Sennybridge those who passed Ex Violent Entry where rewarded with Adventure Training in sunny Dartmoor. The troop was looking forward to the weeks activity’s which consisted off
• Coasteering – (Scaling across cliffs and jumping into the water below) This was the preferred activity. Jumping off cliffs up to the height off 30FT was a good buzz, also watching one of the lads trip and fall 30FT into the water was quite amusing. Luckily he was okay.
• Kayaking – This was a bit off a hangout, after a week of lugging kit around everyones upper body was a little bit sore. After about two, possibly three minutes off paddling our shoulders decided they weren’t going to play ball. This made the extra five hours of paddling pretty emotional. Although getting smashed around in the sea was enjoyable.
• Mountain biking – As much as this was a good laugh it was also knackering, as you could imagine cycling 30k around Dartmoor. But you know what they say, whatever goes up must come down and when we were going down, we went down fast! (most lads anyway, have to admit that I wasn’t one off them)
As you may know there is always competition between troop sections to prove who is the best section. This was also amplified by the promise off a crate off beer for the winning section.
During Adventure Training the sections had to undertake numerous timed tasks, some off which were thinking tasks such as having to collect bike seats from a designated area off which we weren’t allowed to step foot in nor was anything aloud to touch the floor. For this task we were given some climbing rope and a few karabiners. Others were tasks such as a best effort cycle through what seemed like a few hundred meters off bushes, rocks, trees and other lads that had fallen off. Although our section did get the best time of one minute fifty three seconds (luckily we had someone who used to downhill race)
Once we had completed the days activity’s it was back to the battle camp to get showered and have some food. Naturally everyone was boasting about how well they did on the timed activity’s, obviously telling each other how they had it harder or did it faster than them!
Once the week had been completed it was time for the winners to be announced. Everyone was feeling pretty confident and thought they were going to win. “ and the section who scored the best over all time is.. TUESDAY!!” There was an awkward silence, everyone looked at eachother like ‘what the hell is he on about’ “oops, sorry guys I meant 3 section!” We claimed our prize then it was back to the accommodation to share out our whole two beers each. The following day we left to get back to lympstone, moral was high as we were about to go onto a well needed long weekend.. Although, amongst the cheerfulness there was also a lot off nerves. A new week was to follow and week 24 has a slight reputation.