205 Troop Recruit Diary Week 14.
The penultimate week of phase one of Royal Marines Recruit training. The most important week we’ve come up against so far in what seems like a life time of tough rigorous tests.
Exercise Baptist Run, the final test lurking in the later stages of the week dawned on everyone’s minds. You could sense the nerves through out the troop as we all knew Baptist Run would determining whether we would make it through to phase 2 of training or face being back trooped and placed within the dreaded grasps of Hunter Company.
The week began with lectures and as usual hours upon hours of phys on the bottom field led by our PTI Corporal Spacey. The lectures consisted of lessons on Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear warfare and lessons on Signals and how to operate and communicate within the troop/section using radios.
As the week went on and Exercise Baptist Run drew ever closer the day finally came. After completing a kit muster in the drill shed the night prior we mentally prepared ourselves for what was coming as we all knew this was the beginning of a series of two days worth of tests that would determine our future in 205 troop. The day began bright and early with a criteria 4 mile speed march carrying 21lbs in our webbing and a rifle. The route took us through the back lanes of Lympstone towards Woodbury Common then back to CTCRM. After successfully completing the march and the whole troop passing there was no time to celebrate as we were to load stores and prepare to deploy on Woodbury Common to begin Exercise Baptist Run.
Arriving on Woodbury Common we got straight to business and got involved in our first test immediately after arriving in the harbour location. We were taken to a location unknown to any of us where we prepared for our first tests, camouflage and concealment and the stalk. The troop was given 15 minutes to cam up using the vegetation around us then go straight into the stalk where our aim was to move to a certain location across tough ground full of gorse and bushes and get of two shots at the training team undetected.
The second tests of the day consisted of target indication, fire control orders and an observation stance. Target indication is used to bring a section or troop on to a precise location of ground in order to locate an enemy on the ground. Fire control orders are used by the section IC to control the rate of fire or who is to shoot at the enemy. The observation stance is designed to test us in order for us to locate or spot certain items camouflaged in the area with the vegetation.
The third test of the day was a static map stance where we were taken to a part of Woodbury and told to find our precise location and provided a six figure grid reference using the resection method, we were also told to find certain points and to proved grid references and distances to these locations.
The final and most important test of the day was the individual night navigation around Woodbury Common. As night fell we drew up a route card and studied our maps in order for us to navigate from three different points around Woodbury in the allocated time provided. We all set off at different times and routes under the cover of darkness heading towards our first checkpoints. On the whole the night navigation was a success apart from one member of the troop getting lost and turning up to the harbour location a few hours after everybody else.
The second day began with another kit muster to start the day. On finishing the kit muster another day of tests would commence. The tests were repeated throughout the day but this time the weather took a horrible turn for the worse. Torrential rain and awful visibility made the tests so much harder, but as they say if it’s not raining it’s not training. We all knew we were being tested to our limits because of the weather conditions, but our confidence in the training we were given came through as the troop had another successful day.
In a matter of an hour or two the next day came and began with another kit muster to show we’re capable of looking after our kit, rifle and our own personal hygiene in the field, as the kit muster finished we packed away our kit and the training teams tents and prepared ourselves for the CFT back to camp. The CFT, an 8 mile run back to camp carrying 54lb worth of kit in our Bergan and a rifle all to be completed within a time of two hours. On the whole the CFT was another success for the troop as everyone managed to pass another criteria test.
On return back to camp the troop was instructed to take back all field kit back to stores then deserviced all kit ready in time for us to thin out for summer leave, a well deserved three weeks away from camp letting us recharge our batteries ready to take on phase 2 of training on return back to CTCRM.
We were left in anticipation by the training team for three weeks as they refused to tell us our results of Exercise Baptist Run until we came back from summer leave. Not knowing whether we had passed or failed lingered on everyone’s minds during the three weeks off but our minds were put to rest when we came back as everyone apart from one person passed and deservedly.
Week 15 began with the return of everyone back from a well enjoyed summer leave that lasted for 3 weeks. I was feeling eager to find out the results of my Baptist run test scores to find out if I could continue onto phase 2 training without any dramas, thankfully it was a success for the whole troop.
The start of the week began with many lectures and lessons on how to effectively use and maintain quite a few pieces of signals equipment that we would be using on the next phase of training which would make us more tactical and combat effective. The thing I like most about using radios etc was getting taught how to correctly speak on the net.
The next main thing the troop had to prepare for was armed drill pass out, this included a couple of practise run throughs of the sequence to ensure that we had no faults when getting assessed by the DL1, again the whole troop worked hard and achieved a strong pass as the DL1 said himself. Shortly after this we had the phase 1 passout presentation which is when the stronger people in the troop get awarded with a section commander tape which gives them extra responsibility however means that they learn a lot more on how to lead a section when in sticky situations, this would help them down the line when they are doing their junior command course to become a corporal.
The next day was Friday and this was a day that everyone was looking forward to as we were heading off to Normandy in France to get tours about D-day. For me this tour was very interesting as I did not know very much about that day however from being there it b brought everything into perspective as you get a feeling of the brutality of the war and battles that were fought. Visiting the grave yards also showed the mass scale of destruction and how many people lost their lives.
For me I enjoyed week 15 cause it was a good week to learn a lot of new things like radio operating and gain knowledge about former royal marines who sacrificed their lives for us today.
Monday 7th September
After 15 weeks in Phase 1 training the troop finally start day one of Phase 2. We started the week with lectures on signals and patrols preparing us for our deployment into the field for Exercise First Base. After spending the day recapping on battle procedures we spent our evening packing kit ready for our first exercise in Phase 2.
Tuesday 8th September
Early start to the day with a signals lecture in the morning. From then till mid day we were prepping to set off to Woodbury and start the exercise. When we arrived the troop were straight into the tactical mindset of being in the field and approached every situation as you would in real life. The first thing on the list was setting up a harbour area for the troop to conduct administration and to have a base for the night ahead. The troop were given a number of special equipment such as night vision goggles, thermal imagining optics and range finders. This type of equipment was to be used on patrols at night time which was what the troop spent the first night doing till the early ours of the morning.
Wednesday 9th September
Once again we had an early start with very little sleep from the night before. The days training started with patrol formations across open ground in sections. Later on we split down into fire teams and conducted break contact withdrawal drills in case we were contacted by enemy at any point. Later that day we patrolled back to the harbour area as a troop using a 1 up formation. The plan for the night was to split into sections and conduct a standing patrol and gain information about the enemy. Being the section commander I had to decide were would be a suitable place to overlook the enemy without being spotted so there was a slight bit of extra pressure on myself to make the right decision. When the early hours hit, we observed the enemy whilst being concealed by the environment and used specialist equipment to get eyes on and take down any details without getting caught. We eventually extracted as a section and made our way back to the harbour area.
Thursday 10th September
Thursday morning started off with shots fired from the enemy whilst the troop was in the harbour area. We had to act fast and withdraw to the ERV sight and re-organise as a troop. The plan for the rest of the day was to dig an OP (Observation Post) big enough to fit 4/5 men in with kit. Not only did we need to dig a large hole in the ground but it needed to have a roof and completely camouflaged to blend in with the environment around. The OP overlooked a large open area and the plan was to again gather information on enemy routines throughout the night. This was without doubt my favourite part of the exercise. Our fire team managed to make a large and very well camouflaged OP and stayed undetected throughout the night, even when we heard footsteps just meters away outside.
Friday 11th September
After spending the previous night sat in an OP, when morning came and we had to leave, the whole troop came under fire from the hills we were looking over. Using the break contact drills we learnt we managed to suppress and evade the enemy. From then on we had a small yomp back to the troop HQ and started to prepare for the end of the exercise. Before we went back to camp the troop had a 5 mile speed march across Woodbury and back to CTCRM. Overall I enjoyed the exercise and the tactical side of things which gives you an insight of what may come in the future.
Week 17 looked to be an interesting week ahead of us. Fore planned, we had signals, physical training, lectures on tactical warfare and three days away at Bovington Army Barracks, to learn about VIKING transportation and underwater escape drills.
Monday. We had a day almost completely full up of sigs. The troop marched over to the sig store at 0800, where we were each issued out a radio. We were then put in groups of three, each group was handed a map of CTC, and we were then told our morning’s evolution. We would each start at a different checkpoint on camp, read the instructions on a laminated A4 sheet of paper at a checkpoint, use that that to communicate via our PRR (Personal Role Radio) back to the Corporal at HQ. The checkpoints had various scenarios, such as relaying, issuing a contact report, asking for re-supplies, etc. This was all assessed and we were all marked individually.
Later on in the afternoon we had phys. We went down to Bottom Field for a double period. We were carrying 15lbs of webbing and a SA80 rifle. We had a Bottom Field Pass Out run through followed by a circuit. We did a full 30ft rope climb, the assault course in under five minutes including a half regain, a 200m firemans carry, and a full regain over the tank, which six of us failed and thus fell into. We were then divided into two groups, those who were struggling with the regain went over to the low-obs, to practice one-to-one with a PTI, the rest of the troop had to do a circuit, of firemans carries to an obstacle, complete the obstacle, then firemans carry back to the PTI. It was a very tiring session but very rewarding to have completed, all of us feeling the benefit of it that evening, all of us very achy!
After this, those who attend Functional Skills had a maths exam, the rest of us were thinned out to crack admin.
Tuesday. We had a morning full of lectures, with our troop Officer. We continued to learn about tactics, building on from our exercise the previous week: EXERCISE FIRST BASE. We learnt about troop assaults; section assaults; laying ambushes; defending harbour positions and finally different formations of patrolling, to example a couple, arrowhead and single file. A very interesting morning with a lot to remember for the next week which included Ex SECOND EMPITE.
In the afternoon we had predominantly phys. We had a 45 minute Bottom Field Pass Out run through, then a session of swimming, mostly hypoxic training to build up underwater lung capacity and confidence. This was to prepare us for the following few days.
Wednesday. Having packed our kit the night before, we headed down to the pick-up point for our coach, to take us on a two hour journey to Bovington Army Barracks. Bovington is one of the training areas for the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group. On arrival, we were shown our accommodation for the next two nights, where to our delight we were all given single man rooms! We then headed to the lecture room straight for three hours of lectures with PowerPoint, all about VIKING transportation, what it is, what it is for, and how to use it. We were then thinned out for an hour, asked to come back after lunch for some basic drills. This was very basic indeed, opening and closing the doors, the hatch, how to sit inside the vehicle, how to sit on the roof of the vehicle, and how to exit and enter the vehicle in a combat scenario. Finally, we headed back to the lecture room, where we were told the programme for Thursday, how to use the respirators and how to use the life jackets. We finished by 1600, unnaturally early! After evening scran, we were allowed to go ashore for ninety minutes, to go to the local naffi, or get a take-away. Quite an enjoyable evening away from CTC, just a nice change after so many weeks at the same location.
Thursday. We headed down to the pool to practice breathing underwater using a respirator. It was an unusual feeling at first, breathing recycled oxygen, but certainly much easier than holding your breath. After staying submerged for 10, 20 and 45 seconds, we were instructed to pull ourselves underwater using ropes attached to each side of the pool, for three widths. This was a total distance of roughly 36 meters. We each had three attempts, and several lads only passed on their final attempt, proving that it was quite difficult.
We then got back on the coach to head to Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton, to execute the VIKING underwater escape drills. We started with a lecture, then we put on wetsuits, helmets and rubber boots, and headed to the pool. We had to go three meters underwater, and do four widths underwater, now a distance of roughly 40 meters. This was very difficult, as at a deeper depth each breath was used up at a faster rate, resulting in only eight lads passing on their first attempt. After this we practiced the underwater escape drills, from a simulated Helicopter rather than a simulated VIKING, but we could only use one small escape window rather than the usual two. We had four different scenarios:
– daylight, straight down
– daylight, at a 90° angle
– twilight, at a 90° angle
– twilight, at a 120° angle, then inflating the life jacket
Once completing this, we all felt pretty worn out, from both relief and excitement. Heading back to Bovington on the coach we all slept the majority of the way, pleased to have passed the day’s events!
Friday. That morning was certainly a good morning. We executed the drills we had practiced on Wednesday, this time they weren’t dry drills only though! We were driven around Bovington Training Grounds, off-road over various mounds around many corners. This was very good fun, and felt quite exhilarating. We were then driven into a pond where the VIKING “swam”, where we got out of the overhead hatch to get onto the roof (after which we of course went back inside and driven back to the Barracks). After cleaning the VIKINGs, we headed back to CTC by coach. A very enjoyable few days, where we all learnt a lot.
Saturday. We had a double period of RMCC (Royal Marines Close Combat) at 0800, where we learnt how to execute various holds, chokes, and also how to get out of them if we found ourselves in that situation.
For the rest of the weekend we prepared our kit for the exercise in Week 18, revised our notes from our lectures, and of course went ashore for a meal out with the troop.
Week 18 started with quite a physically challenging bottom field session with everyone looking forward to Exercise Second Empire later that day.
On completion of bottom field we were straight into the pre exercise drills which included loading our kit and field stores onto the S.V. Then 205 were straight on the coach, within minutes everyone was fast asleep getting that last bit of head down before a very hard and exhausting week ahead.
When we got to Braunton Burrows the first thing we done like every exercise was set up the team location and sorted out stores, the training team realised we were being too slow in doing this and made the point that the sea was very close by and very cold! This gave us the kick we needed as the rest of the exercise ran reasonably smoothly! Later that night we tactically set up a harbour position and were left to our own devices to crack sentry positions and evening routines.
The second day started fast after morning routine and collapsing our harbour. We were straight into section attacks, something that a lot of the troop really enjoyed. After a hard day, the harbour position was set up and standing patrols were sent out later that night.
The next day consisted of demonstrations by the training team on casualty evacuation and troop attacks which is basically a larger scale of section attacks, learning how to use more men in an effective way.
That night the troop moved out to conduct a night ambush. This is where you lay there in weight for the enemy to come into your ambush area. After a long night of 6 hours laying there in the pouring rain and gale force winds we were happy to be back in the harbour area to conduct morning routine.
The final full day the training team brought in real enemy which everyone was excited about because it made everything we had been practicing more realistic.
At 0200 Friday morning the troop were up and ready for the final troop night attack which went very well ending with a few lads practicing casualty evacuation drills again. On completion of this we loaded everything onto the S.V and headed off for the yomp back to the coach, with the troop commander setting a steady pace we got there in no time.
All in all this exercise was the best to date, using things we had learnt and putting them into practice. Finishing the week we are looking forward to crash week on bottom field and Dig Ex in the next couple of weeks.
Monday. We started the week by getting issued our white cap badges, which is what we’ll be wearing on our Kings Squad Pass Out. We had to visit the stores and try on various fits with a Drill Leader present, to tell us if it was the correct fit or not. We then had a lecture from a former Royal Marine who now works for White Ensign Financial. White Ensign Financial is a free service for those who serve in the Royal Marines or the Royal Navy who need financial help or advice. If you are in debt, want to be advised on what mortgage to take out, what savings account to open up, they are there to direct you in the right direction. We then had a double period on bottom field, to get ready for the Bottom Field Pass Out session on Monday in Week 20. We did a full run through with 21 pounds and a rifle (30ft rope climb, assault course, 200m firemans carry and a full regain), followed by a 25 minute circuit. The circuit consisted of doing as many laps of the assault course as possible, for 25 minutes. When we came back from this, all of us very muddy and fatigued, we had lunch. During lunch we had rounds from the OC, who inspected our accommodation. It was up to the required standard hence leaving us all pleased with ourselves. We then had a quick lecture about driving licenses, how we would be issued one if we didn’t have one. The Corps will pay for it, after Recruit Training we’ll be sent to RAF Leconsfield to have driving lessons there and earn our driving licence for cars, HGVs and coaches. The day finished with dentist appointments, functional skills for those that have to attend, and a lecture from our Troop Commander about Principles of Defence. Well, we assumed that that would be the end of the day, but it turned out that the training team had noticed a few Recruits using social media incorrectly, which led to them being punished with inconvenient details to adhere to for the remainder of the week.
Tuesday. We started the day with an inspection on our kit used in the field, the week previously, so we had to lay a kit muster out on the beds at 0730. This was followed up by two lectures, one from our Troop Officer about COIN Ops (Counter Insurgency Operations), and one from a former RSM about our career path upon passing out of training, i.e. what specialisations there are available. These were both very interesting, especially the second one, as we saw in depth our potential future opportunities. The specialisations available ranged from Mountain Leader to Swimmer Canoeist to Clerk, across the board the choices are tremendously diverse. We then had another double period of bottom field, the exact same format as Monday. We finished the day with a triple period on GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) training and lectures. We had to learn a few basic pieces of key knowledge such as its characteristics, and a few practical drills such as NSPs, stripping and assembling the weapon, loading and unloading the weapon, and making the weapon ready. Enjoyable, as it was our first weapon training that wasn’t about the SA80.
Wednesday. We started the day with a triple period of bottom field, the same circuit as both days previously, but at this point we were starting to become quite fatigued, so none of us managed to beat our previous score of how many laps we achieved. We then had a lecture about OBUA (Operations in Built-Up Areas). This was very interesting and will probably prove to be very useful for our future career, as a lot of military action and conflicts in today’s geopolitical climate is involved in urban areas. We then finished the day with more GPMG training, this time learning about stoppage drills, and how to clear the weapon.
Thursday. Thursday was a very simple day. We had another triple period of bottom field in the morning, but we were all so fatigued, with several injuries occurring, that the PTI cut it short to just a double period. We were all exhausted after this, so hopefully it will pay off on Monday! We then had an entire afternoon of GPMG training. We covered everything that we had learnt before, and covered an additional couple of stoppage drills. We learnt how to reduce the quantity of gas released, and how to change the barrel. The gas has to be regulated to prevent the gun from firing too slowly or inconsistently. The barrel has to be changed every 400 rounds, or it’ll overheat, losing accuracy and potentially causing the weapon to become faulty.
Friday. The last day of our working week was spent at Straight Point for live firing with the GPMG. We all had weapons handling tests, several of us failed this the first time due to silly errors, so we had to retake the test after a little bit of revision. We then had the opportunity to fire the weapon on a 25m range, firing 8 – 10 bursts of 4 – 5 rounds. This was tremendously enjoyable and what we had been looking forward to all week. When we returned to CTC we had a detail that was slightly less enjoyable: cleaning the weapons! There was a massive build up of carbon on the inside of it. It took the whole troop a couple of hours to clean three weapons to the required standard.
All in all week 19 was a week that we enjoyed due to the interesting lectures and weapons training, but also extremely exhausting due to the continuous beastings on our sessions on bottom field. Hopefully it has well prepared us for our Bottom Field Pass Out on Monday in week 20!