204 Troop Training Diary
Returning back to Lympstone after three weeks summer leave was tough for some and easier for others who were keen to get back into training. We were straight back into action Monday morning with a grueling Bottom Field session which blew away the cob webs for the Troop. However some of us had not kept up the physical standards required over summer and found the session quite overwhelming, causing some to see their ‘pussers’ breakfast for a second time. Throughout the week we sat battle field lectures to help prepare us for the next exercise; Second Empire. These lessons involved formations and battle field procedures at Section and Troop level, in order for us to effectively react when faced with enemy contact. On the Wednesday we headed out to Bovington for our Viking training. This involved re-breather training and under water escape drills. After a few introduction lectures and presentations, we began the re-breather training. Most of the lads were very apprehensive about the underwater escape assessment on Thursday in Yeovil, but all managed to get through. This test consisted of swimming down three meters and dragging yourself using a rope diagonally across the pool a number of times, only relying on the re-breather system to assist. There had been talks among the recruits all week about a mud run and as we got back from Viking training we saw our whole training team along without PTI all having a discussion in the team office. Everyone at this point knew something was not quite right. Next thing we had a landing call where we were detailed to meet on the bottom field to go through some practical battle drills rehearsals for the next week’s exercise. However, we were met on the bottom field by the Troop Commander where he delivered the good news that it in fact we were there for a mud run. We made our way across the rail tracks to the estuary on the other side where we conducted PT in the mud for our poor performance prior to going on leave as well as our lethargic attitude since returning to work. We then had the delight of an admin nightmare on a Friday evening, cleaning our muddy rigs and getting prepped for RMCC (Close Combat) the Saturday morning. It was an informative week and allowed us to get back into the swing of things back at CTC after summer leave and prepared us for a week in the field where the troop seem ready and eager to have a successful trip to Braunton Burrows in North Devon. Now knowing what can happen in the mud if we seriously under perform is always good motivation to keep us going.
Week 18 began with a jolt as we had 2 hours of bottom field at 8 am before deploying on Exercise Second Empire. Everyone performed well on a muddy bottom field which put the Troop on the front foot for the tough week ahead. After a quick shower and an even quicker loading of stores, it was a coach ride to the North Devon beaches of Braunton Burrows – our home for the rest of the week.
Exercise Second Empire is probably the best week in the field for recruits as it gives them a chance to practice and execute section attacks which leads onto working as a troop in executing various larger scale Troop attacks and ambushes. The exercise also introduces the roles of Section I/C’s (in-command) and 2 I/C’s. This dynamic allows the troop to function more independently. Unfortunately, 204 Troop decided to make a few errors during the rest periods in the harbour when we thought the training team weren’t around. As a result, we experienced very little rest from this point forward, as the harbour was continually attacked by a probing enemy.
The different evolutions of attacks were “hoofing”, and gave the Troop a real taste of the roles of a Royal Marine rifleman in Combat. The week ended with a Troop deliberate attack at 5 in the morning followed by a little “yomp” to RM Chivenor and a welcomed coach ride back to CTCRM.
The Troop enjoyed this week more than any in the field so far. However we have “Crash Week” (five bottom field sessions in six days) in preparation for Bottom Field Passout next week to look forward to.
Crash week – a week full of bottom field PT in preparation for Bottom Field Passout the following Monday combined with our first lessons on the GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun). Bottom Field Passout consists of a full 30 ft rope climb, the assault course, a 200m fireman’s carry and a full regain over the water tank carrying 21lbs and a weapon all completed back-to-back. Crash week was tailored to suit this and involved multiple gruelling circuits and team exercises on the obstacles. By Thursday night everyone in the Troop was feeling very fatigued but confident that we can pass this vital phys test on Monday. Failure to do so would mean being re-trooped.
After our phys sessions we underwent weapons handling classes on the GPMG which culminated in the Troop passing a weapons handling test followed by a live intro shoot at Straight Point ranges on Friday. This gave us an appreciation for the fire power and advantage the GPMG can give a Section or Troop in a fire fight.
Our weekend coincided with the annual Royal Marines Association (RMA) get together at Lympstone. The Troop helped with the event and heard some hoofing dits about training and ‘Bootneck’ life over the past 60 years from all the veterans who attended.