204 Troop Training Diary
Monday started with a lecture on specialisations followed by our bottom field Passout which was all everyone was thinking about over the weekend. As a troop we marched down with webbing (21lb) and weapon ready to get on with it. The Passout began with a quick warm up whilst our webbing was weighed to ensure we were carrying the correct weight. All the training team were present to watch the troop. First was the rope climb which settled everyone and got us ready to smash the assault course, which was completed with the quickest time recorded as 3 minutes 6 seconds. The next exercise was the 200m fireman’s carry needed to be completed in 90 seconds. This is possibly the most important and hardest aspect of bottom field which most struggle with. However on the day everyone managed to do it. So, with 3 aspects of the Passout done, we moved onto the last test; the full regain over the tank. Technique is vital for this test and on the day of the race we all did it without any dramas and made it across the tank dry. So the troop passed with a 100% pass rate. Spirits were high afterwards and everyone is now keen to start the commando test phase of fitness. Tuesday and Wednesday were camp days with arms drill and lectures throughout. We had the First Drill’s inspection on Wednesday which went well in terms of our turnout. The First drill also asked each of us RM Corps history questions to test our knowledge. Overall it went well and only 3 out of the 27 of us had to re-parade at 2000 that evening. Thursday was the start of Exercise HOLDFAST deploying at midday. It was an exercise in CBRN training and trench digging which was covered earlier on in the week with the Assault engineers (AE’s). After making our way up to Woodbury Common, we were put into pairs and started digging our 2 man battle trenches. We started actually digging at around 1500 and finished the trench the next morning around 1000 when the AE’s came to inspect to see if the trenches were safe enough to build hard over-head cover for our shelter bay. Once the AE’s were happy that the trenches were completed to the correct measurements (1.5m depth, 0.75m wide and 3.8m length) they left and in our pairs we carried out a 50/50 rest and Sentry routine. Later on the Friday were warned about a CBRN attack and had to get into dress category 3 which was then followed by a full CBRN attack. This tested us on our counter CBRN drills which we had been taught in previous CBRN lessons. After that we then went back into the trench routine throughout the night before collapsing at about 0300 Saturday morning. So we filled the trenches back-in and packed all our stores ready to return to camp. After rehearsing some Section Attack drills, we extracted on foot with bergans from Woodbury back to camp, bringing week 20 to an end.
Close Quarter Battle week, or Exercise URBAN WARRIOR is arguably the best week in training (apart from King’s Squad!). This is the general consensus among nods – 204 Troop would probably agree. It has been a relaxed, teach based week for the troop, learning all the techniques of fighting in and around buildings. Monday started with techniques for breaking through locked doors, moving swiftly into the teaching of Close Quarter Battle. The techniques and individual drills feel very alien at first, but quickly become ingrained in your mind and slowly start to become muscle memory. The difficulty is working in such close proximity to each other. The other sticking point is the notion of using initiative in every scenario. Every room you move trough will be different and the men you’ll be working with won’t always be the same, and this makes it essential that you all know and practice the individual drills flawlessly for the section to work together seamlessly. All in all, it brings it home how easy it is to get shot or injured when fighting in an urban environment, especially when simunition was used (paint filled rounds).
Next week the troop deploys to Sennybridge on Exercise VIOLENT ENTRY – the first Phase 2 confirmatory exercise. The training team use this exercise to ascertain who has grasped, and can put into action, the techniques and tactics learned so far in training. We hope the troop will remain together when we return from Sennybridge.
After a full weekend off, 204 Troop were ready to deploy on to Ex Violent Entry.
Monday morning began with loading stores for the exercise, straight into lectures, scran, deployment orders and then waiting out for the Troop Commander to give us the nod to get our gear on and head for the bus, this was at roughly 1845. The bus journey was a good 3 hours which meant ‘toppers head down’ for the troop. We arrived at a pub car park in Sennybridge at roughly 2200, got all stores sorted followed by bergans on to start ‘yomping’ into the night. The weather took a turn for the worse as the wind and the rain came in, something which 204 had been lucky to stay away from throughout training. At roughly 0300 we arrived at a woodblock where we set up a harbour site, got the work routine cracked and got under our bivvies up for a few hours of head down. First job for 1 Section was to send out a recce patrol on a small village which we would be attacking in the next few days. While they were out on the recce the rest of the troop were hard at work getting positions built up and building the model pit ready for orders. After orders, we ‘yomped’ towards the village that we would be attacking and set up ready for H hour (the time the attack takes place). We completed the attack but things did not go as planned and the attack was not up to standard, so the exercise hadn’t started well. That night we had our first taste of hard cover which was nice to get away from the elements.
The following morning we got our gear together and ‘yomped’ for a few hours to the next location. By this point we had lost 3 members of the troop to injury. After a few hours of yomping up and down the harsh terrain of the Welsh mountains, we had to clear a woodblock of enemy forces before finding a suitable harbour site to administrate ourselves securely. The morning was 2 sections turn to go and recce a road and building for a possible ambush location. While they were out the rest of the troop were doing resupply patrols, model pits and other bits of admin. At 0300 we were up and ready to go to conduct the ambush, which was successful and went pretty well. Things were getting better for the troop. After a bit of admin and scran, we ‘yomped’ off to our next location – a woodblock not far from the main objective for the exercise. Same routine was carried out but this time 3 section had the task of occupying an Observation Post which they would be doing throughout the night. This time we created a place for orders at night using our ponchos tied together between trees, so that when the Troop Commander delivered orders at 0300 we could use light to see the model pit without compromising our position. After orders we got our gear and headed off to the main village which we would be attacking at dawn. H hour came and we headed into the village and started to clear our objectives. The attack was a success and cleared all enemy from the village. Then there was the large task of creating a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in a building where the whole troop would be able to defend and operate from within the village itself. We were attacked numerous times throughout the night but defended the FOB from being over-run. At 0630 on the Sunday morning, we finally had the words END EX which meant just about the end of Violent Entry. We cleaned up the FOB, picked up all the empty brass and moved all the stores onto the SV before getting on the coach back to CTC for the long night of de servicing our kit. Violent Entry complete, another week over and another tick in the box. It’s safe to say the troop were glad to get the exercise done and move onto resource and initiative training next week. Another week closer to the end.
After deserving kit from Exercise Violent Entry late into Sunday night/monday morning the Troop woke up eager to head to Dartmoor for Resource and Initiative Training week. We departed around midday after the usual post exercise stores details. Upon arriving we moved into our accommodation and were briefed by the PTI and also met our instructors for the week. Each section was handed an information pack each explaining what the activity they would be doing the following day, and of course the following day would start with an early morning run, phys in the bag!!. 2 Section’s first activity was sea kayaking. After an hour long bus journey we arrived and we were soon in the water trying to get to grips with the two man kayak. This required teamwork and communication as the front man was the power and the rear man did the steering which was much harder than expected. We started with a slow paddle down river towards the sea, gradually getting used to the kayaks in the process. Once we hit open water we were set a 1km challenge: get the whole section from point A to B and get all men and kayaks out of the water as quick as possible. Needless to say 2 Section were victorious. After completing the challenge we were then set various team building tasks which weren’t too hard but they required us to use initiative and work as a team. We completed all the tasks successfully and still managed to have fun whilst we did them. It was a great day out and we all really enjoyed it, especially the lads who had never experienced kayaking before it.
The next day 2 section headed down to Torquay for a day of coasteering. Having done this before I was especially looking forward to it. Coasteering involves climbing up/down rocks to find somewhere safe to throw yourself off into the sea…great fun! We then set about the tasks the instructors had set us previously, one of which involved securing rope over a 20ft gap using knots we had been tasked to learn the night before. The whole section had to get across and perform a regain half way over. Obviously 2 Section set a record of 16m 45 seconds…again happy with that. For the remainder of the day we searched for bigger rocks to jump off before heading back to the van for a sleepy journey back to camp.
The final day had 2 section mountain biking. However, of course it was never going to be a case of getting on the bike and setting off! First we had to figure out a way of picking all 6 bike seats out of the ‘mine field’ using only 2 ropes, a pulley and a karabiner. This took some doing but we pulled together as a team and figured out a way of getting them out. After solving the problem we attached the bike seats, carried out necessary checks and headed off up the hill on our way. It wasn’t long before we got a puncture, and having not fixed a puncture since 2003 it was fair to say it took us a while. Back on the road again we were chewing up the miles, hitting some ridiculous speed coming back down the mountains. After a short dinner break we were again set a task – this time we had to get all the men in the section and the bikes down from a bridge onto an old railway track using a rope and pulley system. Once again the knots we had learnt previously helped us achieve our goal and we had everyone down in less than half an hour. We were also set a 1km time trial challenge off road, each man setting off in 5 second intervals.The slowest man set a time of 6 minutes and he limped out of the woodblock with cuts all over his knees. Clearly he had had a very close encounter with a tree and needless to say we didn’t give him any sympathy. A steady ride back to camp finished off what was for me my favourite of the three activities. All that was left was to clean the bikes down, quick shower, through the hotplate and back on the bus. Overall the week was very enjoyable and we all had a laugh which I think was the most important thing. We learnt useful rope skills and were encouraged from day one to think a little more before coming to a rash decision. It is important to take that extra time to sit back and think logically to overcome a problem either as an individual or within a team.