Week 11 started with a bang, literally!
As the Troop returned from their much needed Christmas leave, morale was a bit low. However, after seeing the other lads and packing ready for Straightpoint ranges, we knew the following two weeks were going to be good ones.
After packing all the kit we needed for the first week, 214 Troop embarked the coach ready for some thoroughbred Royal Marines marksmanship training. Day one involved a lot of technique based micro lectures led by the Combat Marksmanship Team (CMT): a dedicated team who train all recruits, they include some of the best shots in the Corps. As we readied to take aim in the range, a lot (I mean a lot) of dry firing took place as we used the skills we had learnt to build up firm, comfortable and effective positions to fire from. The day started with a zeroing shoot at 100m where we took aim and adjusted our sights. This was followed by a point of aim shoot in various positions at 100m and 200m. The evening consisted of giving our weapons some TLC and most importantly making them range ready for the next day. We also used the high tech simulated range to practice the shoots for the following day as to gain an understanding for the next day’s shoot.
Day two was started with some routine ‘phys’ as we started to burn off some of the Christmas dinner belly. Many lads felt the strain but still showed a lot of determination to complete the workout to a high standard. We then continued with the day’s shoot consisting of more points of aim shooting as well as extending the range out to 300m. At these longer distances it is important to take into account the trajectory of the round and the wind as this will alter where your round hits on the target. All of these shoots helped us build up the skills we needed for our assessment at the end of the week where the most talented shots could earn their marksman badge to put on their blues (best dress uniform), which of course everybody wanted!
Day three started with a pleasant although hard run a long the coastal path with the PTI. This day introduced us to changing position when contacted by the enemy as well as building on the previous day’s shoots. After passing the live firing we then moved onto a night shoot with no night optics. This was only from 25m but the visibility made the shoot trickier than people expected. Some more phys kicked off day four and as we dressed into the range, everyone was very keen to make their shots count. This was the final day’s practice before the marksmanship test the following day. We cycled though our positions and took on any and all advice the training team were giving us. The support of the team could not go unnoticed as they dug out to improve our marksmanship and hopefully get us onto the marksman standard of shooting.
The last day on the range started off with an activity many recruits are nervous of. Our first proper speed march with 10lbs and a rifle. This put into perspective the level we needed to be at in a few weeks as we grew nearer to the four mile speed march (4MSM). Our march was a bit, as the lads say, ‘cheeky’. But we all survived and looked forward/resented the thought of next week’s march. The range kicked off with another point of aim shoot and a few practice shoots in the morning before we got into the meat of the ACMT (Annual Combat Marksmanship Test). Everyone passed, and some of the lads dug out and were able to achieve a marksman standard on part one of the ACMT. These lads needed to perform the following week on the Close Quarter Marksmanship (CQM) shoots to earn their badge. As the week drew to a close the weekend arrived. Some of the lads spent Saturday morning map reading with the Troop Commander to improve their navigation skills whilst others carried out details for the Corporals. Once this was done we were allowed off base. Week 12 and the final part of the ACMT were drawing closer!
Day one started off with a rather awkward shoot in which we had to wear our respirators. This was very tricky as the respirator changed the cheek position on your rifle causing your point of aim to change. To start the shoot you are given the warning “GAS! GAS! GAS!” On hearing this we immediately tried to put our respirators on: I can only imagine how ridiculous we looked as we fumbled to get this mask on our face quickly for the first time! We conducted the first shoot and rotated round until everyone had passed the shoot. We then moved up to the CQM range where we started our training into a different style of combat. Everyone loved this shoot and morale was at a high. The evening saw us issued with night vision and a laser light attachment for our rifles. It was like Christmas all over again as we tested out the night vision.
Day two started off with an introduction to bottom field style phys including weighted rope climbs and fireman carries. After phys we dressed onto the CQM range where we started to cycle through the techniques we learnt the day before. We had to be super accurate as we were at a much closer range. As we progressed we gathered a solid understanding of our points of aim. As we came onto the final part of the ACMT, the potential marksmen knew it was all to play for. The tension stayed with us throughout the rest of the day as we anticipated the results. After the test we proceeded to do movement shoots including pivot turns and walking down onto the target. After the shoot we looked at the floor and saw the vast amount of brass we had shot that day. It was a good day.
Day three began with some deserved extra phys as we had let ourselves slip on Tuesday night in regards to cleaning the weapons. After the debt was settled we then began our day’s shooting. The main focus of today was an introduction to automatic fire. This really put into perspective the accuracy of each type of fire. Although most of the groupings were abysmal, it was still a lot of fun handling the weapon in that way. We spent the evening working on the indoor computer range shooting moving targets ready for the shoot on Thursday.
Day four began with more phys in the form of a hard circuit down on the beach. It was an amazing place to be pushing yourself and it enabled us to practice our techniques for bottom field whilst also training hard in the sand. We spent the morning firing the light support weapon (LSW) on the 25 metre range. This was an introduction, and most lads found this weapon very effective in the automatic mode as well as single shot. The afternoon was supposed to be moving target shooting but unfortunately the range we needed was malfunctioning so we couldn’t shoot. Our training team decided we should head back to camp after cleaning all our weapons. A long night of cleaning rifles, kit and ourselves laid ahead.
Day five: we woke early after not a lot of sleep and made ourselves ready for a 3 mile speed march. Our Troop performed much better even though we had done it at a faster than usual pace. This definitely built confidence for the 4 mile speed march in week 14! The remainder of Friday morning was spent de-servicing the range kit, night vision and laser light modules we had used earlier in the week. At 1400 we began to ready ourselves for Exercise OVERLORD (a weekend touring the battlefields of Normandy) – a trip everyone was looking forward to. On Saturday morning, after a night crossing, we woke on the ferry, a very weary group of nods. We travelled to our first stop in Bayeux which was the British cemetery. Here we met our tour guide, ‘Smiler’, who was so passionate about the history he was teaching us. We walked round the cemetery and each recruit placed a cross, with the globe and laurel (Corps emblem) on it, on a grave. We gave two minutes silence to honour the brave men who fought for us on D-Day. We travelled to many interesting sights and visited the beaches on which Royal Marines had fought. We also visited the massive American cemetery on Omaha beach (famous for the opening scene of the movie Saving Private Ryan) – a truly amazing spectacle. The last stop of the day was Port-en-Bassin. This was a major objective bravely fought for by 47 Commando Royal Marines. The Troop honoured their courage with a toast to the Royal Marines (with the traditional port) and a wreath laid upon the memorial. We retired to the hotel where we got to experience some French cuisine and local pubs. The perfect end to the perfect day.
Day seven. The last day of our Normandy tour took us onto the sand of Utah beach, taken by the Americans on D-Day. We also visited a small French town called Sainte Mère Èglise, where we learnt about the 101st and 82nd Airborne Regiments of the US Army and their task to take the town. It was an absolutely amazing trip and everyone would agree that they had experienced something they have never experienced before.