217 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 1 AND 2
- I got the train at 0930 to travel to CTC for my first day of Royal Marines training. I was nervous but also excited about what was going to happen to me over the next 32 weeks and if I would be physically fit enough. I met up with a few other men on the train, all of us strangers but with the same goal to earn the coveted Green Beret.
- We disembarked the train at Lympstone Commando Station and I was apprehensive to say the least, something that I’ve been waiting for so long for has finally come and there is no turning back. The first week of foundation was very busy learning the basics of military personal administration such as washing ironing cleaning and polishing, and coupled with lectures proved to be tiring and a shock to the system, a lot of PT over the Gym was conducted too and not too much sleep.
- In the second week we spent our first night out in the ‘field’, we were taught how to conduct wet and dry routine, this involved jumping into the open water tank with our kit on and then changing into dry clothes and getting into our sleeping bags we ended up getting a relative early night which was a break from the norm. We then took it in turns to do 1 hour sentry in pairs during the night which was loads of fun.
- All in all I have enjoyed my time at Commando Training Centre as I have never done anything like this before and I have learnt a lot from it about myself and the military way of life. On the Friday of week 2 we had a big inspection which was pass or fail to ‘get out’ of the foundation block and into our 6 man accommodation. Everyone within the troop wanted to pass this and worked well into the night to ensure this happened. Over the weekend we were granted some ‘shore leave’ and we all headed into Exeter for a few hours. It was nice to have a few beers and relax away from training for a little bit. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for 217 Troop.
217 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 3
- Week 3 was the first week 217 Troop were introduced to the weapon stances and the basic skills of handling our SA80 assault rifles safely. This included learning the functions of the different parts and also learning how to conduct safety drills such as NSP (Normal Safety Procedures, this series of drills ensure the weapon system has no rounds aka bullets in it). All sections (the Troop is broken down in to groups of 8-12 men which are called sections) started to understand the importance of stripping down and reassembling our weapons in order to ensure our weapons were clean and in fighting order.
- This was the beginning with a look to build up to our weapon handling test (this is a test that all service personnel must pass on each weapon system they use, as it proves they are safe and competent to use a weapons system) and much of the week was spent rehearsing the drills taught by our section corporals. After a few small errors and some incentive based corrective training we managed to get our heads around the basics of handling our weapons correctly and we looked forward to the weeks ahead especially the chance to fire our first live rounds (a round is the bullet and the cartridge casing that holds the gunpowder) even if it meant cleaning our rifles of carbon which many members of the troop are still getting to grips with.
- Furthermore the development of the rope climbs in the gym involved us learning the impressive make fast in which hands are left off the rope whilst dangling in a fixed position before continuing our climb to the top. IMF (Initial Military Fitness, this is the first phase of the physical progression the Rcts go through during their time at CTCRM) just got interesting!
217 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 4
- Training is beginning to blur into one. This week was Ex First Step as well as Drill (Marching practice) and PT (physical Training).It was good to finally get out of camp and try our hand at aggressive camping on Woodbury Common, we learned plenty from the training team within field administration and about how to conduct sentry duties (those that stay awake to keep the location that the rest of the men are sleeping in safe, this will be rotated through the troop so that everyone does their turn, in theory at least).
- However we were introduced to the first field flank a small corrective training measure that almost everyone was part of. Then we had our first ‘Yomp’ (march with field kit, ie Burgan, which is issued rucksack, webbing and of course our rifles) and our troop could have done better as we haven’t grasped the caterpillar effect yet (the caterpillar effect is cause by individuals at the front of a body of men falling back then running forward to close up the gap, this distance will typically be significantly larger by the time this gap appears at the back, causing those in the rear to have to run a lot further to stay with the troop, much to their frustration).
- Back on camp the DL (Drill leader) and PT staff were pleased to see the Troop, thankfully everyone gave their all in the gym and on the square. Let’s see how we perform after Christmas leave.
217 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 5
- After arriving back on camp after Xmas leave it was always going to be tough but the thought of deploying to Ex Quick Cover on the first day back is even harder. The week started with a 4 mile run, this is the first lengthy run we had to carry out in boots whilst at CTCRM. After the run to burn off the Xmas dinners and newly formed beer bellies it was time to get ready to head out on exercise – QUICK COVER.
- Exercise was to be expected, cold and wet with minimal sleep, although it was a helpful exercise that introduced us to camouflage and concealment alongside fire and manoeuvre with weapons which allowed us to get ourselves into a more tactical state of mind. After every exercise comes the de-servicing of kit, for many recruits this ends in sleepless nights and it was no different in our case. After a day with no sleep some of the lads lost focus and made a few errors, which in turn meant we would find out the hard way why we should stay focused.
- The highlight of the week for many was family’s day which allowed the troops families to come and see what life at CTCRM is like. This being said having no sleep during the exercise prior to this big day was daunting but the thought of a long weekend was a relief as we could get some sleep and recover. The day itself ran relatively smoothly and the families feedback of the day was a success, although the PT staff on the other hand thought differently so as the families left the gym after watching one of our typical gym routines we was swiftly met with a bout of hard work.
- Overall the week was a shock to the system for many recruits coming back after the 2 weeks off was tough, we learnt some lessons the hard way but could take these points into the following week after being fresh from a weekend of rest.
217 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 6
After a much appreciated long weekend leave following the excitement of exercise Quick Cover and families’ day, the troop commenced week 6 with a not-so familiar feeling of rejuvenation. However, the short break offered little respite and emotions were tense on Monday morning as the troop prepared for the week ahead with apprehension. Our 6th week of training proved to be largely academic and much of our time was spent in the class room.
Monday began with an introduction to first aid, which focused specifically on injuries that may be sustained in a military environment. The lectures allowed us to gain an understanding of the military triage sieve, tactical field care, primary survey methodology and some hands-on experience with emergency first aid equipment such as tourniquets. We also received a lecture on bore-sighting and zeroing techniques for our weapon systems which proved useful as the week progressed.
Tuesday saw the issuing of protractors, compasses and maps; essential for our introduction to map reading that morning. These lectures involved the basics of navigation across ground by foot and began with familiarisation to maps, scales and the grid referencing system.
Wednesday morning involved a 5 mile booted run as a troop, the furthest to date. The pace proved challenging and not all recruits managed to maintain it. The troop received lectures on thinking strategies and small arms maintenance which many found insightful. The day concluded with an IMF session. Thursday came around quickly and the group were excited for our first live firing of the SA80 weapon system at straight point range. We drew weapons from the armoury and proceeded en route to the ranges by coach where we were met by members of the Royal Marines marksmanship team. After a safety brief and a short overview of fire positions, we were introduced to a computer simulation model of the ranges and the tasks we were expected to perform prior to carrying out our first real shoot. The troop as a whole performed well, with a select few achieving particularly impressive groupings. Thursday was an exciting day which ended with the shocking realisation that rifles become more difficult to de-service once fired for a day.
The week concluded on Friday with more IMF and map reading. We learnt how to apply the use of a protractor correctly and a brief introduction to the compass, the “3 norths”, relief and speed/distance/time calculations. Week 6 was a slightly slower paced but mentally challenging week which contrasted greatly to the previous, once again displaying the diversity of Royal Marines training.
217 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 7
Week 7 started with an early map reading session with our troop Sgt, which consisted of Map to Ground techniques, which we would use for this week’s Exercise, Marshall Star. The map reading is taught in a relaxed environment, where you can ask questions so you can fully get a grip of the subject and its complexities. Shortly after the map reading, we had a 45 minute IMF session in the gym, this session mainly consisted of Rope Climbs, as there are a few members of the troop who are struggling with this key area of the gym routine. It was a tough session, and didn’t leave us particularly fresh for our next detail, which was to start getting ready to deploy into the field for 3 ½ day Exercise, Marshal Star.
Once we had left the coach, we were in Woodbury Common, and at once we began to set up the Training Team’s location. On completion of the tents we got into our first lectures, the first of which was about Sentry Duties and Range Cards, what to do if your troop/section gets bumped in the night, and other Harbour Drills and routines. That night, whilst on Sentry we were bumped/attacked by the training team, and we had to put what we had just learnt into practise. We were told that a good mortar team could have struck our position within 6-7 minutes, and unfortunately took 30 minutes, which wasn’t great news. Although for our first time we did quite well.
The following morning we completed our Morning Routine and we were detailed to have a Kit Muster laid by 0800 near the training team’s tent. Once we had all been inspected, the Troop Sgt told us that we were all on the flank for how we left the accommodation back on camp, where we got to know a steep hill very well. The day’s first activity was Map Reading with our Troop Sgt, which covered practical Map to Ground, and orientating ourselves to key features on the ground, for the navigation lesson later that night. The practical lessons help us understand our lectures and theory lessons on Map Reading, as you can get much more hands on with the task.
We went onto Obstacle Crossing, which involved crossing Junctions, Barbed Wire, and Fences in a tactical manor when patrolling in fireteams/sections.
We then went onto our first night navigation lesson at around 7PM with our Section Commanders guiding us around Woodbury Common, showing us techniques such as boxing around obstacles and on what the key features look like at night in order to recognise them when navigating in the dark. Once we completed the night nav, we went back to our Harbour and began our sentry duties for the night, until we were bumped by our training team again. This time we took 23-24 minutes, which was an improvement from the previous night.
The next morning we completed our Morning Routine again, and proceeded to lay a kit muster in the same place at the same time.
Our first lecture included Target Indication, Fire Control Orders, and Stalking. After we got to grips with these subjects, we did a practical Stalking task, where we had to crawl 100m up to a member of the training team with binoculars, and had to fire two rounds off without him seeing us. This was a Camouflage and Concealment lesson, and those with the best tactics and cam and con did the best in this activity.
After this lesson we went back to our Harbour Areas and got bumped again.
In the Morning, we laid another kit muster and prepared for the 5 mile yomp back to Camp with most of our kit, which was our first taster of yomping. It was difficult, as we had the weight increased from the previous exercise, although everyone seemed to have got through it, and before we knew it we were back on camp de-servicing our kit.
Unfortunately everyone failed the kit muster the following morning which didn’t put our training team in a very good mood, so we had to re-parade our kit musters the following Saturday morning, which meant those who didn’t pass had to adhere to the poor admin routine. A few failed which left them doing kit musters every few hours of the day, but the remainder of the troop managed to get into Exeter and unwind from a very hard week of training.
217 TROOP: RECRUIT DIARY – WEEK 8
To start off with 217 troop were all pleased that they had completed exercise Marshall Star during week 7 despite it being a very tough and challenging exercise especially for me as an individual, however that was behind us now and it was the beginning of week 8.
Wednesday came around the corner and we were up early, some of the lads feeling nervous, whereas some feeling pumped and confident, me being a bit of both. We had spent 2 hours rehearsing the routine, then it was time and the Sergeant who would be inspecting us appeared on the parade ground with his shiny polished toe caps wearing his immaculate uniform.
Interval drill pass out began and the entire troop made sure that we all worked just as hard as each other to pass, as we went through each drill we did them to the best of our effort, making sure we drove our heel blocks hard into the deck of the main parade and every turn was quick and sharp. This gave the troop a high score and allowed us to progress on and pass our interval drill pass out which made our DL very impressed with our performance. Overall training will always be tough, yet this week I was very happy with myself and felt a sense of accomplishment, now it’s time to get on with week 9 and smash gym pass out and look towards Ex Hunters Moon.