218 Troop – Week 17
Week 17 was an interesting week for 218 troop, we learned 2 very valuable lessons.
The first is that Viking armoured vehicles (the amphibious tracked, armoured personnel carriers of the Royal Marines) , as cool as they are, are rubbish to be inside when they flip in water. The dunker drills were horrible however provided some great banter amongst the Troop. The rebreathers (a breathing device allowing you to ‘recycle’ oxygen that you breath out into a bag) are also officially our least favourite piece of equipment. Many of the lads struggled with these tests and there were a few that we were all surprised to see at panic stations! We also discovered that Rct COPELAND is an underwater fighter champion, when- no matter what place he was in the order of march for leaving the submerged Viking- he would always manage to fight his way to the front!
The second of these lessons is that if you can’t run from the mud run. After 2 weeks in phase 2 we felt confident that the dreaded mud run was behind us and that we had escaped it, how wrong we were. After a ‘successful’ tactical insertion into a harbour we were nicely tucked away in our previously clean bivvi bags getting some much needed sleep… well that’s how I choose to remember it. However in reality the insertion was less than tactical and involved multiple people being dug out of knee high mud and eventually making a rough outer perimeter.
After we collapsed the harbour and made another ‘tactical’ withdrawal we thought our mud run was over, however the training team had one more bonding task they needed completing. Our mission, which we had no choice but to accept, was to retrieve a fallen tree maybe 50-75 meters off the estuary banks, not a problem for 37 ‘strapping’ young lads. How wrong we were, as we found out the mud was so deep we were sinking into it and a small team (literally, we were the shortest blokes in the troop) were sent out on rescue missions to save those who were firmly stuck in place. After 20 minutes of hard graft we succeeded in extracting the massive log to the shore line and were granted our freedom to bottom field where the training team took great pleasure in hosing us down ready for cleaning and our weekend ‘run ashore’.
218 Troop – Week 16
After among weekend off Troop 218 returned to CTC revitalised and ready to start phase 2 of training. We were getting straight into the thick of it heading into our first tactics exercise, we were immediately engaged with the fact that the training team had organised for us to be transported via Chinook onto Woodbury common.
First of all we received our first set of orders and gave us the battle picture for the following days in the field, the picture was filled with different factions across the UK and news reports showing what was happening in the areas that we would be operating in. Following orders we cracked on with the usual prepping of kit and packing up the wagon with supplies. Next up, the Chinook flight…
As we gathered in 2 groups on the top field it was impressive to see the Chinook racing towards us over horizon. After a quick safety brief from the Flight sergeant , the Chinook fired up its engines and the first 2 sections prepared to board. Being new to running with a Bergen over one shoulder there were a few calamities with a few lads hitting the deck fairly hard with a full bergen following them swiftly. The flight itself was impressive, Chinooks, despite being larger aircraft, have amazing agility.
Sections 1 and 2 had previously secured the landing zone for the following two sections so after a quick reorganisation we started a walk to our Final Rendezvous (FRV). Having settled into the FRV the newly appointed section IC’s worked with the Troop Commander to set up the harbour, after a quick recce in the pre chosen area to ensure it was secure the runners were sent back to collect the rest of the troop. The soak period came without hindrance and we set about getting sentries in position and communications (comms)cord (a green string-like material used to guide you around the harbour in the night time hours) around the outside of the harbour.
Onto the teach side of the exercise, the first drills we were shown were how to ‘break contact’ (get away from heavy enemy fire) using different methods. it was safe to say that the training teams demonstrations got us all very excited! Our turn next. Working with our section corporals we ran through the drills getting the adrenaline going with some hard and aggressive work, having got the basics running smoothly we had our evening ration meal and got ready for the nights recce patrol.
At 2100 we moved out of the harbour to recce an OP position that we would be using later in the exercise, ensuring that we were using the tactical side we had been briefed on back at CTC using the Rendezvous (RV) system (setting various pre-designated checkpoints) to get there and then using a different route back going through the ‘snap ambush’ drill in case of an enemy follow up.
The following morning we were up at first light to ‘stand to’ (in case of dawn enemy attack), completed our ‘morning routine’ and then met up with our section commanders once again to imbed the break contact drills that we had gone through the evening before. As the morning went on you could see in a much higher quality in the troops ability to communicate and complete the drills smoothly and with good pace and aggressive movement.
The afternoon we worked on obstacle drills so that we would be able to seamlessly cross large tracks, metal roads or fence lines tactically. These were simple and the troop quickly got round them to a good standard. The sections were then issued there new set of orders for the nights evolutions my section was given an ambush up at castle feature which fortunately for us was an area we were well acquainted with.
Section 3 moved out of the harbour to perform our first tactical evolution our section corporal putting the onus on us to work together and complete the task with as little guidance as needed from himself. I think as a section we were excited but slightly apprehensive to make sure everything went to plan. The route up was simple and we moved tactically even with a slight hiccup on the first obstacle crossing but a quick remedial crossing sorted out any teething issues we had.
On the approach to the ambush site a small party went ahead to recce the site, the position was tucked behind a bit of cover looking over the road we were expecting an enemy convoy to approach. Bringing up the rest of the section we donned our warm kit and laid in wait.
Midnight approached with no sign of the enemy and, following orders, we pulled back and started to make our way back to the harbour. However the enemy clearly had different ideas as on our return we were ‘contacted’ with heavy enemy fire. We reacted well and returned fire, going through the drills taught.
We broke contact and reorganised to make sure we had everyone and no injuries before continuing on the route back to the harbour. On our return to the harbour we moved location in pitch black to a new location which presented its own issues such as successfully finding the sentry positions. We settled down for the night getting a few hours of precious head down before being awoken to the sound of rifle fire, we were being contacted, the sections being contacted fought off the enemy and then the organised chaos of packing gear ready to bug out began, moving as fast as we could to get the ERV.
Having moved everyone successfully to the ERV our next task was to collect the brass from the previous night. Our section had forgotten to take our warmers off after exiting the ambush ( a big no no as you can overheat easily when moving with weight and at speed) this obviously did not go unpunished!
We were given a bit of time to admin ourselves before being given demonstrations of an Observation Post (OP) position and how to break out of an OP if contacted, our next orders were clearly going to be based around an OP position. Our prediction was true and we received our orders and packed up ready to head over to the position we recce’d at the start of the exercise. Before we made our way over we had a quick introduction in how to deal with captured personnel, which was essentially involved a bit of stress relief for the troop shouting at each other demands whilst another was circling ready to search the “captured person”, it was a good experience but also quite an eye opener when having to check someone for a suicide vest etc.
Each section moved out to their OP position for the night and spent a few hours building up the position ensuring the camouflage was a decent quality as well as ensuring there was enough room to be able to manoeuvre ourselves within the hide. At first we thought our OP was going to have loads of room but once we filled it with all our kit and ourselves we realised just how cramped it was going to be.
Moving onto the nights evolutions we found that the first few rotations on sentry/ logging etc were quite difficult but eventually we worked out an efficient order for us to move in. Through the night there were a few sightings; the strangest of which was the sighting of a large white rabbit running up and down the track- some of the lads weren’t quite sure if this was just the sleep deprivation or they were really seeing it.
As first light approached so did the enemy contacting us it started off with a bit of confusion but we soon broke out, bursting through the roof of our position and putting rounds down so that we could then move out and break contact, again the phrase ‘organised chaos’ comes to mind with kit being packed whilst lads trying to put other kit on in the dark as well as putting suppressing fire onto the enemy. Having said this we successfully broke away and met up with our fellow fire team before moving back towards the harbour location.
On return of all the sections ‘end of exercise’ was declared. There was a sense of relief that we were done but I believe that we learnt a lot from the few days we were out in the field and now we just had to complete a fully weighted speed march back to CTC. The Physical Training Instructor turned up as we finished loading up the truck. It was ensured that our webbing was the correct weight before we set off. The route wasn’t a new one, we were familiar with it as we had completed parts of it on previous exercises, so it was good to know where we were and how far we had left. The pace was up fast and furious with not a huge amount of walking but the troop kept together and dug deep to complete it.
This concludes week 16 and the troop had a night of deserving of kit ahead before a weekend of no detail which was well received by all. Our first week in phase 2 was very enjoyable and a great learning experience, we are all looking forward to what is to come.