218 Troop Week 9-18

Week 9 was to be a very busy one for 218 with 3 different tests, also it was our last full week sleeping on camp for a little while.

For the last 4 weeks we had been busy learning how to navigate using a map and compass, this is a vital skill for every Marine in case the modern day technology was to fail, or be disabled by the enemy, it means we can still operate effectively.  Monday was our last chance to brush up on our classroom based map work before spending the next day orienteering individually around Woodbury Common,  up until this point we had always navigated in pairs as a minimum.  We were given our grid references for the checkpoints and the order they needed to be visited in the night before.  One man set off from each section at 2 minute intervals, some people seemed to forget this was an individual effort and 2 groups were simultaneously stopped by the Troop Commander and made to conduct resections to prove they knew where they were and then being sent on their way (but not before conducting some corrective PT!). The weather had been kind and made for a very enjoyable day on the Common. This also set us up well for the next week which was going to be spent navigating Dartmoor.

Things had been becoming more real as we had spent the last 3 weeks being taught ‘battlefield first aid’.  Some of the videos we got shown really hit home with the lads and the risks involved in the job at the end, although it didn’t change anyone’s mind about their potential new career choice.

Wednesday was the culmination of our learning and we had to demonstrate in a practical environment we could use the variety of Battle field life-saving equipment and the correct drills in order to potentially save another’s life. Everyone in the Troop passed their first aid exams with no issues.

Thursday was our busiest day of the week, it started early and, after a hurried breakfast, we got in to our drill rig – we had spent a lot of time on the night before, making sure everybody’s shirts were immaculate and that you could see your reflection in the boots toe caps.  Everyone put in a lot of effort and, after a few mistakes in the practice run, the whole Troop did well on the interval drill assessment.

After lunch we received a brief about the Level 2 NVQ we would be working towards.  In the afternoon the Troop got the coach over to Straight Point to go on the Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (a simulator which allows you to practice marksmanship) and we also learnt about the Light Support Weapon (LSW).

2 tests down but Friday would see the one we have been waiting for, gym pass out!  As a Troop we have had harder gym sessions than what was about to come but this didn’t mean people were not nervous.  After a thorough warm up the PTI (Physical Training Instructor) came over and had a quick chat to make sure everyone was happy before we started.  First up was ‘team games’ then quick ‘liveners.’ Everyone now focused on giving max effort and perfect form.  Next up was 3 rope climbs, followed by a ‘best effort ‘camp circuit’s session (involving sprinting as quickly as possible around the camp).

1 from the Troop twisted his ankle and couldn’t finish the rest of the session unfortunately.  With everyone else getting the required time, straight back in to the gym and sprinting furiously to get the blue mats out and down for main group (sit ups) then moving on to the beam circuit. We had a final set of 3 rope climbs and then we finished with sprints.  We all stood to attention while a few people were retested in some areas, it was a shame but we ended up losing 2 from the Troop who unfortunately failed to complete the session to the required standard.

The 4 Recruits who were put forward for ‘gym superior’ assessment did really well and all of them were subsequently awarded it.

We still had a swim to go but, due to a strong performance, we were given the treat of playing a bit of water polo.

Over the weekend we got to go ashore and get any kit we needed for next week as well as the chance to have a few wets!

218 Troop – Weeks 11 and 12

218 Troop started the week on a downer with a sub- standard inspection of the accommodation. This subsequently led to us losing the accommodation at straight point and us sleeping under the stars in our ponchos all week.

The first week of straight point started with the build up to our Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT). This consisted of 100m, 200m and 300m shoots in all positions. As this was our first time at shooting more than 25m we had our own dedicated Combat Marksmanship team to keep us on the straight and narrow.

During the week our physical development continued, both with our PTI and training team.   Our PTI introduced us to speed marching, rope climbing in boots and fireman carries. By the end of the week the words ‘to the red sign and back’ began to haunt everyone. The ‘red sign’  was a 130m sprint downhill to then carry a partner back up the hill on your shoulders.

At the end of the week we had all passed the first part of our ACMT and Rct SHARROCK had been crowned top shot for the week.   It was now time for a well- earned Easter leave.

Week 12

After everybody’s 2 weeks off it was back to the life of a nod and straight for the second instalment of shooting. The week started a little better than the last and we were granted access to the accommodation on the camp.

The second week of straight point had been eagerly anticipated, there had been lots of talk from Recruits in more senior Troops about how good the week was going to be.  It did not disappoint.

We began with Close Quarter Marksmanship (CQM) shoots at 15m, 10m, 5m, and 3m in the standing position. We started with ‘point of aim’ shoots to the head and the chest then progressed onto cadence drills, hammer pairs and the miss drill. Everybody loved the CQM shoots, it showed on all the lads beaming faces as they came back from the firing point.

During the week we got to play with some new toys. Laser Light Modules (LLM’s) and Helmet Mounted Night Vision Goggle’s (HMNVG’s) This allowed us to shoot in the dark with using Infra-Red technology (invisible to the naked eye). This was an amazing thing to do but made it much better because you use the laser to point at the target without looking through sights.

Two of the more difficult shoots were the respirator shoot (using a gas mask) and the moving target shoot.

The week was fantastic and all everyone enjoyed themselves with the shooting. It was now back to camp and off on a whistle stop tour of Normandy.

We left Lymstone on the Friday evening and travelled to Portsmouth ferry terminal to hop the channel to Cairn. We arrived early Saturday morning, picked up our fantastic guide “Smiler” and started our Battle field tour of the D-Day landings.

Firstly we went to the British Cemetery at Bayeux and placed crosses at the headstone of graves to show our remembrance. There were many Royal Marines in the cemetery along with other soldiers from a huge variety of regiments.

Over the two days we visited the beaches of the landings, museums, cemeteries and watched interesting films about the D-Day landings.  Although we have visited the sites of the landings, the graves of the many that died and been able to watch some of the original films, it is very difficult to comprehend the loss of life and sacrifice that these young men gave for the freedom we enjoy to this day.

Troop diary – Week 13 –

I’m sure troop would agree that week 13 was one of the best and worst weeks of training so far. Nothing beats the Monday blues like being exposed to a bit of CS (Chlorobenzalmalononitrile (or more simply ‘tear’)) gas.

After having an insightful weekend exploring Normandy, retracing the steps of Royal Marines and allied troops during World War Two, we started our week off by being exposed to CS gas. The purpose of this was to make sure our respirators fitted correctly and functioned as they should do.  Although, I have a slight feeling that another reason we were exposed to the gas was for the amusement of the training team. On a positive note, our respirators worked.

Mid- week the Troop deployed onto Exercise BAPTIST WALK, a practice exercise for the upcoming test Exercise BAPTIST RUN.  A critical based exercise we all need to pass in order to progress into phase two of training. The Troop on a whole performed well and we were able to iron out any particular areas we struggled with in preparation for Exercise Baptist Run. A few highlights from the exercise include Rct JOYCE fighting off a group of ponies whilst attempting to complete a resection (to determine his location using compass and various key points on the ground).  Also, Rct NORMAN demonstrating an excellent example of how to get lost and carry out the distress drill, putting his whistle to good use.

The cherry was firmly placed on the top of this week when we traveled out to a Naval Air Base to conduct underwater helicopter escape drills. Considering that a number of the troop are not excellent swimmers, many wondered if they’d ever make it back to Lympstone.

Each Recruit took it turns to climb into a mock helicopter hull which was suspended from the ceiling. It was then lowered into the water and spun under water. Each disorientated recruit then had to make his way out of the hull and get to the surface. There were a few panicked faces when the lights were switched off and it had to be conducted in the dark. Again, this was conducted in front of our training team who I’m sure took great amusement watching their Recruits panic in the water.

218 Troop – Week 14

The first criteria test we did was the 4 mile speed march, this was done first thing Wednesday morning before deploying into the field. No one in the troop had any difficulties with this, unfortunately one lad was carrying an injury which was made worse by the speed march and was unable to deploy into the field.

On completion of the march we loaded the wagons for Exercise BAPTIST RUN. Once in the field we began setting up the team area and then started the tests. These included; a static navigation stance, a stalk, then tests on; fire control orders, target indication and an observation stance. These were completed by late afternoon, and after a ‘hot wet’ and some ‘scran’ we were given our details for the solo night navigation- we were given a couple of hours to plan our route and write up a route card.

First man stepped off at 22:00, I was somewhere near the middle. During this night nav I had what can only be described as a nightmare, I got lost, badly. I was heading to my last checkpoint, following my bearing, and, what i think happened, was I walked straight past the checkpoint without realising and just kept going.  After some time I started to use a river/stream to follow. Walking too close to the edge I lost my footing and tumbled down the hill towards the river, landing on a fallen tree across it. I wrapped myself around the tree, but the weight my webbing and daysack span me round and I fell in the water, fully submerging myself, including my rifle. Safe to say at this point I started to panic.  With no idea where I was I started the ‘lost routine’ (head west until you hit a metal road).  After the best part of an hour later I hit the road, and a few minutes later 2 Corporals from the training team found me. I was able to laugh about it at this point. They drive me back to the harbour area, and i have a small debrief from the Troop Commander. I then spent the rest of the night getting my rifle ready for the next morning’s inspection.

Next day was an early start 0400 as we had a full kit inspection at 0600. The rest of that day was exactly the same as the day before. Including another night nav, which I was more successful at this time!

Again the Friday began with a kit inspection. After that we packed the wagon to return to camp, we also prepared our bergen for a CFT (combat fitness test), this is effectively a quick paced 8 miles … with bergens. Being a fit troop none of the lads had any issues with this.

Now back on camp there was one last thing to do, this was a post field kit inspection on Saturday morning. After this we had a fairly relaxed swimming session. We were then given the rest of the weekend off, all of the lads went in to town to try and relax not knowing how we have performed on the exercise.

218 Troop – Week 15

218 Troop apprehensively awoke on Monday morning, awaiting the news on the BAPTIST RUN results. Unfortunately 11 recruits didn’t hit the pass mark and were sent packing, those who did pass had a demanding physical assessment followed by a day of ‘Phase 2’ introductory lectures taken by the Troop Commander.

Morale was high and excitement levels were increasing after every lecture, it was clear that the transition into phase 2 was going to be quick and we’d have to hit the ground running. Only 3 days ago we were laying kit musters and this week we are being taught how to conduct a reconnaissance patrol! Along with the tactics lectures, we also had more signal lessons, learning how to fill, encrypt, send/receive transmissions and send contact reports on the BOWMAN 354 radios.

On Friday morning we had Arms Drill pass out, much to the surprise of Cpl Applegate- we got a high pass, namely due to the unusually good performance of a number of select Recruits who struggle with marching in step! In the afternoon we were back on the drill square to officially rid ourselves of phase 1, with the Company Commander presenting awards- varying from ‘gym superior’ to’ most improved recruit’… Recruit Jackson was the worthy recipient of this latter award (he still needs to improve his marching though!)

A very busy and exciting week for 218 troop, it was now a look forward to a long weekend at home!

218 Troop – Week 18

By Monday morning of week 18,  218 troop was packed and ready to deploy on exercise SECOND EMPIRE where we would practise patrolling, troop attacks and ambushes.

By dinner time, 218 troop were on a high as we were deploying into Braunton Burrows (a sand dune rich environment in North Devon) via a Merlin helicopter; much better than the usual ‘white angels’ (buses!) used in previous exercises! The troop demonstrated good drills entering and exiting the merlin as swiftly as possible.

On arrival we went straight into it as 4 section demonstrated a Section attack for the rest of the troop on terrain that was more testing than previous attacks on Ex FIRST STEP. We would now use hard cover to execute a ‘left flanking’ attack which went well and the troop now had a better understanding of how the attacks are done.

Following that, the other Sections had a chance to do a dry run through, using different areas of Braunton Burrows.

The following day each Section had 3 different attacks with blank rounds- we had some trained marines who acted as enemy. This made the experience so much better as we now had someone to set our sights on. Different Sections used different tactics on all of the attacks, on the second attack 3 section rolled straight over the enemy where other sections used the flanking tactic, rolling seemed to be more successful on that occasion as we had the appropriate cover to do so.

Following on from the attacks we were taught by the training team how to conduct ‘casualty evacuations’, this involved showing us different methods and techniques on how it is best done.

We then started to shape the Troop attack for the following day with lengthy orders and model pits (used to represent the ground and paint a picture for an action) made by each Section to give us a better understanding on what we were doing. Each Section had a fire team set out on a recce to identify routes used by the enemy, cut off points and killing groups. The rest of the troop held  the harbour position, we were given pointers by the training team on our arks to make sure they were interlocking so we had all round protection as it was the first time we had set a harbour position up in that type of terrain. The following attack went well with 1 Section acting as the primary assault, 2 Section acting as reserve and 3 and 4 Section providing Fire Support from an elevated position.

The next phase of the exercise was the night ambush. We had orders and made model pits during the day; the models seemed to be getting better by the day including more detail every time. 2 section were tasked with conducting a recce and once night fell, they led us in. The troop had been issued with Helmet Mounted Night Vision Sights (HMNVS) which aided us a lot in the dark. 2 and 3 Section were the main ‘killing group’. 3 section then swept the killing ground and searched all the dead, 1 section acted as ‘rear protection’ whilst 4 section was split off into ‘left’ and ‘right’ ‘cut offs’. One of the highlights of the exercise which made everyone laugh was that a troop of army commandos that set of the trip flare which was meant for the enemy.

The final attack of the exercise was the night attack, 4 section was tasked with setting an Observation Post. 3 section did a recce on the route to the link up point with the recce call-sign already on the ground. This time 1 Section was fire support, 2 Section was reserve and 3 Section were assault. Recruit Williams received praise from Corporal Kent for good fire control orders, we were then debriefed by the training team on the attack giving us tips where  we could do better and areas that we did well in. The Troop Commander said it was best doing this straight after as it would still be fresh in our minds.

The final part of the exercise was the yomp back to RM Chivenor with full kit. 10 minutes into it the troop heard prepare to break into ‘double time’- I don’t think anyone was expecting it!.  All the training team seemed to have smiles on their faces whilst we was doubling luckily it didn’t last for long and we slowed back to a march . All of us completed the yomp and were very pleased at the sight of the ‘white angel’ ready to take us back to camp. Speaking to the Troop, the lads enjoyed this exercise the most and learnt a lot from it.

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