222 Troop – Week 1
Week 1 has been one of the most demanding but rewarding weeks of my life to date, it was a hard transition from civilian to military way of life.
Our first day in Royal Marines recruit training was spent settling in and being shown basic things, such as showering, shaving, and even brushing your teeth. We were also shown how to correctly make your beds! Over the next few days which to many of us were a complete blur of furious activity we conducted various physical activities and received several safety lectures. Our first introduction to the gym was a real eye opener as to the fitness levels that we are required to achieve.
Morale within the troop has been up and down at various points but already we have started to learn the values of working together as a team and already we understand the need to embrace one of the commando values ‘cheerfulness in the face of adversity’ fully.
The weekend provided us with our first opportunity to relax a little and to go into Exeter to purchase some essential equipment. The mood is apprehensive as we go into week two but everyone is determined to show that they have what it takes to be here at the Commando Training Centre.
222 Troop – Week 2
With the first week of training completed we found ourselves in week two and our final week in the foundation block (hopefully). This week we focused on advancing the basic skills learnt in week 1 and had our first night in the field, and depending on our performance in our final inspection moving out of the foundation block and into the accommodation that will be our home away from home over the following 30 weeks.
We awoke Monday morning to the true reality of our situation the past week hadn’t been a dream and we really had done our first week of Royal Marines training one out of thirty-two done. As always it was an early start with everyone rushing for the heads for their morning dhobi (shower) and shave. By this stage this had started to become routine and we were already notably quicker and more efficient, meaning more time for the troop to get around block admin and have it spick and span for the day’s inspection.
This week’s phys sessions consisted of camp circuit, rope climbing and sessions in the pool. In the pool we began condition ourselves for the BST (Battle Swim Test) by conducting all sessions in combat trousers and shirts, minus our boots, as well as swimming with weighted webbing and rubber rifle. The BST consists of a recruit jumping from the 3 meter board in aforementioned rig swimming 30 meters then passing our webbing and rifle to a fellow recruit and treading water for 2 minutes- long story short, it pays to be a strong swimmer in an amphibious role. Camp circuits have been a shock too us all as most of us are not used to 800m of pure sprinting. For most of us rope climbing has been a pretty alien concept but thanks to the superb instruction of the PTI’s (Physical Training Instructors) we have managed to get through this.
All in all the week has been tougher than expected and the speed at which we are expected to operate at is steadily ramping up. Despite the week being tough and sleep being in short supply another week has been completed and we are another week closer to the end goal.
222 Troop – Week 3
With a lot of team effort we were successful in completing our final inspection in the foundation block and as a result we have earned the right to move into our more permanent accommodation in G Block. It is so good to be out of foundation and have some plug sockets to ourselves!
We had further Drill and gym periods this week and the whole troop is starting to see improvements. We are getting quicker at ‘admin’ and are starting to work well as a team. We are all starting to settle into the way of life at CTCRM, getting to know our way around and the tricks of the trade. Although the Corporals know these to so there is no getting away with anything!!
There were loads of rounds this week and we quickly learnt the higher standards that are expected out of foundation. As a result we found ourselves with many re- parades. The highlight of the week has to be our first weapon handling lessons, it is what a lot of us have been waiting for and I must say it is a great experience when you first draw your rifle from the armoury.
At the end of week three we are going on Easter leave! Everyone is very excited to see their families and to get some rest.
222 Troop – Week 4
This week we all arrived back on camp with our first taste of the ‘Lympstone Blues’ after a glorious Easter leave. Morale was low on Sunday night but we were all excited in a way to get back into the swing of things, including the impending exercise. Exercise FIRST STEP was to follow, which was our first real exercise on which we were taught our ‘morning routine’; including cooking our rations, weapon cleaning and washing ourselves in the field-which is all more challenging than those of you reading this would imagine.
The following morning we had our first field kit muster which was designed to show how well we could administer ourselves in the field, some passed and some failed. Those of us unlucky enough to fail were introduced to field remedial training which ensured that come the next field muster we would all be putting in a lot more effort! After the exercise had finished we had our first 4 mile march back to camp which was very challenging, we can expect lots more of these extraction marches in the weeks to come.
On the Friday we then had the privilege and honour of witnessing a King’s Squad pass out which is the culmination of all a troops’ hard work and effort, which was an amazing thing to experience. Watching this Troop pass out was a massive boost in morale following the Lympstone Blues and really cemented in our minds our decision to join Royal Marines training.
222 Troop – Week 5
Week 5 was another milestone week as it involved Ex QUICK COVER and ‘family’s day’. The week commenced with the troop lacing up our boots and going for a 4 mile run with our PTI. It was a new experience as we had never run as a body of men before, which was preparing us for the speed marches to come later on in training.
We then deployed to Woodbury Common to start Ex QUICK COVER, an exercise which introduced the troop to firing in the field and camouflage and concealment. After the day, we set up our ‘linear harbour’ position, our sentry posts (for defence) and carried the usual harbour routine. The day was almost through, but no day in the field is complete without visiting Peter’s Pool to practice our ‘Wet and Dry’ routine (an essential part of surviving in the field is to get back into wet clothes when you are not in your bivvi shelter) . We could then commence with getting the sentry posts filled and getting our ‘heads down’ (sleep) for the night.
The next day started as any other, with the whole troop carrying out our morning routine before providing a kit muster for the Corporals for inspection. The Corporals then make the decision of ‘remedial training or no remedial training’ for each kit muster. The rest of the day was mainly based on camouflage and concealment and how to react to effective enemy fire. We then practiced how to react ourselves in a controlled environment to enemy fire, and we got the opportunity to fire blank rounds for the first time in training.
Family’s day arrived and we were all very excited to actually have our friends and families at CTC to watch us conduct drill and a gym session. The drill was made even better as we all had the opportunity to bring a family member onto parade and let them have a go at filling our positions in drill. After drill, we had a quick change into gym rig in order to start our gym session for our families to watch. The entire troop worked hard in the gym to put on the best demonstration for our families that we could, and to make them feel as proud as we could.
After the gym session we all had food with our families in the galley and then we were released for a long weekend at home, ready to return and venture further into training.
222 Troop – Week 6
Monday morning of week six, spirits were high as we have just come back from a long weekend leave after family’s day. We all felt rejuvenated and ready to take on any challenges laid out in front of us.
We had a very busy week in the gym doing IMF (Initial Military Fitness) getting ourselves ready for gym pass out which if we passed would allow us to progress onto the ‘bottom field’ which we were all looking forward to. By the end of the week though our bodies were aching and sore from multiple rope climbs and camp circuits!
A very much anticipated day saw us travel up to Straight Point ranges for a 25m and DCCT (Dismounted Close Combat Trainer) shoot. The DCCT is a virtual range that helps you to get used to firing positions and points of aim and we could very much see the benefits when we the progressed onto the 25 metre range to fire our first live round of recruit training.
We have also had several lectures this week on map reading- a key skill for a Marine to have and something that will be put to the test on the upcoming exercise, Ex MARSHAL STAR in week 7. This is an exercise that we are all nervous but also excited for at the same time.
222 Troop – Week 7
Week seven saw 222 Troop deploy on Ex MARSHAL STAR. The exercise was designed to test navigation skills learned during the multiple navigation lectures we have had in the previous weeks. This would give us the opportunity to put our lessons into practice. The training team always taught us to have faith in our bearings and paces and this was tested during a night navigation exercise. Thankfully everyone returned intact and on time!
An exciting and rewarding part of this exercise was conducting the 222 Troops first ‘stalk’-using the skills taught in camouflage and concealment lessons as well as new skills learned during the fieldcraft lesson’s, we practiced stalking a target with the aim of getting two shots off undetected. We also practiced our drills on how to react to effective enemy fire, we did this using a ‘battle lane’ which we patrolled down until we came under contact, then had to use our skills to deal with the situation. This is all stuff we enjoy a lot; it gives us the feel that we are beginning to learn how to be Marines.
The last day consisted of a 4 mile load carry back to camp across multiple terrains. This was to start to build the troop up ready for later exercises where we will carry all our kit for much further distances.
The exercise as a whole taught the troop that performing individually is good but as but performing as a troop is far more superior and beneficial.
The rest of the week consisted of preparation for week 9 gym pass out and further BST testing took place which was extra challenging as the troop was fatigued from the few days in the field. The last few evenings we had introduction to first aid that we will be tested on soon.
222 TROOP – WEEK 8
After completing exercise Marshall Star the whole troop were beginning to feel a lot more settled in our routines and also feeling as if we were progressing as soldiers. Week 8 started with a large amount of first aid lectures as we would have our first aid assessments later on in the week. The troop as a whole found the first aid lectures very informative as it gave us the baseline knowledge of what to do when confronted with a situation where a casualty is involved and how to best manage the situation. This week we had also been informed that it was our first tick in the box assessment ‘interval drill’ pass out. Passing this would then mean that we were competent in basic foot drill allowing us to move on to rifle drill.
The day of the assessment came and we were up early, some of the lads feeling nervous, constantly worrying if their drill rig was up to the required standard, whereas some were feeling confident. We had spent 2 hours rehearsing the routine along with going through the movements the night before with our DL, then it was time and the Sergeant who would be inspecting us marched onto the drill square ready to assess us.
Interval drill pass out began and the entire troop dug out to keep to the timings and perform every movement to the required standard. The troop as a whole gained a good score which was a relief for some of the troop who were coming into the assessment feeling nervous. Overall our Drill Leader (DL) was impressed with our performance and then gave us instruction on how to prep our rigs for arms drill lessons which we would be receiving in the future.
On Friday we had a Battle Fitness Test (BFT) conducted in boots for the first time and then a Royal Marines Fitness Assessment (RMFA) on the Saturday. Overall the troop performed well on the BFT, a lot of us beat our previous times set in trainers earlier on in training. The following day we then conducted our RMFA in the gym; this was to see who would be the recruits that would be going for gym superior depending on their RMFA scores the following week for gym pass out.
Overall week 8 was a good week in training with the whole troop beginning to mould together and start working for each other, both of which will be imperative as we progress further on into training especially with gym pass out around the corner.
222 Troop – Week 9
This week held the first major criteria test in our Recruit training in the form of IMF (Initial Military Fitness) gym pass out on Friday. Passing this would prove to the PTIs and training team that we were capable to move on to the infamous Bottom Field.
The large proportion of the week consisted of First Aid lectures in which we revised and were examined on how we reacted to certain scenarios which we may encounter; from the very basics of occupational health and safety to more advance things such as Battlefield Trauma Management. This involved the application of tourniquets, celox gauze and haemostatic bandages. A few of the recruits in the troop had previous first aid experience, however Military first aid obviously added some extra complications such as clearing and dominating the immediate area surrounding casualty ensuring his safety before treatment could begin.
After successfully passing the first aid examination our focus turned to IMF gym pass out on Friday morning. We spent the few remaining IMF sessions perfecting our techniques and finalising our positions for ropes, beams, four corners etc. under the guidance of the troop PTI. The IMF sessions were specifically designed to condition and prepare our joints and muscles for the rigours of bottom field PT. However to get to the bottom field we first needed to Pass out of the Gym. The criteria test consisted of Swedish Drill, at least 3 rope climbs, the beam (pull ups, push ups, squats etc.), the four corners and a 800m sprint which had to be completed in at least 3:30. In the beginning phases of the test we were a tad nervous but quickly rose to the occasion performing well with plenty of aggression on the ropes. All the recruits who went for a Gym Superior achieved their goal as well as the troop achieving an overall gym superior pass which has not been achieved for quite a while.
As a troop we were proud of what we have achieved as it was the result of a lot of hard work. We celebrated by going out and having a few beers- but not too many as we had a church service and Ex HUNTERS MOON on Dartmoor the following Monday…
222 Troop – Week 10
Week 10 was the week of the infamous Ex HUNTERS MOON. With bodies still sore from the week 9 gym pass out that we endured the previous Friday, an unnerving feeling of apprehension loomed over our troop knowing we had a tough week ahead.
After talking with recruits in troops further along in training than ourselves I was expecting the exercise to test us to our limits, which with some lads it certainly did.
Day 1 started with loading the wagon with all the necessary equipment. We were then dropped off at the ‘Plume of Feathers’ pub in Princetown on the outskirts of the baron Dartmoor territory. Prepared route cards at the ready, we had our first task at hand-an insertion yomp (load carry) of around 6 Kilometres. In our sections we had to locate our campsite the Scout Hut and on arrival we set up our ponchos, and packed our bags ready for the night navigation.
Day 2 we further practiced our navigational skills on the unfamiliar ground of Dartmoor, trying to take note on the features of the area as much as possible knowing we had a second night navigation in groups of four that night. A detailed safety procedure was imposed in case of anyone walking off their bearing and getting lost, particularly important with the weather that was confronting us. Rest assured no one went too far wrong and everyone returned in time and alive!
Day 3 started off with our extraction yomp, with a full Bergen, webbing, rifle and a pocket of sweets to help along the way.
After 16 Kilometres of moorland trudging we were on the way to the start of the first day of ‘survival training’. Stripped down to our basics we were lead into a wooded area and left alone with just our water bottles and much reduced pocket contents.
Day 4 was a day for further additions to our shelters, the aim was to ensure our fire remained ablaze for the duration of the exercise, a good habit to maintain in a survival situation.
After a whole night and morning of erecting shelters and collecting wood without food we were experiencing what it would be like in a real life survival situation.
Then a welcome guest arrived! A mountain leader came to our site equipped with some fish and live chickens. Food was on the horizon!
After a demonstration on how to kill, skin and gut the animals it was then our turn. With hunting knife at the ready we took to our meals. I jumped at the opportunity to get the chicken, wanting to gain experience first hand. Lulling it into a false sense of security by swinging it back and forth whilst hanging it upside down, I laid it onto the deck and placed a strong branch over its neck with both feet on each side, a sharp yank followed, with the beheaded corpse madly flapping around like a….. Headless….. Chicken! Sorry I couldn’t resist it!
After boiling our much needed meals with various vegetables another night lay ahead in our homely paradise of sticks, logs and leaves.
Keeping our fire alight we assigned a sentry to keep watch, switching hourly to ensure no one fell asleep. All trust goes to the sentry, unfortunately our trust was misplaced with one unnamed individual… During our well -needed slumber we were awoken by a rather warm sensation- quickly dealing with it we returned to our slumber with a slightly more alert fire sentry on watch and tomorrow’s extraction yomp in mind.
All good fun though, a great experience overall!