224 TROOP WEEK 7 DIARY
This was the week of Exercise MARSHALL STAR, an event based around practicing the map-reading skills recently taught in the lecture rooms for the preceding week. This was our chance to show the training team we had taken on board the teachings in order to implement it in the real world. Map-reading is a skill, much like riding a bike. Some people take to it quicker than others, while some struggle to grasp bearings and grid references at first. The reason these skills are so important is because it allows you to understand an unfamiliar area, its terrain and how to navigate through it without getting lost and able to arrive at a given destination at the right time.
Monday – After a relaxing weekend 224 Troop were anxious but ready to tackle this new week with a good start. We began with a tough double period in the gym with the PTI. The main objective in these sessions has been to prepare us for the criteria gym pass-out at the end of week 9. After this, and a quick shower, we got into field rig, loaded the equipment we would require for 3 nights and 4 days in the field. We then mounted the coach for the short ride to Woodbury Common.
On arrival we learned about movement while in a potentially hostile area, where we were taught how to move most effectively and safely while remaining vigilant for threats. We practiced bumping, a way in which one man in a given group would move, while his ‘oppos’ provided protection by scanning for potential enemies.
Next came instruction on how to observe in low light, firstly by using the Mk1 eyeball, and then through the use of various scopes and goggles. It was amazing to see how much detail was visible through this technology. After this came a lesson on light and sound pollution, where various scenarios were staged at differing distances, showing us how far sound and light travel in the dead of night and could be easily visible to an enemy.
Tuesday – The first morning started off with the usual routine, wake at 0500 hrs to administrate ourselves in readiness for a kit inspection at 0730. From there we went straight into a lesson on locating the enemy at distance, then one more on the subject of Fire Control Orders. After lunch we began the process of putting our map-reading skills to the test for the first time. We split into our 10 man strong sections, and conducted a daytime navigational exercise under the direction of the Section Corporals who would ensure we had used the skills taught prior to the deployment. It was a slow process which had us off the beaten track, cutting through thick gorse bushes and wading over marshland. Eventually we made our checkpoints and now had a better understanding of what was expected. This served as preparation for a night navigation exercise that started at 2300 hrs, where the luxury of daylight was removed.
Wednesday – The morning started with us enveloped with a thick cloud of mist. As we approached the end of another kit muster we were greeted by the troop PTI, who then took us through our first ever field PT session. The aim of which was to build strength and muscle in the legs to help with our load carrying later in training.
We then returned to the team tent and split into two groups in order to learn another essential skill, stalking. This involves a soldier concealing himself in amongst his surroundings to approach an enemy position and be in a position to release a deadly shot. To show how effective it could be, one of the Corporals was all along hiding only metres away from the group, with most unable to even identify even after being prompted! After this it was our turn to camouflage ourselves then crash through gorse bushes to a location that provided a clean shot at the enemy (the training team).
On completion of stalking we retreated back to the harbour position to administrate ourselves and get some much needed rest. A rather informal lesson by the Troop Sergeant on the subject of a ‘hasty harbour move’ probably should have served as an indication of how un-relaxing our next few hours would be.
Thursday – We were woken at first light by an ambush from the training team! While the majority of the troop slept, they had sneaked into our position and discharged blank rounds, while shouting and wreaking havoc on our position, flattening bivvies left, right and centre. Although we were slow to react it did prove the need for vigilant sentries.
With the exercise coming to an end it was time for us to make our way back to camp, and as usual we would be ‘yomping’ back with rifles, daysacks and full fighting order. Although not a large amount of weight it became noticeable over the 5 miles back to CTCRM.
Friday – The morning began with a kit muster, during which the equipment that had been cleaned through the night was inspected in great detail. After this we headed back to the gym to rehearse the routine of the gym pass-out. The troop were clearly tired but worked extremely hard, earning praise from the PT Staff. We then had a recovery style session in the pool and close combat training, which saw us learning self-defence.
We ended the week in First Aid lessons. Most of the troop were ‘hanging out’ and so the lesson became ‘hands on’ in order to keep us awake. We learned how to apply tourniquets and field dressings to various injuries in differing situations. As a bonus, we spent Friday night and Saturday morning cleaning our weapons to the highest standard. Once complete we were clear to enjoy some much needed down time.