225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEKS 1&2.
- Upon arrival at CTCRM most of the lads had what can only be described as a mixture of excitement and fear on their faces, along with a few incredibly bad haircuts! That said, following a quick trip to the barbers 225 Troop arrived back to foundation with a head only a mother could love. Initial ‘shock of capture’ most definitely starting to settle in. The early days revolved around mostly issue of military clothing and kit. When first issued the kit the lads were in high spirits, it wasn’t until 0500hrs the following morning when the lights were still on for sunrise, that the Troop realised how much admin had to be done and the standard it was expected to be done to! This was a common theme that followed us into the weekend. However, as the Corporals reminded us when morale was low it’s a hard lesson but with time you start becoming accustomed to the pace, efficiency and discipline expected of a Royal Marines Commando.
- The weekend gave most of the troop the opportunity to go and see what sights Exeter had on offer. Despite it being sold as a beautiful cathedral city, the only sight we found was the “kit shop”. Here, Recruits can buy everything they will ever need for the 32 weeks of training. The downside is that a head torch will probably require taking out a mortgage! Our time ashore and away from the gates of CTCRM gave individuals the opportunity to begin to come together as a team and a Troop. Moreover it was a good way to get to know individual personalities within the Troop and ‘spin dits’ about our backgrounds.
- The second week of foundation saw the Troop embark on their first field exercise known as Ex EARLY NIGHT where we were shown how to conduct ‘wet and dry routine’ by the Troop Officer. In layman’s terms this essentially means conducting normal routine in our wet kit, changing into dry kit to sleep before waking up at an ungodly hour to don our cold and wet kit. His version came complete with chocolate profiteroles that were served to him by a Corporal, I do not think the members of 225 Tp will receive the same levels of luxury. We were then instructed on how to conduct ourselves when it came to rations and erecting a two man poncho, our bedroom whilst in the field. Once this was completed we marched over to the regain tank and went for a ‘refreshing’ dip. Once the Training Team were content that every man was sufficiently wet, we marched back to our position, where we proceeded to put or ponchos up and get out of our wet kit and into our dry kit. Then we did it again for good luck. The exercise then started and we managed to get into our pits for some shut eye whiles we alternated hourly patrols throughout the night.
- The week also saw the Troop get issued with our SA80 A2 rifles, of which we will use throughout our training at CTC and as individuals we will become very accustomed to using. This was a high point, whilst the ironing, washing and folding is of course what every potential Royal Marine dreams of, getting to learn how to handle maintain and fire a rifle seemed to be more appealing to a lot of the lads. Weapons handling lessons saw us slip the Troop into section (1,2,3) of which each section is led by a Corporal. The week consisted of two hands on lectures based around the rifle during which everyone seemed rearing to go. The other lectures throughout the week showed us why we are branded with the name Nods, we cannot seem to go more than a few minutes without nodding off!
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 3.
- Week 3 has seen the Recruits of 225 Troop continue to train in the art of ‘admin’ – globe and laureling (folding everything to A4 the same size as the corps magazine the ‘globe and laurel’) clothing ready for locker inspections, cleaning accommodation. Before we can be trusted with more complex responsibilities we must first master the basics and learning that all important ability to become a Royal Marines, how to shower correctly! The next evolution of training however, is going to get progressively harder, and the realisation that life as a Recruit is predominantly spent outdoors will begin to strike home.
- With the beginning of Week 3 saw us move out of the foundation block and into G Block where we will spend the rest of our time in Recruit Training. It was a pleasant change to move into the comparative luxury of a six man room compared to having the entire Troop in one room. It also gives everyone a chance to get to know one another better and to bond closer which will undoubtedly become more and more important as the weeks progress.
- There has been no let-up in the pace of life, if anything it seems to get busier and busier! The physical aspect of training is becoming more demanding and even the fittest members of the Troop are finding every session challenging, it is becoming more and more evident that to become a Royal Marines Commando requires us to reach a physical standard that many of us could not even comprehend prior to arriving at CTCRM. The personal administration standards are just as demanding and the Troop are constantly reminded that we must look the part at all times and carry ourselves in a manner that is befitting of a Royal Marine.
- Whilst the learning curve is steep and we are all being pushed harder than we have ever been before, the Troop is beginning to bond and complete strangers are becoming friends. The Training Team are enforcing the standards in us at this early stage so we begin to understand what it takes to become a Royal Marine as well as the standards of behaviour expected of us. The Royal Marines have a rich and proud history that we are being taught to uphold at all times, even when in civilian clothing in our free time.
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 4.
- Week 4 for 225 troop began with an 08:00 room inspection to see how well the recruits have been applying the skills taught in foundation (weeks 1-3). Whilst the Troop is still not efficient at preparing for inspections there were clear improvements across the board.
- The week continued with the excitement of the Troop’s first night in the field away from camp. The exercise was an opportunity to learn basic field craft such as the preparation of our 24 hours rations (surprisingly they were a lot more pleasant than expected!), setting up a harbour location (where the Troop administrates itself in preparation for future taskings) and maintaining cleanliness and hygiene without basic amenities which included some interesting demonstrations! The exercise was informative but also allowed the Troop to put everything they’ve learnt into practice. Similarly to the previous exercise, Ex EARLY NIGHT, the Troop conducted night routine including setting up static sentries and stand-to, where the whole Troop is at complete readiness at sunrise and sunset in anticipation of enemy attack.
- After the exercise the recruits had to de-service all kit, a time consuming activity but necessary in order to protect kit from deteriorating. It is a very different approach and thinking process required from civvie street where once you have finished a day’s work you can rest and relax, here your weapon and kit comes first and only when all of that is to an acceptable standard can you think about a warm shower and sleep.
- The focus of the week soon turned to weapons handling. The recruits were taught firing positions, various safety drills and how to take apart and clean the SA80 rifle. The week ended in a pass or fail weapons handling test, success in the test meant being able to fire the rifle with both blank and live ammunition as we progress through training.
- Week 4 was more challenging for the Troop as it was the first week where they were expected to know and apply the basics learnt so far. We are starting to learn, slowly, that any mistakes or dropping of standards are viewed as completely unacceptable in the Royal Marines and it is this standard of professionalism that sets them apart.
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 5.
- The week began with 225 Troop ready to embark on Ex QUICK COVER, a 3 day long exercise located in the heart of Woodbury Common designed to teach us how to effectively camouflage and conceal ourselves whilst in the field. Using the landscape around us we had 15 minutes to use our surroundings in order to effectively make ourselves blend into the scenery. This was accomplished by tearing away at the grass, gorse, bracken and ferns provided by the surroundings and placing them into the elastic around our helmet and webbing. Monday evening was all about lectures on effective movement over terrain during effective enemy fire lead by Corporal Philips. Later that evening it was all about getting ourselves prepared for the infamous ‘wet and dry routine’; to do this we took a visit to Peter’s Pool, a lovely stretch of extremely clean and warm water, where we got wet, jogged back and performed stand to after which we continued with our usual harbour routine.
- The following Morning saw us attempt a kit muster which was to be laid out after morning routine around harbour. Most of us learnt the hard way just how important it was to have a clean rifle and kit, to have rust on your weapon could affect its ability to function which could clearly risk both your own and oppo’s life if you were required to use it. The day then consisted mainly of RTR (Return fire, Take cover, and Return accurate fire) which we, as a collective, found interesting as we were finally being taught the basics of combat effectiveness after weeks of mastering the ironing board! Later in the day we were called to a view point for a quick lesson in observation and scanning. The Corporals had placed 10 items within a specific area of woodland and using proper technique and out SUSATs we then had to try finding and identifying then from a distance.
- The Wednesday morning saw us wake up to rain and blinding fog making morning routines and kit muster even more unpleasant, so much for being part of a sunshine Troop! However whilst it was unpleasant most of the lads seemed to take on board what has been taught as many of performed to a better standard. After all of our morning antics were over and all stores loaded, we attempted our first trial at what the Royal Marines call ‘yomping’. This is where you carry all of your kit and equipment and yomp across the battlefield regardless of terrain and weather. Despite only carrying 37lbs, the weight of an A-level student’s school bag, many of the Recruits fatigued and struggled with the 4 mile yomp. It was a bit of a shock to the system and a big reality check given the weight, distance and fatigue we have prior to yomps is only going to increase.
- Thursday morning saw the Troop perform another kit muster of which didn’t quite go as well as we had hoped. We soon realised that it wasn’t up to standard when the CSM as well as OC decided to pay us a visit and give their thoughts on the matter. Needless to say that because of the failed efforts of the Troops kit muster we were assigned to disservice all of our kit again that evening under the watchful eyes of the Corporals helping ensure that it was done correctly and to a standard that was acceptable.
- After a long week the Troop were grateful and thankful to finally reach Friday and Families Day, a day that most of the Troop had been waiting for since arriving at CTC. The day gave our families the chance to see what we had been up to over the last 5 weeks placing particular focus on drill and IMF, it also allowed them to ask any burning questions they had regarding Recruit Training. After the Q and A the Troop were allowed to see their families and take them to the galley to allow them to experience the delights of pussers scran before departing CTC for a weekend for a well-deserved catch up and some R and R.
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 6.
- Week 6 for 225 Tp saw us return on Sunday evening from a relaxing long weekend leave at home to our new home at CTC. The atmosphere was one of nerves and trepidation, with the Troop expecting a tough week as a result of various misdemeanours and failures the previous week. However the lads grouped together in the accommodation, ‘spinning dits’ about their weekends and before long the mood began to lighten and we tried to fight off the ‘Lympstone Blues’.
- Monday morning however, saw the anxieties expressed the night before return as we conducted morning routine and formed up on the road at 06:55. The day started off by collecting weapons from the armoury, ready for a later lesson, before heading to the medical centre for round two of inoculations. This was followed by a lesson on how to boresight our rifles for later in the week when we would conduct our first live firing package. The rest of the day consisted of physical training and first aid lectures before we were thinned out for personal admin. The day had gone smoothly…too smoothly.
- Tuesday morning saw the troops anxieties become a reality as we were led down to the river Exe estuary at 06:30 to conduct the infamous mud run. The Recruits were reminded of our failings through a series of exercises through the thick ‘honking’ mud, until everyone was covered head to toe. Spirits remained high however, as the training team reminded us that ‘civvies’ pay thousands for this ‘spa treatment’. The rest of the day was again more relaxed, with first aid lectures and our first map reading lectures filling up our time.
- Wednesday saw the troop conduct their first 5 mile boot run on the roads surrounding CTC, which was cheeky to say the least however the Troop managed to complete the session with few issues. Following this was a lecture with the camp padre, looking in depth at the ‘Commando spirit’. As always it was a valuable lecture, with the padre offering different perspectives to the Recruits about what it means and takes to embody the Commando spirit. This was followed by lectures, more physical training and an introduction to the JPA system. Pay Day had arrived! For many of the Troop this was their first payment, a little better than parents’ pocket money!
- Thursday was by far the most exciting day the recruits have had since joining CTC (with the exception of families day), as the Troop was taken down to Straight Point Ranges to conduct live firing, the first time many of us had fired a rifle. Troop spirit was high and the competition fierce as the Recruits tried to establish themselves as the hotshot marksman of the group. At the end of the day the troop returned to CTC still buzzing about the ‘hoofing’ day of shooting that had taken place.
6. Friday saw the Troop return to the classroom, with a day of map reading lectures in preparation for Ex MARSHALL STAR on the Monday. After being briefed and introduced to maps, bearings and the equipment we would be using to navigate around Woodbury Common. This concluded the detail for the week, with the troop left over the weekend to conclude their personal admin and prep their kit for exercise Marshall Star and the start of week 7.
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 7.
- This week saw us depart for Ex MARSHALL STAR which would test us on everything we had learnt so far in the previous seven weeks but with a particular focus on map reading. This included finding 8 figure grid references, taking bearings and writing a detailed description of the route we had planned ahead of us.
- We arrived in Woodbury Common and went straight into lectures and we were taught how to make range cards. These are a detailed description of the surrounding areas of the sentry post, including prominent features and their distances from your position as well as much detail as possible about well covered positions, DF (direct fire) positions etc. The purpose of these are for when someone else comes on sentry they know the lay of the land and how best to defend the rest of the Troop from attack.
- The lectures progressed onto how to create route cards, these are a detailed description of a route you have planned using a map and includes details such as bearings, back bearings, distances, time taken etc. Unfortunately there is no Google Maps allowed! The idea of these cards are so that if you lose your compass or map, you can pull out your route card and you can trust that the route card is detailed enough to get your destination. We were also shown how to navigate at night and the difficulties involved in it, such as how things can be underestimated at night like distances and being able to differentiate between different objects.
- As many local residents basked in the glorious sunshine and enjoyed the picturesque surroundings of Woodbury, we were reminded that Royal Marines must exercise their bodies as well as their minds even when on exercise. Just we thought we were safe from our PTI (physical training instructor) for a few days and that he cannot touch you…he just so happens to arrive at our location! Just when you think things can’t get much harder, they do! We are beginning to learn the phrase that is infamous with Recruit Training, the ‘dislocation of expectation’.
- As training progresses, so does the requirement for us to think more tactically, for instance after attempting our first go’s at navigating we were then told we could not use tracks or paths when moving in order to minimise chance of being seen by the enemy. We are also learning that whilst civvies may love Woodbury Common, Recruits hate it! Everywhere that isn’t a track or path is thick gorse. Moving through it causes some ‘discomfort’ and by the end of the week we were all feeling the effects of this!
- Navigation was not the only thing that began to become more tactically minded as we were taught how to ‘stalk’ the enemy, a very important skill this means to move very carefully and deliberately when moving into position. It allows you to move into a position discretely and note down information about a target that may be useful such as age, height, build, distinctive features and what vehicles may be close by. Later on that evening we were allowed to stalk our Training Team to see if our camouflage and concealment was effective whilst moving. The aim was to get close enough to them and then take shots at them (using blank rounds…) then an instructor would come and stand 5 meters from you, the spotters would then try and locate you. If they couldn’t, you were successful and were on your way to becoming a sniper.
- That evening, we were sent out on our last tactical night nav which was the hardest by far. Kindly the Training Team then rewarded our efforts by treating us to a lovely night’s sleep under the stars… Until we were bumped! A bump is when the enemy has followed you back to your harbour area and have contacted the Troop, you then have to win the firefight and extract to the emergency rendezvous point. This is not easy or enjoyable in darkness when you have just woken up!
8. An enjoyable but difficult week that saw us learn a lot. The Troop continues to reduce in size however those that are left are beginning to pull together as a team and develop a Troop identity, undoubtedly we will need this more and more as training continues to ramp up in intensity.
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 8.
- The Troop started off our eighth week of Recruit Training, adjusting to our new rooms and ‘oppos’ after the training team moved all of us to the top floor of G Block due to the low numbers of us still left! First on the agenda for the Troop was drill revision for drill pass out on Wednesday. It consisted of going over all of the manoeuvres and steps that we learned over the past 8 weeks with our drill instructor. In the afternoon we did a 4 mile run in boots followed up by a lecture on first-aid.
- Tuesday saw the Troop going onto bottom field and doing 3 hours of hand to hand combat (RMCC) training. The PTI and strikers went into extensive detail on choke holds and arm bars if needed to control an aggressor. The rest of the afternoon was focused on first-aid. The Troop was given the evening to ourselves and strongly encouraged by the training team to dig out blind and clean the accommodation top to bottom in preparation for the Company Commander’s inspection that was happening on Wednesday morning. This was a very important inspection for 225 Troop to prove that they were focused and motivated to impress. Not a single recruit was in bed before 0200hrs that night.
- The inspection came at 0730 Wednesday morning. The Troop was up before 0500 getting back to cleaning and squaring things away before the inspection came. After the inspection the Troop was called to the landing for a brief on how it went. We were told that it had gone well, it wasn’t perfect, there were a few pick up points but overall it was a pass. Immediately after the inspection the Troop went on another 4 mile run down the lanes near CTCRM in their boots focusing on pushing and improving their cardio. In the late afternoon we had drill passout which again culminated with success for the Troop, a good day!
- All of Thursday was spent up in Stallcombe with the Mountain Leaders focusing on survival. We learned all about different ways to start a fire using different materials, how to construct various types of shelters, the bare necessities a Marine would need to have in their survival tins and how to set snares to catch small animals to eat in order to survive. The troop soaked up as much as they could in preparation for their next exercise that is in 2 weeks called ‘Hunters Moon’ which was based on survival and the things they had been taught.
- Friday started off with the Royal Marines Fitness Assessment (RMFA) where the Troop would be doing the bleep test, as many press-ups as possible in 2 minutes (60 is max points), sit-ups (85 is max points) and pullups on a wooden beam (16 is max points). The Troop didn’t perform as well as we had hoped, some struggled on various exercises and know they’ll have to do better next time. Following the RMFA, the Troop was taken up to Woodbury Common with their day sacks and navigation equipment for a day nav around the Common. They were given 6 checkpoints they had to get to within 2 hours and 15 minutes and report back to the Training Team. One team struggled but once the issue was resolved the Troop immediately put their day sacks on, picked up their rifles, got in 2 files and did a 5 mile yomp back to camp.
- Saturday morning, the Troop was back on the drill grounds with Cpl Applegate doing the basic arms drills and learning the foundation to build on. The Troop’s final task for the week was to go to the swimming pool for a session with the PTI and work on our swimming skills. Once the Troop got back to the accommodation they were briefed to relax for the rest of the weekend and get ready for their next week, we would need it!
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 9.
- This was an important week for 225 Tp with two important physical miletones; the BFT (battle fitness test – a mile and a half run as a Tp followed by a best effort mile and a half return run that must be completed in under 11 minutes) and the Gym Pass Out Test. We were nervous going into the week but as ever with CTC, we didn’t have time to dwell on it as we went straight into the BFT on Monday morning. Temperatures are soaring in Devon but fortunately, so were our run times and the whole Tp passed the test. One down, one big one to go!
- Map reading and first aid were also important components of the week, both are very important skills to being Royal Marines. We have all heard the stories of lost (or navigationally challenged as our Troop Commander refers to it) Recruits on Dartmoor and none of us wanted to be one of them during Ex HUNTERS MOON which we would undertake in Week 10. It is also an unfortunate but realistic part of life as a Royal Marines Commando that first aid skills are crucial and as such the whole Troop paid full attention during lectures. Slick and efficient first aid drills could genuinely be the difference between life and death, with this in mind the whole Troop (for once) managed to stay awake for an entire lecture!
- The end of the week saw us undertake Gym Pass Out, this is a test we must all pass before we can be allowed to progress onto the Bottom Field Assault Course. We had been doing practice run throughs of the Test in the previous few weeks in the lead up to the day itself without issue, as such confidence was high amongst the Troop…too high. Our performance was extremely poor and whilst everyone just about did enough to pass as an individual, the Troop failed as a whole. Like everything in the Royal Marines, there are no individuals which meant that we all failed. It was a massive wake up to the Troop and it became an even bigger one when the PTI Chief of Staff informed us that we would be doing the test again at 0630hrs on Saturday morning! Fortunately the early morning start didn’t affect us and the Troop produced a much improved performance.
- The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and recovering, including an afternoon at the CTCRM family funday. This is where the Corps shows just how much of a family it really is, there were hundreds of families and friends of those trained ranks that work at CTC. It was an interesting experience to see members of the Training Team, professional and hard during the working week, show that they actually have a softer side when around their families (somehow I don’t think this will be the same side we see on Monday morning!).
225 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 10.
- This week would see 225 Troop deploy on Ex HUNTERS MOON where we would put our newly learned navigational (hopefully not first aid!) skills to the test on Dartmoor. Dartmoor is known and feared by all those who have undertaken Recruit or Young officer training at CTCRM, it is a harsh and unforgiving area where the weather can change from sun to snow in an instant. It is also home to the ‘clag’, mist so thick that you can’t see the man in front of you when it really descends.
- Fortunately the weather Gods seemed to smile yet again on 225 Troop and we arrived to Dartmoor in glorious sunshine (but for how long!?). We began the exercise with a relatively short 4 mile insertion yomp (short by Royal Marines standards!) from Princetown onto the Moor, we were encouraged to get to know the area well and memorise it for we would not see it again until our Final Exercise and then the infamous 30 miler. After arriving to our harbour location we were briefed on the next detail, a day navigation exercise in our sections. We began to write our route cards and study our maps in order to familiarise ourselves with the route. This navigation was completed without much difficulty.
- As the exercise progressed, so did the complexity of the navigation. We moved from day time navigation into moving at night, first with our section commanders as a section before moving into our 4 man fire teams and navigating without instructors. Night navigation is an interesting experience, you literally cannot see where you are going and you have to put complete trust in your compass and the bearing you have when doing your route preparation. It was by far the most complex navigation we have done yet, whilst we have done night navigation on Woodbury Common we benefit from the ambient light caused from towns and villages surrounding it. On Dartmoor there is absolutely nothing which makes navigating much more difficult, as two of the syndicates were to find out! They managed to become ‘navigationally challenged’ and were completely unable to find the checkpoint or the metalled road we were told to make our way towards if completely lost. This resulted in the Training Team looking for the lost patrol all night and into the following morning until the syndicates were found, this then resulted in a very tired and grumpy Training Team which is never good news!
- The end of the navigation phase came with a cheeky bonus extraction yomp which was our longest so far and definitely tested the whole Troop. It is a worrying thought to think that these yomps are only going to become longer and with more weight on our backs! We arrived to the next area only to have all of our kit and equipment prompty removed from us, some reward after carrying it all that way! We were left with only the clothes that we stood up in and our small survival tins, for the next two days we would have to fend for ourselves and endure little to no food and create our own shelters. Whilst it sounds cheeky (which it definitely was!) it is also a lot of fun creating your own shelters and making your own fires. We were visited by the infamous Royal Marines Mountain Leaders who gave us further survival tips and advice as well as showing us how to kill, gut and prepare animals to sustain ourselves, there were no vegetarians on that day after two days with no food!
- Week 10 was a tough but interesting week and we have all learned a lot over Ex HUNTERS MOON. The next two weeks will see us complete an intensive range package that is designed to bring our weapons handling and shooting up to the standards required of a Royal Marine, a nice way to build up towards a much anticipated and needed summer leave.