Week 16 for 226 Troop potential Royal Marines Commandos has been a particularly challenging for the troop. First up was a bottom field session that was somewhat difficult due to a joyous weekend home celebrating passing Phase 1 of Royal Marines Training. There was a sense of eagerness and trepidation at the thought of moving onto our first Phase II exercise; First Base.
Exercise First Base is designed to combine all that has been learnt in Phase 1 of training and cement it into one solid foundation. Along with the basics of personnel sustainability in the outdoor environment being set we are taught the true fundamentals of soldiering. Harbour drills, model pits, patrolling, break contact, reconnaissance patrols and observation posts.
The hardest thing that we all found was time management and lack of sleep, time on exercise is a precious gift. The first day we were taught break contact. To put it simply we were taught how to retreat, regroup and reorganize ourselves after being attacked intentionally or by surprise during day and night. The next couple of days were dedicated to day and night reconnaissance patrols. These days were particularly tough and long for both recruit and training team. Our aim was to learn to be as quiet and invisible as possible to avoid being seen by potential enemy. Our last day was dedicated to making an observation post. When you are a small kid you make imaginary castles in the woods or out of hay bales. This is the same idea though four men have to be able to live and work in this space for an undisclosed amount of time. Sleeping, protecting, observing and logging information. In our case it was only for 12 hours.
After 3 nights in the field Exercise First Base culminated in a 5 mile speed march back to camp. An aggressive pace was set due to several setbacks in deconstructing the team base location. Once back on camp we were asked to complete a full regain over “The Tank”. This is where we pull ours selves over a taught rope with webbing and a rifle. Half way across we are to drop down and using a specific technique to regain our balance on top of the rope.
On the whole Week 16 has been a tough and challenging week for all recruits involved. Without a doubt all people involved have learnt a great deal and most likely have an idea of the gravity of the task ahead of becoming one of the most effective and professional soldiers in the world. On an individual level most of us have gained an insight into the world we wish to enter and become a part of. Up until now we have not really been able to see much progress or a light at the end of the tunnel or gain a true perspective of where we have come from and wish to head. This exercise has pushed the boundaries of our perception.
We are entering a world that is beyond our understanding and full of many dangers, loops and turn. Our perception of life as soldiers is feeble at best. Saying that the training team have been tireless with their devotion to teach and instil the very best of the core values as individuals and as Royal Marines as a whole. The rode will be long but we are in good hands and are eager to learn. We will not make any mistakes along the way. Only lessons in how not to soldier and conduct ourselves to the highest calibre. Another week complete, another week closer to the prize!
Week 17 for 226 Troop was a fun but also hard week. The week started off with Viking Drills, lasting from the Monday to the Wednesday. The second half to the week was Exercise Holdfast that lasted from the Thursday to the Saturday. We also had a bottom field sessions in between Viking Drills and Exercise Holdfast, also one on the Saturday after Exercise Holdfast.
I will start by talking about Viking Drills that are located Stanley Barracks, Bovington. When we arrived at Stanley Barracks on the Monday. The troop had lectures on Vikings its history and drills on entering and exiting the Viking. We also learned about the ‘Shark Rebreather’ (a device that allows you to recycle oxygen that you breathe out to enable you to last longer underwater) and how it operates.
Tuesday is when we got into the pool in Stanley Barracks to use and get comfortable with the shark rebreather. The Troop had some test everyone had to pass and everyone did. The first test, you sit in the water with just your head above the water and take a few breathes with the rebreather. Second is the ‘confidence test’ where you bend over till your head is under the water. Then you take a few breathes with instructor’s hand on rebreather to make sure you can breathe ok with it. The third test was the endurance test. This test you go under the water for 45 seconds. Last test was the duress test which you need to pull yourself under the water on ropes that zigzagged across the pool. After this the Troop Then Travelled to Yeovilton Navy base where we done another duress test but deeper and longer. We also carried out Viking escape drills in the underwater simulator.
On the Wednesday, back at Stanley Barracks is when we got into the Vikings. They drove about and we practiced entering and exiting drills that we learned on the Monday. We also carried out the drills when the Viking enters the water.
On the Thursday after an arduous ‘bottom field session’ we deployed on Exercise Holdfast. Which started with a three-hour journey on a coach. Once we arrived and unloaded the wagon. We set up in our fire teams and were appointed to a bit of ground where we would dig trench. This took about 24 hours nonstop digging that took us into Friday. Once we had our trenches camouflaged and ready to go, we got feedback on our trenches and what we could improve on. We also got tested on our CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) drills by getting gassed with a nerve agent (CS gas), just to make sure we carried out the right protocol and procedures. Throughout the exercise different fire teams where going out on different types of patrol to test us in a variety of tactical scenarios. This then culminated in an extraction yomp to meet transport.
After Exercise Holdfast when we got back on the Saturday we had our first ‘crash week’ session on bottom field. This session was a hard session because of the fatigue from Holdfast. Over all a challenging and rewarding week.