Recruit Andrew Vaughan is 25 years old and is about to start Phase 1 training at Army Training Regiment (ATR) Winchester, where he hopes to go on to join the Royal Artillery.
ADSC* and the waiting game…
Those two months flew by – quicker than I would have liked if I’m honest. Had I prepared enough? I felt really nervous. I really wanted to pass first time and spent those eight weeks reading everything I could about what to expect, how to prepare and what not to do.
Before I knew it, I was being driven to the station by my Mum at stupid AM to embark on the journey to Brookwood Station, Surrey where ATC (Army Training Centre) Pirbright awaited. After a long train journey and a McDonalds breakfast to calm the nerves, I was at Brookwood Station. It was easy to see who else was there for ADSC. Guys with suitcases and terrified looks on their faces, guys much younger and thinner than myself I might add. Brilliant!
I started speaking to a guy who had been training for the Paras, his fitness was unbelievable and I didn’t look forward to eating his dust on the 1.5 miler. He shared my fear, however, of the medical. This takes place almost straight after we get there and the worst part is, there’s nothing you can do about it. Either you are medically ok or you’re not. As long as he passed that he said, he’d smash it. I wished him luck, even more nervous now than before.
If we can’t look after a water bottle, should they trust us with a gun?
We lined up outside the station and after exchanging small talk a bright pink coach pulled up. We all had a giggle over the colour of the coach until the Sergeant stepped out and gave us a glare which instantly shut us up. He then told us to line up, give him our surnames – “‘don’t care about your first name” - put our bags in the back and get on the coach.
It was a short but tense trip from the station, none of us spoke from the moment we met the Sergeant. We knew this was where it got serious. We were led to a hall, asked for our documents and assigned a number and small water bottle. Our job was to look after this water bottle like a pet, ‘do not let it leave your side’. Although a strange task, this is to see if we can look after things. After all, if we can’t look after a water bottle, should they trust us with a gun?
We then had our medical including urine, eye, hearing, ECG (heart) tests and finally a meeting with the doctor – “cough please”! Thankfully everything went well and I was then given a bib with my number on to indicate I was fit to proceed and to get started making my bed. Making the top bunk of a bunk bed isn’t easy by the way…
I later found out that the guy who I spoke to at the station had failed the medical with a burst eardrum and was sent home to return in six months. I truly felt sorry for him and the intensity of this process was drummed home harder than ever. Best of luck to him in the future.
Be yourself and show your passion
On, then, to a lecture from a retired Major who spoke about the opportunities available to us in the Army. This really raised our morale and got us pumped for the rest of the two days. I had never wanted it more at that point!
Next was the Icebreaker. This was a very important part of the ADSC and I had revised and practised quite a bit beforehand. You stand up in front of a room full of senior officers and your fellow candidates and speak about yourself; why you’re joining the army, what job you’re going for and a topic given to you on the day. All you can do is be yourself and show your passion. Revising does help though as you will be asked questions afterwards.
After that I had to do the BARB test and then a TST test. These were to get a sense of my logic and maths skills. Luckily I am quite good at both and thankfully passed these without too much of a problem. Again revision is your friend.
After that was a lesson on Lynx and Apache helicopters, which we were to be tested on the next morning. We took our notes and spent a lot of the evening – you guessed it - revising. We tested each other in our bunks that evening to the point where I’m sure I dreamed about Lynx and Apache helicopters! Day 1 was over and we had survived so far, Day 2 however was where things were to jump up a notch.
Can we swap legs and lungs, please?
5:30am and the lights come on accompanied by a loud voice of “Wake up”. We performed our wash duties and had our helicopter test. The revision had paid off and we all passed without much difficulty. We had breakfast – a choice of continental or “fat boys” breakfast. I decided to be sensible and go for continental, I’ll tell you now that watching the lads devour a full English while I settled for my croissants was torture! Then straight out onto the court to begin our physical tests. We were split into two groups to perform the jerry-can test and the powerbag lift tests simultaneously. I was up first along with four others to do the jerry-can test – a test which I had been dreading! We had to walk 150m (5 laps of 30) with our PTI, I found it much easier than I thought to be honest and was told to slow down at one point. 150 metres later and I was over the moon!
Up next, the bag lifts. Starting from 15kg we had to lift powerbags up on to a 1.5m platform, which is to simulate loading ammo crates and what-not onto a truck. You then increase to 20kg, 25kg, 30kg and then 40kg. 30kg I started feeling it and 40kg was quite naughty. No dramas however and again over the moon!
Then the moment we had all been waiting for and for the most part dreading. The 1.5-miler, 800m warm-up and then best effort of two laps round the camp. I was so nervous but could only do my best I kept telling myself.
Aaaaand we’re off! Straight away the younger fitter lads had already done a Usain Bolt on me, but I wasn’t worried about them, this was my personal battle. Not far into the run and I began to get out of breath, my stamina has never been amazing and the voice in my head was telling me to “stop. Give up. Go home.” This was drowned out by a louder voice: “Keep going. You want this. Don’t stop.”
After a gruelling one and a half laps, the finish line was in sight. I ran for my life. I ran for my future. Knackered, gasping for breath and desperate to lie down, I had finished! I later found out that a guy who had eaten a massive full English and somehow got lost during the run, still finished in under nine minutes. Fair play to the man, can we swap legs and lungs please?
Absolutely covered head to foot in mud
This sense of euphoria was short-lived however; we were quickly taken to put our overalls on ready for the team tasks. We had a brief but gruelling session of PT where at one point I thought I was going to die, a feeling I’m sure Phase 1 will have plenty of! Then we had a grenade lesson where two people would crawl through a tunnel, throw a grenade and then shout ‘GRENADE’! When this happened, the rest of us had to hit the deck as fast as we could. My turn came up and I embarrassed myself by throwing the grenade like a five-year-old girl. The only person worse than me was a guy who managed to hit the top of the tunnel and have the grenade bounce back on him, killing him in a real life scenario. We’ll both have to work on our throwing technique before the real thing I think!
Then on to more team tasks, a massive part of ASDC and one where people can throw away or salvage their chances of passing. They look for participation but also the ability to listen; to work as a team. We performed three tasks which basically involved getting from point A to point B without touching the floor, collecting an ammo crate along the way etc. They all required thought and initiative – we only passed one out of the three, but the tasks are more to do with how you work in a team.
Absolutely covered head to foot in mud, we had 30 minutes to get showered, packed away and changed into our suits for our final meeting. I have never gotten ready so fast in my life! Packed away and suited up, I waited for what felt like the longest time in my life; where I had to stand to attention and shout with full authority “SIR!” once my number was called. This time came, Sir was shouted (with a compliment of “Good man”) and the meeting with a Major began.
“How did you find this experience?”
“Hard work, but amazing sir”
After an amazing meeting where I was told that I performed well in the Icebreaker and the team tasks, and that I had run a time of 10:52 (a personal best and one I was delighted with) – I was told I had passed! A high B grade no less and I won’t lie, I fought back tears.
That was the end of ADSC. I thanked the instructors for their time and kept my water bottle as a memento as I made my way back home, taking with me a few friends, some fantastic memories and a huge grin that lasted the entire journey home.
Not long after I received the phone call with a start date.
A week to go!
The last two months have flown by to be honest. Forms to fill in and send off, check! Kitlist to buy, check! A decent level of fitness to achieve, check-ish! And here I am now with a week to go, which will consist of running, running and more running.
Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page
Find out about joining the Army
Find out about Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright
Find out about ATR Winchester
*Army Development Selection Centre