You’re in the Army now: it’s range week!

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my ninth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

 

Week 9

Monday

Today marked the start of range week. We collected our rifles and got on to the coach to Longmoor Ranges.

I passed the 100m and 200m by the skin of my teeth

Here we went through all the firing positions at 100m, then the same at 200m with the inclusion of standing supported where we practised firing whilst leaning against a post. Finally was 300m where we fired in just the prone position.

It's range week.

It’s range week.

I passed the 100m and 200m by the skin of my teeth – achieving a score of 48 with 48 being the minimum pass mark. I failed 300m the first time but managed 16 out of 20 on my reshoot which I was happy with.

Tuesday

Today we practised snap shooting, firing at the target which would only remain visible for a limited amount of time.

"200m is still hard work yet somehow I'm ok with 300m"

“200m is still hard work yet somehow I’m ok with 300m”

I spent the first part of the day as butts party where we held the targets up above the parapet and brought them down when prompted. We could feel when the shots hit due to the vibration which made scoring easier.

Afterwards it was my turn and 100m is now pretty comfortable for me. 200m is still hard work yet somehow I’m ok with 300m. Thankfully I passed all 3 first time.

Back at camp our diaries were checked. Unfortunately mine was 1 day behind and I was given show parade among many other offenders. Despite being a slight hindrance, it keeps me on top of my kit (and diary!) so I can’t complain too much.

My first Annual Combat Marksmanship Test

Wednesday

This morning we went to a different range – this one using electronic sensors to aid in our shooting. This would be the range we would take our Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT) on.

100m I found ok apart from having to fire one shot standing up then immediately firing 4 more whilst kneeling. 200m was a lot more challenging and found kneeling supported harder than unsupported! 300m I excelled at, missing only one shot.

I failed 100m so I had to retake but thankfully passed the retake. We made our way to another range, had a brief and fired 15 rounds at 25m in the dark. I hit 10 which I was slightly disappointed with but still higher than a lot of others. Finally made our way back to camp and hit the sack.

Thursday

Today we went to the same range to take on our first Annual Combat Marksmanship Test (ACMT). Lots of guys here are after marksman (hitting at least 39 out of 48) but I’ll be happy just to pass.

Our Troop Commander let us fire 10 rounds at each position with 5 being a grouping and 5 hitting the target and helping us adjust our point of aim which helped out a lot.

My turn came on the ACMT with a good portion of the Troop having passed with marksman no less. I nailed the 50m and the 100m without many dramas. Then my luck ran out during the 200m with the target going down and refusing to come back up. This rendered my 200m shoot void and I had to change lanes for the 300m shoot which I nailed.

As my lane was faulty I was allowed another first attempt at 200m and was told I could drop 5 shots and still achieve marksman. The pressure of this combined with frustration from having to reshoot however toppled me and I completely flopped. I calmed down and thankfully on the next go nailed it. Although I passed, I’m gutted about the target malfunction and would love to know how I would have done had it not occurred.

The rest of the evening was spent doing admin for the Troop Sergeant’s inspection tomorrow.

Me on the ranges.

Me on the ranges.

Friday

We collected our rifles from the armoury and proceeded to spend the majority of the day giving them a thorough clean after a weeks worth of firing. The amount of carbon build up is mad!

After dinner we took it in turns as sections to sit our MATT 9 C-IED test. I’d revised prior to this and managed to pass first time. There were some silly marks dropped though which I’ve noted for next time.

We then packed for tomorrow’s assault course and for the upcoming week in Wales which we’re all buzzing for. Today we also gained a new recruit into our section and Troop, and spent time inducting him into our group.

Saturday

This morning we donned our webbing and headed to Worthy Down to tackle the 12 foot wall on the assault course. We were taught different methods of traversing the wall and took it in turns doing so as a section, adjusting the order we went over in to effectively get the last man over in good time.

Then we took the course on a couple of times which was exhausting. The Commanding Officer’s competition is going to be brutal!

We changed into civilian clothing and signed out for the day. I went to Southampton again and did some more shopping before eventually coming back and finishing some admin.

Sunday

Today, I decided not to go out of camp and instead packed for next week’s Soldier Development Wing before going to the welfare to relax a bit. Great week ahead which will test our courage but also give us some much needed downtime!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: CBRN drills, bayonet training and the PFA run

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my eighth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

 

Week 8

Monday

We started off the morning with a practical orienteering challenge. We were given a map with bearings and our task was to make our way to said bearings, answer questions at each bearing and get back ASAP.

Unfortunately, both myself and my teammate were still pretty shaky at map reading and it showed. After an embarrassing display, by the time we did make it back we were dead last – and had minutes to change into our CBRN [Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] suits to cap it off! A frantic change ensued.

In CBRN, we learned about the chemical safety rule and also immediate action and decontamination drills. Our test on these will be in the chamber which is exciting as it’ll be easy to see who passes or fails by whether they’re scrambling to the door or not!

We had PT which today was an indoor session consisting of 4 sets of 15 workouts for 20 seconds each. It became very sweaty very quickly!

The last thing we had today was a cap badge nurturing lesson where a Sergeant Major from Larkhill came down to speak about the different regiments of the Royal Artillery in order to give us an idea of what to choose when prompted in Phase 2. I found this lesson extremely helpful as I’m still undecided as to what trade I want to go for.

Tuesday

In the morning, we had PT which was the outdoor assault course. The warm up was brutal and for some reason the PTIs were angrier with us than normal. After much leopard crawling and running, we then hit the assault course until it was time to go back to camp.

We hit the outdoor assault course.

We hit the outdoor assault course.

There was no more room in the coach and so I had to head back to the assault course with the others, and unfortunately this meant doing the assault course even more! By the time the coach came back I was wrecked, and proceeded to finish my water bottle on the way back thinking it was over. It wasn’t.

And more of the assault course!

And more of the assault course!

Back at camp, we were tasked with all getting our knees in the air as a troop which took a while to achieve in itself. Then we ran to the rugby pitch where we thought we’d have a warm down. Then we saw sandbags.

We had a briefing on bayonets and how there may be times when we would have to use them – and if so to put 100% into it. Kill or be killed. We ran to different corners of the pitch to keep us warmed up and also to keep us annoyed I think – anger was our fuel for this.

We marked time for ages and shouting things like “EN GARDE” which got our blood pumping. Once it was our turn, we proceeded to stab the sandbags, bellowing whilst doing do and then calmly checking the bayonet and walking away with controlled aggression.

This went on for some time, and then we were tasked with dropping to prone and getting up a lot whilst one man ran through the woods stabbing sandbags whilst another motivated him. My turn came and I used my remaining energy to thrust blade into sandbag. The fury and adrenaline kept me going and I put my all into each lunge.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of heat and the brutality of a bayonet session with two infanteer Corporals, I was dead on my feet. My eyes had sunk to the back of my head and I was marking time on autopilot. A Corporal saw this happening and swiftly took me off the line and into the shade. I had my shirt taken off and water brought to me and allowed to sit out for the remainder and was then taken to the medical centre. I had to spend most of the day in there to rest and hydrate which was simultaneously gutting yet needed. Once free to leave, I made my way back to block to start on my admin. A crazy day.

Wednesday

In the morning we were taken by coach to the New Forest so we could practise our map reading. Up until now I’ve not been very good so I was eager to absorb as much information as I could.

We made our way across the forest, the scenery was beautiful and the weather remained on our side. I managed to finally understand how to use the compass correctly and finally felt slightly competent on the matter. A great start to the day.

When we got back, we had a functional skills lesson on budgeting our money – something a few recruits here definitely need lessons in! Our PT was swimming which started off quite hard but thankfully turned into relay races which, although still hard work due to having to wear uniform, was an enjoyable end to the day.

Thursday

Today we had our Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA). This involved 2 minutes of press ups, sit ups and then the 1.5 mile run. I managed to pass the press ups and sit ups which boosted my confidence – then came the run. I’ve never managed to hit under 10:30 before this point and after 8 weeks of training, was extremely eager to do so. I gave it my all under the blazing sun and once across the finish line, was told 10:10! I finally managed to pass and was absolutely thrilled. In comparison to others it’s still not an amazing time, but it’s a pass and I’m over the moon.

I finally manage to pass the PFA run.

I’m getting better at running.

Afterwards we donned our CBRN suits and practised decontamination before tomorrow’s practical lesson in the chamber. It’s a worrying thought how many times the respirator needs to come off in the chamber – will just have to hold my breath and hope I’m quick enough!

Up next was our BCD test where we were tested on different scenarios involving the application of field dressings, tourniquets, triaging (prioritising) the casualties and acting accordingly. We also had to perform basic life support on a dummy which I thankfully revised that morning with the help of my roommate and managed to pass both tests.

To finish off, we went down the welfare centre to watch the England game. Wish I hadn’t bothered!

Friday

Today’s PT was a 4 mile TAB with our bergens, webbing and rifles. The pace was extremely quick from the off and after a while most of our legs were suffering. I tripped over a tree root and went down at one point, when I righted myself up I found myself near the back – not a great place for a short person on a TAB.

The next part for me was brutal and at one point I thought a repeat of Tuesday was going to occur. I was made to get to the front but the damage was done by that point and I physically and mentally struggled to move at all. This rightfully earned me the wrath of my PTI who tried to get a second wind out of me. It didn’t come though and despite trying my hardest I was a complete shambles. My morale took a dive after this and I’m hoping I have no more performances like that!

Afterwards was CBRN, this time practising decontamination in the chamber. Despite my face stinging from the gas entering my sweat pores, I didn’t inhale any which is a good sign. One recruit in our detail however wasn’t so lucky and quickly had to exit the chamber in a mad dash which was hilarious to watch and cheered me up slightly I’m ashamed to say!

To finish the day we had DCCT at 100, 200 and 300 metres. For some reason I’m not very good at the nearer targets yet got full marks on the 300 metres. Strange!

Saturday

We started our day by getting our admin done – such as cleaning our respirators, ironing etc. Our only target for Monday was to have our block jobs squared away which we vowed to spend all of Sunday doing.

Unfortunately, another Section Commander inspected our block during our admin time, with bins full from cleaning our lockers and other such wrongdoings. This led to multiple block inspections until it was up to standard.

From 2 until 6 I was on work parade for leaving kit outside my locker. This involved cleaning leaves off the road, acorns off the grass and taking down a gazebo. Although not the greatest way to spend a Saturday, my lesson has been learned and no kit has been outside my locker since!

The recruits not on work parade were still effectively on one with the block getting a complete spring clean. The floor has never looked cleaner! Another block inspection failed that evening with one in the morning to follow. Despite being a horrible day, it’s been one which has brought our Troop closer together.

Sunday

This morning’s block inspection went better with only minor points being picked up which we will endeavour to correct for next time.

As a reward, we were allowed to leave camp in the afternoon. Our morale soared and our civilian clothes ironed and donned in rapid time.

As a troop, we marched out the gates where we split into two groups, some going to Winchester and some to Southampton. I went with the latter and had a great day filled with shopping and a Nandos! A great end to a not so great week. Range week to follow however which should be awesome!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: ‘Stand to’ for Exercise Halfway

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my seventh week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

 

Week 7

Monday

After a great long weekend, the first thing we had on our agenda was the high wire. I’m not great with heights and had been dreading this for a while! We were briefed, strapped in and off we went. We took smaller obstacles first and then eventually the high wire itself came.

A very nervous climb, and I was on top of the platform where I fell to pieces. Hyperventilating, a lot of hesitation and a self-slap to my face to man-up occurred yet still I didn’t jump. After what must have been 5-10 minutes, I eventually managed to drop where the rest of the Troop applauded me, which I appreciated immensely.

Straight after a stressful start to the week was our first go on the outdoor assault course. The 6-foot wall is a killer, the 12-foot I’m dreading. A good workout session though and a lot of fun too, a good distraction from the high wire previously.

Afterwards, we learned about the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and the Rules of Engagement, and then finished off with a military knowledge test – a test quizzing us on the variety of things we’ve been learning from week 1. I don’t think I did too badly, but we’ll see!

Tuesday

We started off with some map reading, this time relating the map to the ground. A lot of map reading is beginning to go over my head, but thankfully we have both our permanent staff and also our best books to consult. Better hit the books.

Another C-IED lesson where we were taught what to do should an explosion occur. The amount to remember to do when chaos is occurring is daunting.

Endurance training for PT today, which involved max effort sprints around the playing field. We started off doing relay 400m sprints followed by 200m and then 100m. We were absolutely hanging out by the end of it, and then we had core exercises such as sit-ups and crunches to finish off with.

Our CBRN lesson taught us how to adjust our respirators for our personal use and how to don and doff said respirators correctly. We were then told we would go into the chamber filled with CS gas, in order to give us confidence that the equipment works. Half of us were nervous, the other half including myself were strangely excited.

Outside the chamber, when trying to tighten my mask, I pulled the strap incorrectly and broke it. I was now about to enter the gas chamber with a broken respirator. Brilliant. The signal was given and in we went!

We had to walk around the chamber and the others did exercises whilst I was taken to one side just in case. Thankfully the gas hadn’t affected me at this stage and I was up first to take the respirator off. One deep breath and off it came!

The Corporal asked me my name, rank, number and then a bunch of other questions. I’m not sure whether the gas level had thinned at this point or that I’m not as vulnerable to CS as some of the others (probably the former) but I managed to last a very long time in the chamber.

Eventually though, my face was on fire and breathing became harder by the second, I was allowed to leave and the fresh air on my face was both amazing and horrible. I walked up a hill and patted down my kit and sat back to watch the other lads leave the chamber in comical ways. An interesting end to the day.

Wednesday

In the morning we had our bergens checked as today we were off on Ex HALFWAY – an exercise that seems to bring smiles to the faces of our permanent staff when mentioned – a worrying sign.

After being dropped off and tabbing for a while, we were briefed by our Troop Commander and then took it in turns to apply cam cream and grass up our helmets and webbing. Upon trying to pick up my Bergen to move out, one of the arm straps completely snapped off. Brilliant. 2 items in 2 days didn’t bode well for me. Luckily our Corporal made a makeshift knot which would hold for a while, and I had to leg it forward to my section.

We set up our harbour area and then were taken for lessons. These lessons included how to judge distances, how to draw range cards and how to call out enemy positions – a skill we would need for our section attacks which would follow in the exercise. To finish off, we had our evening meal and set up our bashas, beginning our night-time stag rotations.

Thursday

A terrible start to the day as me and half our section weren’t woken up at 0430 hrs, a poor move from whoever was on stag! This left us unable to get ourselves ready for ‘stand to’ in time and re-education followed!

After re-education, we were to conduct our morning routine – something I still struggle to complete in time. To make it worse, due to being on stag last with minutes to go before inspection, I quickly rushed to dissemble my rifle for inspection and didn’t take the magazine off. Simply put, I could’ve had a Negligent Discharge (ND) – a huge deal in the Army. I won’t be making that mistake anytime soon.

We spent a good portion of the day learning firing manoeuvres and how to both suppress, approach and assault the enemy in a firefight. We started off in pairs with one man providing cover whilst the other advanced and then vice versa. This eventually grew into two groups of two, and finally finishing with the entire section attacking. It took quite a while to get the hang of it but we got there in the end. Once there, we then also learned how to withdraw and also how to peel left and right. The process is in itself exhausting but the adrenaline and excitement keeps you going.

Exercise Halfway.

Exercise Halfway.

We came back and had photos taken both as a Troop and also in our respective sections which was quality. A smoke grenade going off in the background was also a nice touch. After lunch we were taught about how to describe an enemy and also how to describe a vehicle using different acronyms. Afterwards we had some time to rest or complete personal admin – mine was spent cleaning the rifle, an activity I really cannot seem to get good at for some reason.

We went on patrol and were suddenly under attack. We used what we had been taught and managed to locate, suppress and attack the enemy. Afterwards we moved in and began to search the enemy position.  I was given the job of covering the enemy soldier. After that we were all buzzing from the experience and finished our patrol in high spirits.

After dinner, our Section Commander decided that we were going to go on a night-time recce (reconnaissance) patrol in order to gather intelligence on the enemy, using the enemy description techniques previously taught to us. We used the cover of darkness and the long grass to make our way to the enemy’s position without being seen. Despite light flares going up (and us using a previous lesson to avoid detection) we managed to get close enough to be able to take down a faint description of the enemies and their harbour area. We had been previously warned that there was a threat to anyone who got themselves caught so we were all as stealthy as possible. Luckily, we were in and out without being seen and made our way back to the harbour area to sleep.

Friday

After our usual stand-to procedure, we got ourselves ready for our morning inspection test. Out of 27 of us in the Troop, 5 of us passed – myself not one of them. For some reason, I truly cannot seem to be able to clean the rifle properly and at this point I was beginning to lose faith in myself. The 22 of us who failed were treated to a stern warning from our Troop Commander about the unacceptable level of failure. Exhausted, I collapsed in my shell scrape and began to self-reflect. Despite knowing I can only do my best, my best needs to get better – sharpish!

Afterwards we were taught about the 6 section battle drills which is, simply put, a step-by-step process on what actions to take starting from preparing for battle right through to regrouping after the battle is won. These 6 steps put into place everything we have been taught so far and now we can see it all coming together.

We were taught how to search enemies and enemy vehicles and were soon off on patrol to practise. Before long a vehicle came our way and we were given the job of stopping the vehicle, gaining the passengers’ cooperation and searching all parties. My input was severely limited for this as I was tasked with watching the road for more vehicles – however from what I heard our section didn’t do too badly.

We went off on another patrol and made our way to a bridge. It wasn’t long before most of us spotted the enemy and the firefight began. We used our training and despite a few mistakes managed to win the firefight. We began to search the enemy when one Recruit searched a bag to discover a grenade. BOOM! Casualty! We then had to casevac a stretcher with 4 huge Jerry cans up a hill towards the safety area. I was one of the first four to carry this extremely heavy casualty and from prior exhaustion from the battle kicking in – it wasn’t long before I was drained. To make matters worse, one of the other four dropped the stretcher, bringing me down heavily with it! We picked up the stretcher and carried on evacuating, however by this point I was done. I was at the back jogging at what can only be described as a snail’s pace and eventually my Section Commander had to literally push me up the hill in order to make it. Not a great feeling.

That evening we were briefed on how we were going to launch an attack on the enemy at 0315 hrs, with each section providing a different role in order to effectively destroy the enemy and then went back to our routine. Unfortunately some recruits on stag were caught asleep and we knew trouble was coming. All of our Troop were marched out into the field where our Corporal explained the severity of sleeping on stag – something I have come close to doing myself to the point but thankfully not! Willpower and coffee granules work well for me. Halfway through the Corporal threatening to have the next sleeping stag thrown off the exercise, the scene was then topped off by a sudden thunder-storm hitting us. Not a cloud had been in the sky throughout the entire exercise and it seemed quite fitting for the weather to change at that precise moment.

Absolutely drenched, we set up our bashas in the dark and went about trying to get our heads down for 0315 for a mission which now had an extra level of difficulty attached with the sudden climate change!

Saturday

It felt like my eyes had only just closed when suddenly the place erupted. “STAND TO!” – the enemy had launched an attack on us! We all got into our positions and began to fire upon the enemy lurking in the treeline trying to approach our position. Smoke grenades had been thrown into the harbour area, enemies were everywhere and the place was generally hectic! We managed to push them back, but we knew it wouldn’t last long.

After a while I heard a crunch of grass eerily close to my basha and I looked to the right. About a hand’s distance away was an enemy’s silhouette –  I roared “enemy on my position” and began to open fire, thankfully causing the enemy to flee back into the woods.

The firefight continued for ages until eventually trip flares lit up our harbour area and the sound of loud explosions simulating mortar fire were upon us. Our Troop Sergeant screamed at us to get our kit on our backs as we were moving out. We grabbed our stuff rapid time and evacuated the harbour area, keeping on the move until we were well away from our previous area. After a personnel check, it seemed a recruit had lost his rifle! It turns out that the rifle was taken off him during his sleep in order to instil the habit of having the rifle at arms distance – in the sleeping bag with you if sleeping!

Eventually all our Troop and their rifles were accounted for, and section by section we moved off. Our section came under attack on a path and we used the peeling method in order to push up and then back down the path whilst providing effective fire towards the enemy. This we were pretty good at and marked the end of attacks for the exercise. We had a chance to change into dry kit and pick up any brass cases we could find from the attack. We made our way towards some woods, set up some covering bashas and went to work on morning routine whilst waiting for the coach.

After hot scoff and a futile attempt at cleaning the rifle, we made our way back to the coach. Back at camp, we started washing all our kit for a kit inspection on Sunday. This took a good portion of the day, with mud and dust in high abundance back in our block by the time we had finished. After sweeping the floors numerous times, our area began to return somewhat back to normal. Hopefully the effort put in would be recognised tomorrow.

Sunday

Our kit inspection wasn’t fantastic, with my webbing still having some dirt in but some others had crimes much worse. We felt the wrath of our corporals and were informed of a full locker inspection on Monday. Straight back into the swing of things it seems!

After some admin time, we were given the magazines and BFAs from the exercise, which had to be cleaned. After one glance it was clear why. A few days in the field and they were infested with rust and carbon. We took 3 each and went to work on cleaning. Just like the rifles, I’m not great at cleaning magazines and by the time I had cleaned three to a high standard, others had completed 6 and above. I’m praying I can improve on simple tasks like this soon. Overall it’s been a tough week but I’ve managed to get this far and I’m determined to go the whole way with extra effort going into the areas I lack in. Starting with rifle cleaning!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

Fresh legs and tip-top morale for the Nijmegen Marches

The team sets off.

The team sets off.

Staff Sergeant Michelle Carr, Army Air Corps (AAC), shares the experiences of her all-female team, as they take part in the Nijmegen Marches (12 – 19 Jul 14).  The mixed-ranks team won the Best Land Team prize, based on speed, team spirit, morale and general conduct throughout the event.

Having successfully qualified at the RAF Cosford 50-mile test eight weeks before and being awarded 2nd best Army team, we were looking forward to the challenge, albeit a little apprehensively. The march consisted of approximately 46,000 participants, 806 of whom were British military and 369 from the Army (including a team from 9 Regt AAC). Each day teams must cover a set distance within a certain time frame, with two or three designated rest stop areas which had refreshments and medical cover.

Day one

An early start of 0405 hrs wasn’t as bad as we first thought as the atmosphere was amazing from the beginning . It was a tough day as we had 29 miles to tackle but fresh legs and tip-top morale meant the day went as smoothly as can be expected and we finished with a full team and no serious injuries. Blisters and sore feet were here to stay! Along the route we came across a Reservist who had completed the march 39 times and was part of the support team. I asked him for some tips; the advice was to get around as quickly as possible and spend the minimal amount of time in the rest areas (10 – 15 minutes). That is what we did.

Day two

Another very early start but with less distance to cover; 23 miles. A lot of Ibuprofen and blister management was a theme! I have to admit that the team were making my job as team leader very easy; self motivation and determination (or stubbornness) was an attribute of each team member. Towards the 18-mile point it was apparent that the team were feeling the miles they had covered and needed a pick-me-up. We came across a German Team as we entered back in to Nijmegen town and we sang songs to each other back and forth for the rest of the distance (it’s amazing how singing helps, it speeds up the pace and takes your mind off the pain). Once again we finished with a full team.

Day three

It was hinted to me that we were in the running for best Land team (this category was for British Army and the Royal Navy). A slightly later start and a slight hiccup from one of the team meant that we missed our start time. This resulted in us being the VERY last team to leave camp. As we had messed up a little I assumed that the best team prize was out of the window; however, we still felt like we had to make amends, so we really went for it. Ten minutes in each rest stop (as opposed to some teams spending 45–60 minutes) and a quick pace meant that we lost count of how many teams we over-took, and morale was through the roof. That evening at the Team Leaders brief we were awarded the best Land team prize for speed, Morale, team spirit and not to mention that we had still not lost anyone from the team.

Day four

Time for a breather.

Time for a breather

The final and longest day. We had 30 miles to get through having started with extremely sore feet/legs/backs; this was a huge challenge in 36-degree heat. It was made even more difficult due to the sombre mood because of the loss of many Dutch lives on the Malaysian Airlines flight the previous day.

As it was the last day we knew the end was in sight so we kept to our strict timings but we did have to stop more often. At the end of the route despite the nation grieving the atmosphere was amazing and there were local people everywhere playing music and spraying us with water, which was appreciated by all of us.

As the Team Leader the most worrying part of the whole March was the final four miles, this should have been the ultimate march through Nijmegen town centre but the lack of water, heat and sheer distance covered resulted in many service and Cadet personnel showing signs of heat injuries. Although morale was high our team members took it up on themselves to look after the wellbeing of others who were struggling (carry their own packs and individuals’ packs, supplying water and giving encouragement).

Everyone who started the challenge completed it showing self motivation, robustness and determination. I couldn’t have taken a better team:

Maj Claire Curry (HQ AAC)
Lt Susie Finch (7 Regt)
2Lt Steph Cray (1 Regt)
WO2 Ally McIlroy (5 Regt)
SSgt Annie Aspin (5 Regt)
Sgt Clare McMaster (6 Regt)
Sgt Sara Canning (HQ Land)
Cpl Emily Leggett (ATR Pirbright)
Cpl Tanya McIlroy (2 Regt)
AirTpr Katie Carter (4 Regt)
AirTpr Allison Kerr (4 Regt)
SSgt Michelle Carr (HQ AAC)

The group photo.

The group photo.

Find out more about the Four Days Nijmegen Marches at this link www.4daagse.nl/en

Visit the Army Air Corps website: www.army.mod.uk/aviation/air.aspx

Supersonic inspiration at Goodwood Festival of Speed

REME Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown getting kids to calculate the speed of rocket cars on their mobiles

REME Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown getting kids to calculate the speed of rocket cars on their mobile phones.

Not taking any prisoners

“I get it – I finally get the equation”. The words of one of the 300 children invited to take part in the Bloodhound Rocket Challenge at Goodwood Festival of Speed.

What did she get? The penny had dropped for this 12-year old, who is starting to make choices that will shape her academic pathways, that the crafting of a foam rocket car hurtling along a wire at 120 mph had a direct impact on the speed.  There’s an argument to say that family, friends and the subjects she is confident in have already set her on a path that may take her away from STEM* careers – so today has never been more important.

The team of three girls from Twynham School, in Dorset, turned up to Goodwood prepared – tool boxes, plans – they were not taking any prisoners. They wanted to win. The foam rocket car they had so carefully crafted shot up the track – surprising the adults and momentarily silencing the young students. Smoke from the rocket motor and then the impact of the car – the same weight of an apple – into a soft barrier to keep the cars intact.

The car stopped and the girls were off, sprinting up the 50-metre track to see what the heat from the rocket motor had done to the foam car. Had they removed too much material? Had it melted through?

Public watches rocket cars made by chidren travelling at 100 mph_2

Public watch rocket cars made by children travelling at 100 mph

 

The car had gone down the track so quickly that the rocket motor was still burning and had set light to the soft barrier – this was “epic” according to the girls and was certainly not what normally happened at school. The flame was stamped out and all eyes focussed on the rocket car. The front wheel of the car was gone.

“What happened?” “Where has it gone?” The girls started discussing what went wrong, how it had happened and if had slowed the car down?

“Miss, what speed did it go?” the question was fired at Army Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown marking run times on successful cars. “I’m not telling you” she said with a grin. “You work it out!”

What followed was an impromptu lesson on speed=distance/time. Teacher Amanda Britton who was accompanying the girls watched on as Liz drew out the S-D-T triangle and mobiles were pulled out to work out the speed.

Craftsman Liz Brown recently joined the Army Reserves and is “cool” in the eyes of the three girls because she is training to repair weapons systems in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. “Once I’ve qualified, the guys will bring in their rifles to me and I will be responsible for fixing them” says Brown when quizzed what she does.

The girls get the significance of Brown’s role and eyes are fixed on her as she tests their calculations. “If you are dividing metres by seconds, what do you get?” Next is an explanation of m/s and mph and some homework via Google on the journey back to Dorset.

 

As they walk away we overhear, “I get it – I finally get the equation”.

Educational Ambassadors

Rocket powered inspiration - Students from Twynham School Dorset display their rocket car

Rocket powered inspiration – Students from Twynham School Dorset display their rocket car

Mission accomplished. In the space of 2 hrs, Bloodhound’s rocket challenge has linked the shaping of a blue Styrofoam block to aerodynamics, rocket science (chuck in chemistry and a dash of Newton’s laws) and a lesson on speed calculations that will adhere to a mind filled with much more than school work.

Bloodhound’s rocket challenge is simple but powerful. Outreach projects like this, and others that the Bloodhound team have up their sleeves, are challenging kids’ perceptions of what is achievable and how they access Science and Engineering.

Bloodhound has the ability to inspire – and kids get it.

The rocket challenge coincided with an announcement from the Army at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed to support Bloodhound’s education program. The Army has trained 100 soldiers as part of a volunteer force of Educational Ambassadors to take the 1,000 mph car’s cutting edge technology into schools. Soldiers from the REME have been visiting schools across the country in support of Bloodhound’s professional educators – all in an effort to offer every child a lesson on Bloodhound by 2018. So far 40,000 children have received a lesson on the supersonic car.

The announcement reaffirms the Army’s support to the Bloodhound project, which already has a small team of military technicians seconded to the engineering team under a commercial arrangement to help build the 1,000 mph car.

Ask your kids if they have heard of the Bloodhound project – you will be surprised at how much they know!

By Major Oli Morgan

Read more of Maj Morgan’s blogs here

*Science Technology Engineering and Maths.

You’re in the Army now: Pride on parade before hometime

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my sixth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 6

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

We started the morning by getting sized up for our No 2 Dress, the uniform we’ll be wearing for pass out. Very smart!

Next was a lesson with the Padre on the ethics of the Army, and shown a clip from Platoon highlighting the vast difference of what’s right and what’s wrong as military.

More drill with 2 section commanders who corrected minor mistakes a lot of us are still making.

Finally a code of conduct lesson with our Troop Commander who informed us what we can and can’t do during our long weekend.

Tuesday

Today was spent mostly on the ranges zeroing our rifles to ourselves. Apparently my grouping was pretty good, which I’m happy about.

After cleaning our rifles and handing them in to the armoury, we had drill. Here we practised what would be happening on Thursday and our last attempt was really good according to our Troop Sergeant. Happy with that!

Troop Commanders locker inspection tomorrow. I hope we impress him!

Wednesday

Our locker inspection didn’t go too badly today. However, a spare locker some of the section use for storage was also inspected and let us down.

For PT, we had another indoor assault course in preparation for the outdoor assault course, which we would be tackling next Monday. The session was, as usual, intense but rewarding – apart from somehow getting a drawing pin in my toe, which stopped me completing the last lap. My luck is horrendous.

Functional skills and then last bit of drill before the big day tomorrow. So excited to see my family and I’m praying I pass my drill test! Long weekend to look forward to and a well earned rest!

Thursday

Huge day today; one we had been looking forward to for some time. In the morning we got into barrack dress, making sure we looked immaculate. Due to time constraints I only managed to properly bull one shoe, I hoped it would be ok though.

After a kit inspection, and a quick iron of my sleeves, we were marched to the square for our drill test. Our troop were first to do this test and we all wanted to pass with flying colours.We were put into open order and had a kit inspection from the Regimental Adjutant. My kit was apparently quite good other than one shoe being evidently shinier than the other. Damn! Despite a couple of hiccups our Troop all passed! Morale soared and we knew we were getting our cap badges in front of our families, a great feeling.

The recruits on parade.

The recruits on parade.

We completed some admin to kill time and then back to the square for the ceremony. We marched on as a squadron, marching past our loved ones without daring to look at them lest we make a mistake. Thankfully nothing of the sort occurred, and one by one we received our prized cap badges to rounds of applause. The self pride is indescribable and I can’t imagine how I’ll feel at pass out!

After matching off the square, we were finally allowed to see our families. After lots of hugs, each troop then had to put on a demonstration to our families giving an insight into the sort of things we’ve been learning the past 6 weeks, from our different uniforms to ration packs to setting up a basha on exercise. It’s a nice touch to be able to show off our newly acquired knowledge.

A quick change into our civilian suits and we were free to go! A 3 hour drive home and a curry with my friends to cap off one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

See you on Sunday Winchester!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

Jakarta: An exercise in disaster management Pt4

Major Paul Lodge and Captain Chris Willett are both reservist members of the Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG). In their civilian jobs, Paul is a Project Manager and Chris is a Police Officer. For two weeks, they are deployed on Exercise Civil Bridge, an MSSG overseas training exercise which this year is taking place in Jakarta – the first joint exercise of its kind to involve the British and Indonesian Army.

Capt Chris Willett (left), Maj Paul Lodge (right)

Capt Chris Willett (left), Maj Paul Lodge (right)

Day two’s highlight was meeting with the Mayor of East Jakarta, who even laid on some cake for us.

A piece of ‘sponge in a bag’ was going down well when the room went quiet and our hosts stared at one of my colleagues. The Mayor who knew no English managed to say ‘we don’t eat the chilli’ as a green wedge disappeared down with the cake.

 The ice was broken

The gathered masses sat back to see the result as they all agreed, ‘no we never eat the chilli; it’s hotter than red ones…only to flavour the cake in the bag’. To spare any blushes I’ll say no more but it’s fair to say the ice was broken.

We had a busy morning of meetings planned.

After the interviews with Mayors we got out to meet more people. First up, the local police who, after the formal presentation, took us outside for a more relaxed demonstration of their inflatable rescue equipment. In front of about 100 officers and the station’s car park attendants I was in high demand for photo opportunities. That lasted until they realised WOII Chris Parsons is a stunt double for Michael Owen and I was side-lined as they clambered to have a photo with him instead……most undignified!

 

Taking notes on the tablet while having tea and cake with the Mayor – complete with super-spicy chillies

Taking notes on the tablet while having tea and cake with the Mayor – complete with super-spicy chillies

 

Dealing with the rainy season

It actually took some time to extract from the Police who kindly offered to visit us when we next have floods.

They struggled to grasp that we don’t have a ‘rainy season’ or more accurately a ‘non- rainy’ season and that we have no idea when or where we will have floods!! They have a complex system of pumps and gates which to be blunt directs flood water to a low lying shanty town across the road from the station.

The city evacuates the residents, the area gets wiped out and they efficiently clean up the mud salvaging enough wriggly tin to rebuild it. Have we considered doing that? Hmmm answers on a postcard as to where you would recommend we trial the concept.

The partial construction of colossal high density housing projects suggests an effort to alleviate the problem of shanty towns but I suspect the current pace of economic development will draw people into the city to fill any space vacated by those already there.

The police give a dry-run demonstration of their rescue equipment

The police give a dry-run demonstration of their rescue equipment

 

A five minute walk brought us to the local health department where we had another exceptionally warm welcome. Offered fruit instead of cake (naturally) we were frankly amazed at what they can deliver with so little. Accommodating 500 displaced locals in the foyer and another 400 in the basement (rooms, which aren’t big at all) …. for a month…with food, clean water and health care etc while not 50 metres away the flood waters wash away the neighbourhood and wash in rubbish and toxic waste from across the city.

Of course the rats and other vermin have the same idea when their homes are flooded. Impressed? Just a bit!

After all that hard work we needed a bit of local situational awareness and headed for the old town from where the Dutch ran the country as their colony in the late 18th century. Walking past a line of school children waiting to enter a museum caused carnage when they all decided they wanted a piece of ‘Michael Owen’ and followed us down the street. What must their teachers have thought?

“Go away, I am not the Messiah!”

“Go away, I am not the Messiah!”