You’re in the Army now: Preparing for Ex FINAL FLING

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 eleventh week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

 

Week 11

Monday

In the morning we got into our CBRN kit and headed to the gas chamber for 0800 hrs. We went into the chamber in details and carried out our CBRN test. This consisted of a full decontamination, followed by a drinking drill and changing our PFCs.

Climbing the wall

Climbing the wall

On my first attempt, I didn’t undo the straps on my respirator properly when taking it off and couldn’t put it back on. I tried and tried until eventually I ran out of air and inhaled a huge portion of CS. Thankfully I’m not as susceptible to its effects as others; however I still needed to leave the chamber. I went back in with another detail, learned from my mistake with regards to the straps and passed.

We got changed in rapid time and headed to the assault course to practise for the CO’s comp on Wednesday. It’s a lot harder with kit and rifles on but every attempt at the 12 ft wall showed improvement. Once back at camp, we grabbed our bergens and made our way to the same harbour area we used on Ex FIRST STEP. We had a firing manoeuvre test in pairs, which after a couple of hiccups I eventually passed. We set up our bashas, cleaned our rifles and got our heads down.

Tuesday

Reveille and straight into morning admin which we all needed to pass. A frantic hour and a half to get our rifles and ourselves squared away. When time was up I was inspected and other than some carbon on the gas block which I somehow missed, my rifle was deemed “pretty clean” and hopefully that means a pass.

We did some tests to check how much we had learned from previous exercises and also to prepare us for Ex FINAL FLING. Our Section Commander then went through the ‘Half Tac’ formation and also how to go about being contacted from different positons whilst in different patrolling formations. We also practised CASEVAC, focussing on changing carriers fluidly, which was where we struggled last time. Once all was done, we headed back to camp and packed our webbing for the kit inspection involved in the CO’s cup tomorrow.

Wednesday

Assault Course

Assault Course

We made our way to the Muster square and had our webbing checked by the Sergeant Major; all went well aside from some dirt on some of our water bottles. Damn!

After that we headed to the assault course where we had a nice gentle warm up ready for the course. Once we were suitably warmed up, we were off. We managed to get over the whole course without any dramas and was probably the best we’d done it yet. We adopted an all-round defence and got our breath back. After that, we picked up the stretcher and its 70kg passenger and again we were off. We kept a good pace, changed when needed to without any dramas, however we did eventually drop the stretcher twice due to poor changing. We powered through for the mile and eventually it was over. We finished off with a 25m shoot from the kneeling position which wasn’t too bad – although one member of our section had a stoppage and so scored no points!

Once back at camp, relieved that it was over we conducted admin and packing for our Phase 2 visit to Larkhill tomorrow.

Thursday

We woke up early and excited for our visit to our next home – Larkhill. After a 40 minute coach journey we arrived through the gates and were instantly impressed by how huge and pristine the camp is!

We had a presentation by the Battery Sergeant Major who spoke to us about our upcoming time in Phase 2 and was a good time to ask as many questions as we could. We had another briefing on the regiments and also on the restructure. It seems two of the regiments in my top three aren’t recruiting at the moment and so I’m now going to consider putting myself forward for 26 regiment – based in Germany!

We had a tour of the camp and then some scoff. I’ve always enjoyed the food here at Winchester but the food at Larkhill is even better! Definitely looking forward to meal times there. After that we had a tour on the different equipment the Artillery use and were given more information on the regiments that employ this equipment – all useful in helping us reach our decision in what to join.

Overall a very good, informative day. Once back at camp we received our kit list for Ex FINAL FLING and began to pack.

Team work on the assault course

Team work on the assault course

Friday

First up today was PT where we tackled some outdoor circuits. It’s now been a while since we had a heavy PT session and the warm up itself tired most of us out! The main session involved bear crawls, crab walks, push ups, sit ups, squats and running. By the end of the session three of our Troop puked!

Afterwards was a grenade lesson so that we‘re allowed to use them on Fling. Then we had the results of the COs cup. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place all went to 5 Troop. Congratulations 5 Troop!

We commiserated our loss with a charity curry lunch and then a briefing on how to enter/exit a Chinook and Merlin helicopter. It seems we’re getting helicopters for Fling – buzzing!

Saturday

Today I went to Southampton for a bit of shopping before returning to camp and cracking on with administration. It’s weird how I now find ironing clothes and polishing boots relaxing.

Sunday

Spent the weekend packing for Ex FINAL FLING and enjoying a nice bit of normality before the crazy week ahead.

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

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You’re in the Army now: Soldier Development Week in the Brecon Beacons

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 tenth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

 

Week 10

Monday

Today we headed off to the Brecon Beacons in Wales for our Soldier Development Week (SDW).

Upon arrival we were briefed by a Corporal who was to be our rep for our time here. We were taken to our accommodations which house the entire troop. Unfortunately due to numbers, myself and some others were moved and had to share with another troop. I quickly got to work on making my bed space my own and it wasn’t long before I was settled.

After a briefing on the activities we would be doing here, off we went to the high wire! I hoped I wouldn’t have a repeat of last time and decided to go first to get it out of the way. This time, the idea was to jump from the platform and grab the trapeze. After 5 minutes of nearly jumping, eventually I plucked up the courage and jumped. No tears, no hyperventilating and significantly quicker than before; it seems I’ve gotten braver.

More high wire activity and then we had some time to kill before dinner. The food selection here is awesome and so is the quality. Once that was demolished, our time was our own for the day. We headed to the Welfare Centre where we played pool for a good portion of the evening, with me beating one of our Corporals 2-1.

Once the Welfare closed, I made my way back to block and scrambled into my sleeping bag, ready for tomorrow’s Navigational Exercise. Let’s hope I don’t get lost!

Tuesday

After breakfast we had a timings briefing and exchanged any faulty kit. Then we had a refresher course on map reading with our Troop Commander before our Nav Ex. We were given maps and several bearings to plot indicating landmarks to get to, and then worked out the distances and the estimated time it would take. We were also given a sheet with questions for each marker so we could prove we actually found the landmarks. Once this was complete we were driven out to a vast landscape, given a briefing and what time to be back, and off we went.

We started up a path and saw on the map a tree line separating us from the first marker and figured we could cut across it as a shortcut. Big mistake! As soon as we knew our error we were too far in to turn back. The wood line went from spaced out trees and a clear path to a miniature jungle; thick with foliage, huge holes to fall down, branches to clothesline yourself on and mosquitoes everywhere. We donned our gore-tex to protect our arms from being torn to ribbons and ran for it. By the time we finally made our way to the other side we had lost time, a gallon of sweat and any clue of where we were. We found the ordeal hilarious though and we were in high spirits for our task ahead.

Thankfully, our plan had worked to a small degree and the first landmark, sheep pens, weren’t too far from us. Once there, we took it in turns to plot the next route and ran to save time. This continued for a while, taking the time to appreciate the beautiful views Wales has to offer until eventually time forced us to head back.

Back at camp we then had a map reading test which covered a bit of everything we had covered from past lessons and today. I passed first time (a rare occurrence) which I was delighted with. We were given a map and bearings to plot for tomorrow’s hill walking exercise and the rest of the day was our own.

Wednesday

We grabbed our maps and went by coach to another part of the Brecon Beacons. As pairs, we led the group in stages on the route we had plotted, using our knowledge to judge the distance and estimated time. The walk was long but amazing, with views which are hard to describe. In total we walked about 19km, and as a treat went to a burger van to celebrate finishing our trek.

We spent the rest of the day bonding with the other Troops and playing some football.

Thursday

Recruit Vaughan rock climbing and abseiling

Recruit Vaughan rock climbing and abseiling

After our morning briefing we collected our rock climbing equipment from the stores. We were taken to a huge cliff side to take on rock climbing and abseiling on natural terrain.

Three routes on the cliff with differing difficulties were made, and after a safety briefing we went up. Going up the cliff wasn’t too bad, a few scary moments when I lost my footing whilst near the top but not too bad overall.

Abseiling down didn’t start well as I swung to the side and swore loudly with fear. After that I was ok and lowered myself down without any more outbursts. Then the hard part came.

I was blindfolded and tasked with climbing the hardest route, using only the directions of the people of my Troop Commander on the ground and my belayer at the top. The very first part of this route was arguably the hardest, yet somehow with the blindfold on I didn’t find it too bad. Scrambling round with your hands for a decent hold is half the battle, finding decent footholds is the killer – especially nearer the top! After a slow but steady climb (again with the odd squeal of fear) I made it to the top. Relief washed over me but the feeling didn’t last long.

On the abseil down I had to change carabiners. Although not in any real danger, the idea of changing these whilst mid abseil is very daunting. To top it off, whilst in the process of changing them, the safety staff suddenly lowered me a little from time to time to up the pressure, which freaked me out to say the least.

With carabiners eventually changed I made my way to the bottom, and when all of us had finished we made our way back to camp. We changed into our civilian clothes and headed into town for a Chinese with our Section Commander, Troop Sergeant and Troop Commander which was a nice end to a scary day.

Friday

Today we collected our caving equipment and made our way to the caves! This activity is the one I was most worried about, and the rising water level due to the rain didn’t help my fears.

After changing into our caving gear we had a brief on the cave layout and the do’s and don’ts. Then we made our way in. The light quickly faded and head torches became our saviours. The first part of the cave was manageable by crawling, until eventually we had to go on our belt buckles to squeeze through. Eventually we reached the main opening of the cave which was huge and had a fast flowing river powering through it which added to the excitement. We had a lesson on cave formations (stalagmites and stalactites etc.) and then climbed a section of the cave to reach a higher level with more features, including a natural rock pool containing drinkable water.

The next part was the best, with us crawling through a tight tunnel submerged in water. This is the part which I was dreading but ended up loving. Our next task was to make our way through a small tunnel with the fast flowing river coming straight at us – with our torches off. I took point, and after finding out the hard way, told the first man behind me where to look to not get a face full of water! After traversing the tunnel, working out how to get through and relaying the information back to the next man, eventually we were all through. I loved every minute of it.

Back at camp we grabbed all of our gear, loaded up the coach and said goodbye to Wales as we made our way back to ATR Winchester. Once back, we prepped our bergens for tomorrow’s TAB and went to sleep.

Saturday

Recruit Vaughan in the Brecon Beacons

Recruit Vaughan in the Brecon Beacons

This morning we made our way to PT, had our bergens weighed to make sure they were 20kg as required and then began our 5 mile TAB. After my horrific performance from the last one I started at the front and was determined to not let myself down like before. Keeping up with our PTI is extremely hard and killed my legs, however I fought through the pain until a point where we did an about turn and I subsequently found myself at the back. Being here is harder on a TAB as any gaps formed throughout your file force you to run the entire time you should be walking. Luckily I was instructed to get to the front again and despite being a slog I managed to stick with the pack. Our PTI decided to have some fun with us though; we kept walking towards the finish line and then turned off at the last minute and tabbed some more. This went on for a while until eventually we were lined up on the PFA start and instructed to run an 800m route. This is where the wheels came off for me and I came in second from last.

Other than struggling with the run, the TAB itself went a lot better than last time, although I’m still dreading our 6 mile Combat Fitness Test (CFT) coming up.

After a stretch and a shower I then chilled for a while until work parade which I had been rewarded with for our dirty room back in Wales. This involved a few hours of menial tasks around camp (mainly weeding and sweeping!), which thankfully went quite quickly. Admin to finish and I was in bed by 2000 hrs!

Sunday

Today was a pure admin day with copious amounts of ironing and folding. It feels good to have everything squared away and I’ll saviour the feeling whilst it lasts! I also spent the time packing for a busy day of CBRN, PT and Test Ex tomorrow. With that done, I retreated to my pit ready for a busy week ahead!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

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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

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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.