Time for selection: Preparation is the key

Recruit Andrew Vaughan is 25 years old and is about to start Phase 1 training at Army Training Regiment (ATR) Winchester, where he hopes to go on to join the Royal Artillery.


ADSC* and the waiting game…

Recruit Andrew Vaughan

Recruit Andrew Vaughan

Those two months flew by – quicker than I would have liked if I’m honest. Had I prepared enough? I felt really nervous. I really wanted to pass first time and spent those eight weeks reading everything I could about what to expect, how to prepare and what not to do.

Before I knew it, I was being driven to the station by my Mum at stupid AM to embark on the journey to Brookwood Station, Surrey where ATC (Army Training Centre) Pirbright awaited. After a long train journey and a McDonalds breakfast to calm the nerves, I was at Brookwood Station. It was easy to see who else was there for ADSC. Guys with suitcases and terrified looks on their faces, guys much younger and thinner than myself I might add. Brilliant!

I started speaking to a guy who had been training for the Paras, his fitness was unbelievable and I didn’t look forward to eating his dust on the 1.5 miler. He shared my fear, however, of the medical. This takes place almost straight after we get there and the worst part is, there’s nothing you can do about it. Either you are medically ok or you’re not. As long as he passed that he said, he’d smash it. I wished him luck, even more nervous now than before.


If we can’t look after a water bottle, should they trust us with a gun?

We lined up outside the station and after exchanging small talk a bright pink coach pulled up. We all had a giggle over the colour of the coach until the Sergeant stepped out and gave us a glare which instantly shut us up. He then told us to line up, give him our surnames – “‘don’t care about your first name” - put our bags in the back and get on the coach.

It was a short but tense trip from the station, none of us spoke from the moment we met the Sergeant. We knew this was where it got serious. We were led to a hall, asked for our documents and assigned a number and small water bottle. Our job was to look after this water bottle like a pet, ‘do not let it leave your side’. Although a strange task, this is to see if we can look after things. After all, if we can’t look after a water bottle, should they trust us with a gun?

We then had our medical including urine, eye, hearing, ECG (heart) tests and finally a meeting with the doctor – “cough please”! Thankfully everything went well and I was then given a bib with my number on to indicate I was fit to proceed and to get started making my bed. Making the top bunk of a bunk bed isn’t easy by the way…

I later found out that the guy who I spoke to at the station had failed the medical with a burst eardrum and was sent home to return in six months. I truly felt sorry for him and the intensity of this process was drummed home harder than ever. Best of luck to him in the future.


Be yourself and show your passion

On, then, to a lecture from a retired Major who spoke about the opportunities available to us in the Army. This really raised our morale and got us pumped for the rest of the two days. I had never wanted it more at that point!

Next was the Icebreaker. This was a very important part of the ADSC and I had revised and practised quite a bit beforehand. You stand up in front of a room full of senior officers and your fellow candidates and speak about yourself; why you’re joining the army, what job you’re going for and a topic given to you on the day. All you can do is be yourself and show your passion. Revising does help though as you will be asked questions afterwards.

After that I had to do the BARB test and then a TST test. These were to get a sense of my logic and maths skills. Luckily I am quite good at both and thankfully passed these without too much of a problem. Again revision is your friend.

After that was a lesson on Lynx and Apache helicopters, which we were to be tested on the next morning. We took our notes and spent a lot of the evening – you guessed it - revising. We tested each other in our bunks that evening to the point where I’m sure I dreamed about Lynx and Apache helicopters! Day 1 was over and we had survived so far, Day 2 however was where things were to jump up a notch.

Day 2

Can we swap legs and lungs, please?

5:30am and the lights come on accompanied by a loud voice of “Wake up”. We performed our wash duties and had our helicopter test. The revision had paid off and we all passed without much difficulty. We had breakfast – a choice of continental or “fat boys” breakfast. I decided to be sensible and go for continental, I’ll tell you now that watching the lads devour a full English while I settled for my croissants was torture! Then straight out onto the court to begin our physical tests. We were split into two groups to perform the jerry-can test and the powerbag lift tests simultaneously. I was up first along with four others to do the jerry-can test – a test which I had been dreading! We had to walk 150m (5 laps of 30) with our PTI, I found it much easier than I thought to be honest and was told to slow down at one point. 150 metres later and I was over the moon!

Up next, the bag lifts. Starting from 15kg we had to lift powerbags up on to a 1.5m platform, which is to simulate loading ammo crates and what-not onto a truck. You then increase to 20kg, 25kg, 30kg and then 40kg. 30kg I started feeling it and 40kg was quite naughty. No dramas however and again over the moon!

Then the moment we had all been waiting for and for the most part dreading. The 1.5-miler, 800m warm-up and then best effort of two laps round the camp. I was so nervous but could only do my best I kept telling myself.

Aaaaand we’re off! Straight away the younger fitter lads had already done a Usain Bolt on me, but I wasn’t worried about them, this was my personal battle. Not far into the run and I began to get out of breath, my stamina has never been amazing and the voice in my head was telling me to “stop. Give up. Go home.” This was drowned out by a louder voice: “Keep going. You want this. Don’t stop.”

After a gruelling one and a half laps, the finish line was in sight. I ran for my life. I ran for my future. Knackered, gasping for breath and desperate to lie down, I had finished! I later found out that a guy who had eaten a massive full English and somehow got lost during the run, still finished in under nine minutes. Fair play to the man, can we swap legs and lungs please?

Absolutely covered head to foot in mud

This sense of euphoria was short-lived however; we were quickly taken to put our overalls on ready for the team tasks. We had a brief but gruelling session of PT where at one point I thought I was going to die, a feeling I’m sure Phase 1 will have plenty of! Then we had a grenade lesson where two people would crawl through a tunnel, throw a grenade and then shout ‘GRENADE’! When this happened, the rest of us had to hit the deck as fast as we could. My turn came up and I embarrassed myself by throwing the grenade like a five-year-old girl. The only person worse than me was a guy who managed to hit the top of the tunnel and have the grenade bounce back on him, killing him in a real life scenario. We’ll both have to work on our throwing technique before the real thing I think!

Then on to more team tasks, a massive part of ASDC and one where people can throw away or salvage their chances of passing. They look for participation but also the ability to listen; to work as a team. We performed three tasks which basically involved getting from point A to point B without touching the floor, collecting an ammo crate along the way etc. They all required thought and initiative – we only passed one out of the three, but the tasks are more to do with how you work in a team.

Absolutely covered head to foot in mud, we had 30 minutes to get showered, packed away and changed into our suits for our final meeting. I have never gotten ready so fast in my life! Packed away and suited up, I waited for what felt like the longest time in my life; where I had to stand to attention and shout with full authority “SIR!” once my number was called. This time came, Sir was shouted (with a compliment of “Good man”) and the meeting with a Major began.

“How did you find this experience?”
“Hard work, but amazing sir”
“Good answer”

After an amazing meeting where I was told that I performed well in the Icebreaker and the team tasks, and that I had run a time of 10:52 (a personal best and one I was delighted with) – I was told I had passed! A high B grade no less and I won’t lie, I fought back tears.

That was the end of ADSC. I thanked the instructors for their time and kept my water bottle as a memento as I made my way back home, taking with me a few friends, some fantastic memories and a huge grin that lasted the entire journey home.

Not long after I received the phone call with a start date.

A week to go!

The last two months have flown by to be honest. Forms to fill in and send off, check! Kitlist to buy, check! A decent level of fitness to achieve, check-ish! And here I am now with a week to go, which will consist of running, running and more running.

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright 

Find out about ATR Winchester

*Army Development Selection Centre

Joining the British Army – becoming a recruit

Recruit Andrew Vaughan is 25 years old and is about to start Phase 1 training at Army Training Regiment (ATR) Winchester, where he hopes to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

The decision to join

Recruit Andrew Vaughan

Recruit Andrew Vaughan

I’ve had a taste of Army life before because I previous applied to join the TA when I was 18. I completed the ADSC (Army Development and Selection Centre) after a year of waiting but unfortunately had to leave to go to University. It is something I regret now and I do wonder what would have happened had I stayed. As they say though, everything happens for a reason.

Fast forward seven years, a lot of life experience and a varied career including as an Accounts Assistant and a Recruitment Consultant. Good money, but not what I wanted to do. I wanted a job which was varied, where I get to make a difference and have adventures along the way.

Finally I made the decision. I was going to become a soldier.

The application

I began my journey by going on to the Army website, you now begin your initial registration online by filling in their application form. It can take a while but it saves time down the road to be as detailed as possible. After a couple of weeks of waiting (and worrying) I received an email which asked for medical details. Again it helps to be as accurate as you can.

After another couple of weeks (and a courtesy call just to show enthusiasm) I received a phone call issuing me an appointment at my local AFCO (Armed Forces Careers Office) in London. This was to be an interview and the first real hurdle of the process that can be failed. I was incredibly nervous and spent the time I had to take in all the advice I could from a variety of sources on how to pass. The interview is for the Army to see what type of person you are, why you want to join the Army and what you can bring to the table. You will have already been asked what your top three job choices are, so revise what they involve including where you will based and how long for.

Also revise the Army Values (Courage, Discipline, Respect for others, Integrity, Loyalty and Selfless Commitment – CDRILS) and have an example ready on when you have displayed these values. Revise what ADSC and Phase 1 will involve but most importantly, be yourself. As long as you truly want it and are there for the right reasons, you won’t go far wrong.

I was told straight after the interview that I had passed and had to strongly fight the urge to do the happy dance there and then – probably for the best! I was then told of an upcoming running club in London, which is run by the Army so they can assess my 1.5 mile run time. They hold it once a month so I was very eager to bosh it first time – one week to prepare – game on!

The run clubs

I attended this with my Grandad who, bless his heart, is just as excited if not more so about my decision to join the Army. Having been in the Signals himself and knowing the highs and lows that await me, he is extremely encouraging about my job/life choice and his pride in me is definitely a huge driving force for me to succeed. I finished the run in 11:35, my personal record but not quite good enough. A month of training it is then!

One month and a lot of miles under my belt later and I was back, again with Grandad in tow, and again finished in the 11:30 minute region. I was devastated if I’m honest. No improvement showing, I felt like this was where my journey had reached its end. Thankfully I received a phone call from my CSM a week after inviting me to attend the ADSC in two month’s time!! I was so excited and told anyone who would listen the good news, this was where the ball really began to roll!


Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

Female bandmaster swaps music for mentoring in Kabul

Female bandmaster swaps music for mentoring in Kabul

Bandmaster in Afghanistan

Warrant Officer Class One Esther Freeborn, Bandmaster from the Corps of Army Music

Part 2

Warrant Officer Class One Esther Freeborn is a Bandmaster in the Corps of Army Music. She has performed music at venues around the world and in front of Royalty on many occasions. She is now assigned to work with the Afghan National Army at their Officers’ Academy in Kabul.

International World Women’s Day at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy

Two months in - five to go

Well, I am in my second month at Camp Qargha and everything is going well. My fears of coping in this small vicinity and with a small amount of comforts have been allayed. We are very lucky to be able to receive post from friends and family, and from internet companies that will deliver to a British Forces Post Office. Receiving post generates enormous morale for everyone here, whether you have received a letter from a loved one, or a box full of toiletries from your mum. It’s amazing how grateful you can be for a nice bottle of shower gel!

Women’s Day

At the beginning of March, I was very honoured to represent our site at the Afghan National Army celebrations for International Women’s Day. It was amazing to see how many women were involved in the Afghan Armed Forces, including the first Afghan female pilot. The Afghans are obviously very passionate about Women’s rights and quite insistent on developing roles for women in all services.

Generating lesson plans in multiple dialects

I have many responsibilities here at Qargha, but mainly deal with the production and development of lessons for the Afghan National Army Officer Academy. As you can imagine the lessons for its 42-week course consist of anything from Foot Drill to Afghan Military Tactics. The British Army and partner nation forces mentors immerse themselves in the Afghan doctrine (policy) and write the lessons. Obviously, the lessons are written in English, and, although the Officer Cadets learn English as part of their course, all lessons have to be translated. The Afghanistan population speaks many different dialects, often depending on what part of the country they are from. Dari and Pashto are the two most spoken dialects, but the Academy has chosen for all lessons to be in Dari. Although I cannot speak Dari (apart from ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’), I find that I can recognize certain words and I have even learnt how to write ‘hello’ – سلام.

Command tasks at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy

Command tasks at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy

Small location could drive you mad

It is amazing how many different people you meet whilst on operations, in a camp that is only the size of a few football pitches. As I mentioned previously, there are partner nations here, such as Australian, New Zealand, Norwegian, Danish and American who perform many different roles.

I have to say, my favourite section is the dog section. I have a Springer Spaniel called Tyler and I miss him very much; fortunately I am able to visit the dog compound and give all the dogs a fuss.


Kenzie the Springer Spaniel who used to visit me. He has now gone back to Camp Bastion

I think the most interesting part of the job is being able to talk to the Afghans, both military and civilian, learn about their families, what type of house they have, and even the type of cars they drive (usually a Toyota!) It is only unfortunate that we are unable to explore the surrounding areas a bit more, and see life on the streets of Kabul for ourselves. Nevertheless, I am content with my surroundings and the beautiful view of the Kabul mountains as the snow slowly melts in the gradually warming spring weather. The job is not too bad either!

Read more CAMUS blogs

Find out more about the Corps of Army Music

A Reservist Adventurous Training Weekend

A Reservist Adventurous Training Weekend

By Lance Corporal Hoskins (243 Sqn, 159 Regt RLC)

On the weekend of 7- 9 March, 243 (Coventry) HQ Sqn set off on an adventure to the Island of Anglesey. A convoy of three vehicles packed with passengers and adventure training equipment made their way to the Joint Service Mountain Training Centre to begin a weekend packed of excitement, adrenaline fuelled and challenging fun, all for a cost of just £15.00. As each vehicle ‘de-bussed’ the troops were met by SSgt Khan (the Regular Permanent Staff Instructor) who gave each individual the good news that there was free Wi- Fi in the rooms – luxury in Army terms! After receiving the arrival brief, with beds made and kit packed away, we got some sleep before the weekend began on Saturday.

65 feet up in the trees!

65 feet up in the trees!

A sunny Saturday morning greeted us as we rose from our beds with rolling hills and sheep grazing, which is presumably the same as what they had done the day before, and the day before that and the day before that. After a bit of breakfast and plenty of flask filling we made our way to the Nuffield Training Centre in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll- llantysiliogogogochuchaf on the banks of the Menai Straits on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. No, I did not type loads of words, this is the name of the local area. I dare you to try to pronounce it. For those interested it means ‘St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave’.

‘knees wobble and lips wibble’

We were split into two groups and were each given an instructor who took us through a series of stands which included low wire activities, high wire activities, zip wiring and a trapeze jump. The low wire was quite exciting, it really tested your balance and co-ordination skills but as we progressed on to the high wire at a soaring 65 feet it definitely was enough to make the knees wobble and lips wibble! On each of the wires we had to make a steady climb up the side of a tree as it swayed from side to side in the wind and then believe that we could let go and walk across a plank whilst being supported only by a wire that was being held down by your mate on the ground. We were tasked with completing a full 360 degree turn and then a star jump before stepping off the platform to be lowered to the ground, some of us faster than others.

Into the arms of safety.

Into the arms of safety.

George in the Jungle

Next we moved on to the zip wire. We were to clip ourselves to the rope and then stand at the edge before our instructor kindly pushed us off. The only way we were going to stop was to either have our mates at the other end of the wire hold a wooden wedge down using a rope, or crash into the fast-approaching tree. The method worked well with the wooden wedge until Cpl Wright jumped off unexpectedly. Those of us who were supposed to stop him just carried on watching as he flew towards us. Luckily, LCpl Scrimshaw and I picked up the supporting rope just in time or he’d have carried out a really good impression of George in the Jungle.

Moving on through the activities we got to the Trapeze Jump. As with the other activities we had to steadily climb up the side of a tree until we reached the top where a horizontal bar presented itself to us. At 65 feet in the air with a tree swishing from side to side it takes a lot of nerve to have trust in yourself and your mate, who is stopping you from falling to the ground, beneath you, to jump reaching out for the bar…  And missing! All of a sudden you feel like you are falling to certain death, the adrenaline rushes up to your head, heart beating faster and then you realize you’re not going anywhere, at which point your legs turn to jelly. For SSgt Coley (237 Squadron) this was particularly challenging. It took what seemed like an eternity for him to jump, but up there, I bet it felt like a lifetime for him. After some strong words of encouragement he made the leap of faith and flew to the bottom. A big well done to you.

Gathering our thoughts.

Gathering our thoughts.

After this, we needed a break so we walked over the grass back to the training centre; something that none of us felt entirely comfy with as it goes against everything you’ve been disciplined in. Our last activity for Saturday was a race between the two teams to build a raft and work our way through a course designed by our instructors. After a tie between both teams and an allegation of cheating there was a forfeit. The first team with all members to jump into the lagoon won. As soon as were informed of this, with a few exceptions, all of us ran and got wet as our rafts naturally never sank. Getting wet however was not great when you didn’t have spare change of clothes… Ahem. At this point I should also point out that both instructors were incredibly knowledgeable and it was a pleasure to be with them both. Saturday concluded with a night out where all of us got together and made friends with the locals.

‘Those who have’ and ‘those who haven’t’

Sunday was the end to a great weekend. The sun was shining again as we packed up our lives back into our bags and made our way to the Indoor Rock Climbing School, Indy. It’s Anglesey’s best rock climbing centre which is just outside of camp. It has beginner walls right through to the more advanced walls for real life spidermen. We spent two hours here and split into two groups ‘those that have’ and ‘those that haven’t’ which soon transpired into ‘those that can’ and ‘those that can’t’. By the end of the two hours I think it was fair to say that we all ended up into the category of ‘those that can’.

The whole weekend was a steal, at £15 per person for travel, accommodation, food and equipment hire you can’t complain and it was good to see the squadron do things together as friends, things that are fun and things that we will talk about for a while. Of course the added bonus was that those that attended we getting paid to do these things too, something that others can only dream about. I’d certainly recommend Adventure Training to anyone. It’s something all the squadron should do together, after all, it’s not all work and no play is it? On behalf of all the Soldiers that attended, I’d also like to thank SSgt Khan for working extremely hard in organising this whole weekend. As a witness to endless work on the way down I can say that his phone did not stop ringing. Well done to all those that attended too, I think we smashed it and I believe the next AT weekend will be just as good, if not better.


About 159 Regiment RLC

159 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) is an Army Reserve Supply Regiment, which is responsible for more than a million items of equipment, spares and stores of the Army. Its soldiers work alongside Regular troops from 102 Logistic Brigade; 6 Regiment RLC and 7 Regiment RLC.

Members of the 159 Regt RLC run a regular blog http://159er.blogspot.co.uk and are sharing their story with us.


Army music making in Ethiopia

Musn K Compson

Lance Corporal Kayleigh Compson, Corps of Army Music

Lance Corporal Kayleigh Compson is currently assigned to the Band of the Scots Guards, part of the Corps of Army Music. She is normally seen in red tunic and bearskin on major ceremonial events around London but volunteered to go to Ethiopia with a Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team.

Week 1

What we did for music in Ethiopia

On day one the Ethiopian National Defence Force Band (ENDFB) were on the parade square demonstrating their marching band and Corps of Drums. This helped establish a starting point for training and areas that we could develop and expand upon. We were very impressed with their marching and how they played together as a band. The Corps of Drums was very polished and impressive. This led us to break down into smaller groups for sectional rehearsals. Instrument maintenance is very basic within the band, so we also each gave a lesson on how to clean and look after instruments correctly, and to make best use of equipment they have within their stores.

On the second day our Bandmaster Warrant Officer Class Justin Teggarty gave the ENDF Band a Power Point presentation on CAMUS, our role and the effect of Western military music. They were all interested in learning about our bands and asked lots of questions afterwards about the different groups which the army has and were very pleased to see that the British army had pop groups. We then all came together and had our first full band rehearsal. We had brought along the hymn Abide With Me the band played this extremely well. Their own conductor conducted this piece and the Bandmaster would give useful points how to rehearse a band to get the best out of the musicians.

Next day arrived and we could hear all the sections practising the warm-ups we had gone through with them on the Tuesday. This was very pleasing to hear. The morning was spent with the BM giving them an insight into Western music. They enjoyed learning out how our music had evolved and they liked listening to our music over the years. We then went out on the parade square and the Lance Sergeant took them through some drill. This included slow marching and breaking into quick time, without any instruments.

Week 2

Solos were outstanding

On the following Monday morning we were introduced to their Big Band. The Ethiopian band has a great passion for jazz and big band music so we thought we would give them In The Mood (Glenn Miller) to learn and work on. After lunch we briefed the band about the ‘Flashmob’ idea (Something CAMUS has successfully delivered across the UK in 2013) and they were all really keen to do it. Their CO Colonel Kilbrom, had the perfect place for them to perform, and everyone including the staff were excited The big band were putting their final touches to In The Mood. They clearly had been practising as the piece sounded great and the solos were outstanding. We then took the Big band outside and they performed it to the remainder of the band. This was the first time they had performed a new ensemble to their peers and it went down a storm.


ENDFB Big Band rehearsing Glenn Miller’s In The Mood.

During the trip the ENDF Band made history, and performed their flashmob at the Ethiopian National Defence Force Army Ground Force Headquarters. Once we arrived at the camp the band got into their positions and hid from the rest of the camp. I started off with a ‘drummers call’ to sound that something was happening. People came out of their offices, out of the coffee shop and surrounded the parade square. One off the Ethiopian Band drummers came to the centre of the parade square to play the solo at the start of Highland Cathedral. Section by section the band came out until eventually the whole band was there. The flashmob was a great success and the band said they would do this again around the city.

Three miles to get to school

On one of our days off we travelled to the Menagesha Suba National Forest Park. This forest was the first National Park in Africa and dates back to the 15th century. After almost three hours of travelling in our 4×4, we finally got to the forest. We then travelled a further 5kms through the forest by vehicle and then walked the rest of the way through the forest and up the mountains. The views were breathtaking from 3080m above sea level. The air was very thin and we all admitted we found it harder to breath. Along the way we managed to get talking to some children who lived up in the mountains.

They were more than happy showing us around, telling us about their lives in the mountains and how they have to walk three miles to get to school each day. On the way back from the mountains we travelled through vast areas where transport was horse and cart, children were carrying wood for fires, women and children were walking for miles to get to the water pumps, carrying at least 3 water containers each. We all were extremely shocked, and the mood changed in the vehicle to be more subdued. We had only seen city life in Ethiopia so far, but today we saw what living in Africa is really like.

Week 3

We were now on our final week of the three-week tour this week was all about putting the final touches on to the performance that will be shown on Friday morning. We started off with full band where we were working on the Mask of Zorro. The band was only used to marching so all their music is played at the same tempo and in a similar style. For the parade on Friday we wanted to start the marching display off with a fanfare. The fanfare we chose was from the opening of Olympiada by Samuel Hazo.

The afternoon was spent with some new recruits from the Somali region of Ethiopia. These recruits are based at the camp for two years to learn how to play an instrument, read music and march. The Bandmaster gave them a presentation on ‘Practice and Performance’. All the information was completely new to them but it was a presentation that will be a great help to them in the future. This morning started off with a session of full band where we worked on the fanfare from the day before. This will be played outside on marching band so the percussion were trying to learn it off by heart.


ENDFB Marching band rehearsal

We then went outside and Lance Sergeant Vertigan took us through his ideas for the marching display. The band hadn’t really done any complex moves before so this was exciting for them. The Drum Majorettes had a lot of pressure on them for this display as they were leading the band.

We had a recommendation from the embassy to go to an Ethiopian restaurant. We were not disappointed when we got there. The food was amazing and an Ethiopian band and dancers performed all night, even when the power went out. We were all shocked at how energetic their dancing is and even a couple of us got up to have a go. Our dancing didn’t last very long as we soon realised we weren’t very good at it. We all went home feeling extremely full and had a great evening. On our final day we all had mixed emotions. We were all looking forward to the final ceremony but also knew that this was the end of a fantastic three weeks.

Emotional goodbyes

We had grown close to the band and were sad to be leaving them. We got to the camp and did a rehearsal of the ensemble pieces and the marching band. The band then put on their extremely bright green and red uniforms and started warming up before the guests arrived. Lots of guests were coming to the show, including the Defence Attaché of the British Embassy, Colonel Mike Scott. The Commanding Officer of the camp Colonel Kilbrom, all the training instructors of the band and all of the Somali Police recruits were there to watch.

The ensembles were played perfectly, we all couldn’t have been more proud of them. The guests then had some traditional coffee while the band got ready for marching band. The marching band was a great success they had remembered everything we had taught them. Their marching and the music were faultless. As the parade came to a close the Defence Attaché presented some of the seniors of the band with some certificates we had made for the band. We then all went up one by one and got presented a traditional Ethiopian shirt, and the women also got a scarf. We all were extremely grateful and humbled to be receiving gifts. The guests left and we were told to put on our gifts as we presented the band with our presentation. We had got them a CAMUS plaque and we had made a picture collage of photos we had taken throughout the three weeks. They like the photos and were all keen to find themselves on it.

It was then time to leave; we packed up our office and said some very emotional goodbyes. The STTT have had an amazing three weeks here in Ethiopia and we have all said we could come back here in a heartbeat. Not only have we given our knowledge and experience to the band, we have made some great friends here. We all are looking forward to returning to the UK but secretly wish we were staying for longer.


The Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team Ethiopia 2014

Find out more about the Corps of Army Music

Read other Corps of Army Music blogs

Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing Pt4

Lisa’s Diary 2014

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin

Captain Lisa Irwin is a REME Reserve Officer currently on a three-year Full Time Reserve Service commitment with the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit.  She has spent 15 months learning Pashto and Dhari before deploying to Camp Bastion to be the 2 IC of a team of medical personnel set up to mentor Afghan medical personnel. This is her third tour of Afghanistan and her second blog, as she blogged during her last tour in 2010/2011, when she was deployed as a Female Engagement Team Commander.


7 Mar

The past week has been a challenging one for the ANSF Med Dev Team and a tiring one for me.  We have been busy with routine visits to Shorabak when possible but also busy doing some reactive mentoring.  The Shorabak hospital has been relatively quiet so the guys in the team carried out teaching on things such as airway management rather than direct patient care and encouraged the Afghan medics to carry out necessary reorganisation of equipment.

Whilst the guys were teaching my role was a little interpreting, chatting to everyone to maintain relationships and assisting in teaching.  I had a book of Afghan poetry which was written in Pashto, and I showed it to some of the patients as I know that poetry is an important part of Afghan culture.  They were surprised that I had such a book and even more surprised that I could to read it. I read some poems to patients who were unable to read (in the past many Afghans were unable to attend school) and they really appreciated it. It was such a simple thing but elicited a warm response from everyone in the hospital, patients and staff alike.

VIP visit

Ed Milliband visited the hospital at Camp Bastion.

Ed Milliband (left) visited the hospital at Camp Bastion.

We had a VIP visitor to our team in March.  Ed Milliband was visiting Bastion and as he was coming to the hospital he visited our team due to our mission being considered important.   He seemed a personable man and listened intently as my OC, Fletch, explained exactly what we do and introduced the rest of the team.  He seemed interested in our role but I am sure that is a skill that all politicians quickly develop!

Preparing for surgery

As the week progressed the ANA were due to start a large military operation and therefore we started to prepare for a potential increase in casualties.  As the casualties started to come in I was frequently called in to the hospital to be there as the casualties were brought in by helicopter.  Once the casualties arrived I waited for the doctors to decide if the casualties could be treated at Shorabak, or remain in Bastion, for those who could be transferred I co-ordinated the transfer of the casualties to Shorabak.  Some of them were suitable to be transferred without the team going over to mentor and others required mentoring.  Our aim is to take over cases that are slightly complex and useful for us to mentor in order to increase the Afghan doctors’ knowledge and confidence, but not so complicated that they may be overwhelmed or not yet have the capabilities needed.

The current set-up is a bit like a field hospital, and the new hospital being built will not be ready before July, so it would not be fair to the doctors or the patients to send over cases that are currently too complex.   One of the first suitable casualties required abdominal surgery, and the operation was more complex than had been done at Shorabak before.  However, the patient was assessed to be stable and suitable for transfer.  We decided to take over only the team members that were needed, rather than the whole team, and gained permission to stay over slightly later than normal (our working hours in Shorabak can be restricted depending on the security situation).  So the smaller team, with our Force Protection, headed over.

When we arrived at the hospital the casualty was already in the operating theatre being prepared for surgery so the surgical team scrubbed up and went in to mentor the ANA doctors carrying out the operation.  Meanwhile one of our nurses and I went in to the ward to see how many patients there were and make sure everything was up to date. I chatted to the medics and patients that were there, including two patients who remembered me talking to them in the Emergency Department in Bastion hospital – I suppose a blonde, white woman speaking to them in Pashto probably makes me quite easy to remember!

As the operation progressed I was frequently checking on progress to see if we were going to be OK for time.  I also reminded the Afghan medics that they needed to prepare a bed space for the patient to return to when he came out of theatre, with oxygen, monitoring equipment and other such things that a complicated post-op patient would need.  Once the surgery was complete, the patient was taken to his post operative bed for overnight monitoring and care, and we were able to return to Bastion – the team satisfied with a job well done.  The drive back to Bastion was slightly surreal as I had never driven through Camp Shorabak in the dark before but other than feeling slightly more vulnerable we didn’t encounter any problems.

8 Mar 2014

Talking to the patients on one of the ANA hospital wards at Camp Shorabak.

Talking to a patient on one of the ANA hospital wards at Camp Shorabak.

The next day was almost a repeat of the previous day, with several more casualties coming through, some of whom remained in Bastion hospital and some of whom were transferred to Shorabak.  Of the ones transferred to Shorabak another required abdominal surgery so again the team was stood up to go over and mentor the case.  This time the as the surgery was ongoing there was another casualty with a gunshot wound to deal with, so three of us cleaned, irrigated and dressed his wound.  We then moved him to the ward but no sooner had we done that than word came through on the radio that the Afghans were bringing in 3 seriously ill casualties evacuated by their own helicopter.

Immediately I started chivvying the Afghan medics to make sure the Emergency Department was set up to receive them as the medics haven’t yet fully grasped the concept of preparation and tend to be more reactionary.  At the same time I had to keep an eye on how the surgery was progressing as I was aware that we had a limited time in Shorabak.  Eventually it became clear that the operation wasn’t progressing as planned and that we needed to take the casualty back to the hospital in Bastion, and at this stage there was no sign of the Afghan casualties.  So after numerous phone calls and radio messages we loaded the casualty into an ambulance and we all returned to Bastion.

Casevac’d for needing to pee!

The next morning as I sat at breakfast reflecting on the past 2 long days my phone rang again as more ANSF casualties were en route.  No relaxing breakfast for me then as I headed in to work.  There had been an IED incident that resulted in a number of casualties and some were on their way to Bastion.  On arrival the most seriously injured were immediately taken in to the Role 3 Hospital Emergency Department for assessment and treatment but one casualty appeared to have only minor injuries so he remained in the ambulance while he was assessed, as it appeared likely that he could be transferred straight to Shorabak.  However, although the assessing doctor couldn’t find any obvious injuries the casualty was still grimacing in pain.  Unfortunately due to the number of casualties all the interpreters were busy with other injured Afghans and so I climbed into the ambulance to speak to him to see if I could find out where he was in pain.  Quite quickly I discovered the source of his extreme discomfort….he had an extremely full bladder and was desperate for the toilet! Once he had been able to pass urine he was absolutely fine (apart from a slightly sore back).  Possibly the first time someone has been casevac’d for needing to pee!

After yet another full and busy day I eventually crawled in to bed, exhausted.   I suppose this is how my life is going to be for the next few months, with me taking advantage of any breaks I can get but acutely aware that I can be called in at any time.  I wouldn’t have it any other way though as I enjoy the challenge and variety that the role can bring and I really enjoy being able to interact with the Afghan personnel and hopefully positively influence them.  It may be small steps but I really do feel that my job, and more importantly the work of all of the ANSF Med Dev Team, is making a positive difference.

Pt1: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt2: Lisa’s Diary 2014

Pt3: Lisa’s Diary 2014


Read Lisa’s previous blogs from 2010/2011:

Lisa’s Diary 1: October-December 2010

Lisa’s Diary 2: January-March 2011

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  February 2014
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Pirbright
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Weekend 6

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Rise and shine

Weekend 6 began in the same vein as the previous 5, with a very early start on Saturday morning. Once the shock of waking up had passed, it was time for the day’s lessons. We were all quite apprehensive throughout the weekend as we knew that it was the final TAB on Sunday. The TAB is the course output standard and if failed to finish in the given time we would have to go back to weekend 4 and try all over again! That was not a prospect any of us particularly relished. Saturday’s lessons were a mixture including values and standards, health and hygiene and an introduction to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear). Saturday evening ended at about 19:00 with a session of circuits in the gymnasium. I made the mistake of eating too much at dinner and spent the whole session tasting blackcurrant cheesecake mixed with savoury rice! Another mistake I will never make again.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Sunday was a similar day to Saturday and there was a fair bit of hanging around waiting for lessons. We were in the classroom for a few early lectures and then we were off for our first shoot. The indoor range consisted of laser equipped SA80 rifles. They are tethered to a sophisticated machine that records exactly where your shots fall on the screen to your front. They are also CO2 operated so you get a good sense of the recoil that would be experienced when you get to fire the actual rifles.

This was the first time that most of our course had ever shot a rifle and I was impressed to see how quickly everyone mastered the marksmanship principles that we had been taught. The idea is to create as small a spread of shots as possible on the target. Clearly, being able to shoot proficiently is an important skill for any soldier. I don’t think anyone on our course will have too many problems in this area!

Good luck

The finale of our six weekends was quickly upon us and we were all lined up ready for our three-mile TAB which had to be completed in 45 minutes to pass the test. We set off at the required pace and soon we were getting into the 15-minute-mile rhythm. Things began to get a little unpleasant when we turned off the nice tarmac road and headed for a muddy track around the perimeter of the base. The track is very hilly and had now had large puddles full of foul-smelling stagnant water! However, we all pressed onwards and soon we were heading for the finish line outside the gym. Then it was done. We all passed the TAB and with a little bit of course administration to complete, our six weekends came to an end. It felt nice to stand on parade knowing that we had completed the first phase of our Army Reserve careers.

Fall out!

Fall out!

So now we can all look forward to TSC Bravo. I know it will be much harder and more demanding than TSC Alpha. However, we have had a tremendous grounding and we have had first class training. You hear many people say that the British Army is the finest Army in the world. Well, I can honestly say that if we continue to receive the standard of instruction that we have had so far, then I won’t disagree with that statement. I feel proud to have come through this phase of training and I feel fortunate to have had such capable and helpful instructors. My thanks to you all for helping a middle-aged man through some demanding days!

As I look back I have to be honest and say that some of it was physically demanding. Some of it was mentally demanding but all of it has been thoroughly enjoyable. I am sure that each one of us has now found that we have different areas of strength as well as areas that require more work. I have learnt a lot about myself over the last few months and hopefully I can improve on my weaker areas in time for TSC Bravo.
It is time for me to sign off. I hope that you have enjoyed my blog and I really hope that any of you who are thinking of joining the Army Reserve will now have a better understanding of this phase of training? All I can say is that if I can do it then so can you! Good luck.

The Team together at the finish.

The team together at the finish.

I hope that it is all okay? Thank you for the opportunity to write this blog over the last few months. I have enjoyed it very much. Also, a big thank you to all the staff at ATU South. It has been a very rewarding time for us all and we all feel confident that we are ready for TSC Bravo.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here