Rct Horrix has recently completed Phase 1 Training at the Army Training Centre Pirbright (ATC(P)). He is set to start training at Blandford Camp as an Electronic Warfare Systems Operator shortly. Fitness has always been important in my life, I was looking to find a career which encompassed fitness, travel, new experiences and a job where I would be making a difference. The British Army to me amalgamated all of these ideas and I decided to go for it.
Week 11 – Test Week
So onto week 11 this is known as test week along with week 12. Monday started with the Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT), in preparation for the ACMT on Thursday. This DCCT was for us to practice our firing positions and get used to firing with no help from the Troop staff which is how it works on the Army Combat Marksman Test (ACMT). All went well and assisted me in feeling confident for Thursday. We then had a five mile (Tactical Advance to Battle) TAB in preparation for our 6 Mile test on the Friday. This was really hard going as they worked us really hard to ensure we were ready for Friday. It’s the hills which really get to you, but if you are struggling you can always count on a little ‘gentle’ encouragement from the Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) or Troop staff. Once we finished I felt like a baby giraffe, but was glad it was completed.
We spent all of Tuesday on the ranges in preparation for Thursday. This was a live fire practice shoot at 50m, 100m, 200m and 300m. I shot really well and was one of only six people to pass the shoot, which gave me a confidence boost going into Thursday.
We then had our haircuts first thing Wednesday morning which I don’t like as I get pretty attached to my hair, but we all need to look the same so off it went. At least this was the last time we had to have a number two all over, so can at least start looking normal again! A Basic Life Support test was next, which went really well. This is an integral skill which I wanted to do well at, as this is something which I might have to use in the future, not just in the Army but in coming across any situation even in civilian life. All the lads did really well on this and passed. We spent the evening in the DCCT, practicing for the ACMT the following day. This was a good opportunity for us to further practice our positions and get our shooting head on for the following day.
So the day of the ACMT arrived and I was feeling pretty confident. We went straight into it in the morning. I was put in the first detail as I had been one of the most consistent shots in our Troop. I performed really well, hitting a lot of targets at 300m, 200m and 100m, however, I somehow failed at 50m which I was bemused at especially as I hit 5/5 on the re-shot. Anyway, I passed the shoot which is a big hurdle for all recruits to overcome.
Tactical Advance to Battle
Friday morning we had our 6 mile TAB first thing. I was a little apprehensive as it is 6 miles with weight on your back, but was determined to do well. The first four miles we completed as a squadded march which was fine. It was then two miles best effort, which I ran pretty much all of apart from tabbing up the hills. I got a time of 18 minutes 50, which I was pleased with. That put me about 8th in the Troop. Following this, we had a lesson on the rules of engagement with the Troop Commander so we know the do’s and don’ts on operations.
Not a bad week all in all, quite a lot going on but really happy to pass my ACMT and output TAB, two big hurdles out the way!
Week 12 – Preparing for the final push
So Monday and Tuesday of week twelve consist of completing Ex FINAL FLING Phase 1. This is where we get to spend a night in the Forward Operating Base (FOB) to fully understand how it works in preparation for FINAL FLING the following week. FINAL FLING is our final exercise which brings all the skills we have learnt together and puts them into action for a week. We had numerous lessons whilst in and around the FOB such as learning to throw grenades, how to stag on the sangers, searching personnel and how to deal with Indirect fire (IDF) coming in. All lessons were really good, but the best was yet to come.
We went on a night patrol with the Section and Corporal and got into a huge fire-fight, putting all the skills of Fire and Movement into action. Once we had won the fire-fight we had a casualty evacuation (casevac) back to the FOB. This was really hard work as you are carrying dead weight on a poncho (improvised stretcher), and having to run as hard as you can. We carried the casualty what felt like over a mile and is really a test of your strength, fitness and mental toughness, coupling this with adrenaline you really go for it as if it is a real life situation. I definitely slept well that night.
Early rise Tuesday morning; for our Section Fire and Movement assessment on the ranges against the other six Sections in the Squadron. We had to run 300m as a Section and then hit seven targets from different distances. It was hard work as you are out of breath when you get to your first firing position, but I did well hitting 7/7 targets, as did most of the lads in the Section. We came 2nd out of seven Sections, which was a good achievement although we did miss out on first place by one point. Whilst on the ranges we also completed our Battlefield Casualty Drills (BCD) test. This is where you are put into scenarios and you have to treat a casualty effectively utilising skills we had been taught in previous lessons. All went well and everyone passed.
Wednesday morning started with a practical CBRN lesson, learning different drills which we would have to demonstrate in the test the following day. We learnt how to clean our respirator and ourselves (Decontamination drills) whilst still in a chemical environment, oxygen canister changes, drinking and eating drills and emergency drinking drills. It is easy to see if you haven’t paid attention as you will inhale the CS gas and start coughing during the test. Luckily, I did the drills correctly and didn’t get exposed again – thank God!
The afternoon consisted of our final assault course session, which was really hard work. We did log races around the track, then going straight onto the assault course as a Section best effort. I felt like I was going to pass out, but got through it. We also had to practice casevac’s, so our PTI’s really pushed us hard, but I guess they were always going to considering it was our last session. Looking back, it was good fun though.
Appointment with Cpl Verth
We completed our final Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA) on Thursday morning, completing press ups, sit ups and a 1.5 mile run. I did really well, smashing 80 press ups in two minutes, 71 sit ups and a strong time on the mile and half. We then had another appointment Cpl Verth for our final CBRN test. This consisted of completing all the drills we had been taught in the chamber the previous day and ensuring they were all correct as these are life saving skills. We also had questions on CBRN once we passed the practical phase to make sure we understood all the theory too, so when I was told I had passed I was pretty relieved. Cpl Verth looked a bit down as this would be our last practical period in the respirator test facility and he does so enjoy CBRN.
Friday morning consisted of a PT session in the pool where we completed swimming races which were good fun and a change from the usual swimming PT sessions which tend to really take it out of you. All afternoon was concentrated on C-IED where we completed our practical assessment, doing 5m and 20m checks. This is checking the ground in and around you for signs of IED’s and potential hazards. Everyone passed and was something everyone took very seriously due to current operations and how this skill can definitely be a life saver. We also had a theory test to make sure we had understood all the principles, which again everyone passed.
This was the two test weeks now completed which was a big relief. Now just one more major hurdle in Ex FINAL FLING before I can think about getting on the parade square and passing out of Pirbright. Looking forward to FINAL FLING and putting everything I have learnt into action, although I know I will be hanging out by the time it finishes.
Week 13 – The FINAL FLING
I Woke up Monday morning with mixed emotions about FINAL FLING this week. I was looking forward to it, but a little apprehensive with what to expect, coupled with the fact it was monsoon weather as we set off on FINAL FLING. We started with an intelligence briefing from the Troop Commander about the situation (Scenario), we were going into. The training team wanted to make this a realistic exercise so we were moving into an area which contained enemy, IED’s etc.
We tabbed to the area where we wanted to set up our harbour and started to go through the motions, i.e, set up a snap ambush, then started digging in our harbour area. Once this was all done your mindset changes – to start thinking strategically and like a soldier. Our first day was quite relaxed, until the evening when we went out on our first patrol. We had heard of an enemy position so we went out on a recce patrol, to further understand the enemy, their base, how many there were, weapons being used etc. Once completed, we went back to the harbour area and started our stag rotation – fun!
Woke up Tuesday morning pretty cold and wet due to the weather, but it’s just a case of getting on with it. We went out on patrol Tuesday lunchtime to dominate the ground and try and pick up further intelligence. I was point man in the patrol (First man), so had to keep my eyes peeled. We came across two individuals who were laying IED’s which actually blew them up. We assisted them and casevaced them out, whilst gaining information on what they had been doing. As we continued our patrol, we got ambushed and after suppressing the enemy we pealed out, re-grouped and moved back to the harbour area. Later that night, we went out on a recce patrol to find an enemy position and gain further intelligence. Following this patrol, the decision was made to attack them the next day.
Wednesday morning was quite relaxed, making sure our kit was all clean, rifle in good working order and then the order was given that we were to commence our attack. I was appointed as grenadier for the attack which I was looking forward too. We broke our Section into two fire teams, one to be used as fire support (Delta fire team) and Charlie fire team which were the ones to commence the main attack. Our Section Commander orchestrated the attack placing Delta where they needed to be, and then we (Charlie) started doing fire and movement to get closer to the position. Delta and Charlie were both attacking the position suppressing the enemy, then as my job was the grenadier, I had to crawl to the enemy position, post a grenade then follow it up and kill the enemy. This was awesome and really good fun. We then searched the enemy dead and their base, moved back to our harbour to brief the Troop Commander on what we had found.
Early hours Thursday morning we got attacked in our harbour and IDF’d, so we had to move from the harbour area) pretty sharpish. We then tabbed to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) and set up for the next night. I was appointed 2IC (Second in Command) whilst in the FOB, it was good to be in a position of responsibility.
We went out on our first patrol to scan the area, coming across two farmers who supplied us with a lot of information on enemy in the area and IED’s. Other rotations that day meant being on security at the FOB, and being part of the quick reaction force (QRF) who are there to support any patrols who get into trouble. Later that evening when I was part of the QRF, a patrol came across an IED, so we were deployed along with an IED team, which we had to escort.
The situation was controlled, but as we came back into the base the IED team ironically stepped on an IED. As 2IC, my Section Commander told me to control the situation which I did by getting the injured back into the FOB, getting them medical care and ensuring everyone knew what they were doing, whilst keeping the situation calm. My Section Commander was pleased with how I handled the situation.
Driving the enemy out
Following this, the decision was made from the Troop Commander that we were going to launch an attack the following morning to fully drive out the enemy from the area. We were told what we were going to do and to be ready to move at 0530 am.
Now getting up at 0430 am to get ready for an attack is hard work as you are not awake, let alone thinking strategically on what needs to be done. However, that quickly changed once we set off. We reached our rendezvous point at 0630 ready to commence our attack. We had to attack two enemy positions of which I was grenadier on the first attack and 2IC on the second. Both attacks were quite long, hard work but really enjoyable. At the end of our last section attack our Corporal got shot, so we had to casevac him out of the killing area. Our Corporal is a big guy, so this was pretty hard. We also came across three more causalities, which needed to be treated ASAP. As 2IC, it was my responsibility to command the situation which I did and everything went well.
Through gritted teeth
At this point, I thought that was the end of the exercise, but we then had a surprise casevac. We had two heavy dummies on stretchers between our Troop and had to run with them for about 1 kilometer. This was really hard work as we were mentally and physically exhausted, but this is when it becomes mind over matter, gritting your teeth and pushing through. Needless to say, we worked hard and got to the end. This was the end of the exercise. We tabbed back to the FOB, cleared everything up and moved back to barracks, where we cleaned our rifles and our kit.
An Awesome experience
I can honestly say it is the best and hardest thing I have done in basic training and would tell all other recruits that they will feel the same way. Next week is week 14, the week of our pass off. Looking forward to this so much, but not looking forward to a whole week of rifle drill!!!!!
Week 14 – ‘Pass-Out’ week.
A week we had all worked hard to get to and one I wanted to enjoy every minute of. The week started really well as I was told that I had won two awards on pass off, Soldiers’ Soldier, which is an award voted for by the recruits on who they feel has upheld the Army’s Core Values and performed best. I was really happy to have won this as it’s your peers who recognise your ability, even though there were numerous people who could have won it. I was also awarded Best Recruit which was a real honour. So, this would mean marching up and being presented two medals on pass off in front of my family which I couldn’t wait for.
Monday started quite slow, getting a lot of kit sorted from exercise last week and then spent the rest of the day practicing rifle drill. I thought I was not going to like rifle drill as drill has not been my favourite activity at Pirbright, but I actually quite liked it. Tuesday was quite similar, we had to make sure the block and our Section room was highly cleaned, we returned our military kit which we would not be taking to Phase 2 and then completed more drill. We marched onto the square to practice the pass out format, which definitely got me looking forward to Friday. We also had an hour of PT where we completed an orienteering competition which was good fun.
Wednesday started with a couple of lectures to do with pay and a lesson from the Padre. We then had sports PT, where we played kick ball. This is an adaptation of rounders but you kick a football instead of using a bat. It’s a pretty good game and everyone seemed to have a good time doing it. Following this, we had drill where we completed a run through of our pass out parade with the Sergeant Major. This went really well, and again got me buzzing for Friday. Thursday was much the same but this time we had a full dress rehearsal with the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM).
Everyone had to be on their A game as if you mess up bad you could potentially not be allowed on the square to pass off. Fortunately, everything went well and the RSM was happy although with a few minor tweeks needed. Thursday evening came up and everyone had a really good night, even if it was a little sad as it was our final night and I am going to miss this Pirbright and the friends I have made.
Finishing Phase 1
Friday morning had finally arrived, woke up feeling pretty nervous but happy in knowing I am finally finishing my Phase 1 training. We started the morning by going to the cook house with our section T-shirts on which we had the tailor make. Our Corporal joined us and I could see he was going to miss us (Not that he would ever admit it!). Following breakfast, we got changed into our No 2 dress and got prepared for our pass out. After a few words from the Sergeant Major, we marched onto the square in front of all our families. This definitely made the blood and sweat shed over the last 14 weeks worth it. The parade went really well and I was really proud to have to march up and receive my awards too. We then had a celebratory drink (a beer finally) with our family and friends. It was then time to leave and embark on a new challenge, Phase 2 training…………………
It’s been an experience
I will leave Pirbright with lots of memories and ones which I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ve had some great times and less great times, but overall it is an experience I am glad I challenged myself to achieve. Phase 1 is pretty difficult to get through so I am looking forward to going home and relaxing for a while.
I want to wish everyone in Mather Troop 2012 all the best for the future, but especially 2 Section where I have made some friends for life. I want to wish Carr, Colvine, Stanley, Hughes, Doherty and Richardson (2 Section) all the best in the future and their careers. A special thanks must got to Corporal Verth who has taught me a lot and who has been nothing but kind (cough). Jokes aside, I have learnt a lot from my training team and many skills I know I will apply in my future career, so a big thanks must go to them.
But, for now I must say Adois to Pirbright and hello to Blandford where I commence my Phase 2 training………………