Officer Cadet Todd Ledwith is currently in his first term at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS). He is 23 years old and hopes to commission into the Army Air Corps upon leaving Sandhurst. In his first post OCdt Ledwith looks back at his first five weeks of training.
Having arrived at the iconic steps of Old College on 12 September as the image of the ‘virgin soldier’, the first 5 weeks of Commissioning Course 103 have left many imprints upon the ‘blank slate’ that I once was.
After bidding our families an emotional farewell (for their part, of course!) we were soon being issued with the first in a great many bags of kit and our first taste of “personal admin” in the Army began – ironing, polishing and sorting. The next day, after our first water parade [a pre-breakfast parade during which all Officer Cadets must drink a litre of water and then sing the National Anthem – Ed] during which only one cadet failed to hold his drink, we began lessons in weapons handling, navigation, physical fitness and drill. All of these lessons were bound together by a rate of marching which started rapidly and only escalated with mistakes. These mistakes were quickly rectified and the mysteries of the need to practice drill so often began to clarify as the quality of the Platoon’s drill increased. It was instrumental in transforming us from a group of individuals with potential into something approaching a cohesive unit of Officer Cadets, with each of the individuals now working towards a common goal.
Another revelation provided by this intensive regime was the discovery of just how much can be achieved when a body is conscious (or thereabouts) for 19 hours of a day. To put things in perspective, whilst most people are arriving for work, I could have already drunk a litre of water, sang the National Anthem, attended boxing training after an early breakfast, returned to a room inspection in which the contents of a fellow Cadet’s room have systematically flown past his head as he stands to attention outside his door, completed a 4-mile loaded march and have showered and changed within 10 minutes ready to face down the remaining 15 hours of the day. Every calorie of the 5000+ we consume per day is precious.
Other highlights of the first 5 weeks included our first 90-minute navigation exercise, in which two Cadets found themselves still searching for those elusive checkpoints after 3 hours, Exercise VIRGIN SOLDIER during which it rained heavily for 16 of the 24 hours, and digging and then sleeping in a clay-bottomed shell-scrape which had filled with water during Exercise SELF RELIANCE despite not being required to, as it was actually acceptable to sleep on the comparatively dry ground to the side.
Most importantly, the first 5 weeks taught me that it is the combined effort of the team, whether that be at section, platoon, company or larger level which is the key to success.
After Passing Off the Square and the much-appreciated long weekend, we now return to Exercise LONG REACH, 65km of walking interspersed with command tasks in the Black Mountains of Wales.