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 second blog he looks back at Exercise LONG REACH in the Welsh mountains.
There are few events which have occurred during my 23 years on this planet which will be so ingrained upon my memory as that of the 22 hour point of Exercise LONG REACH.
Our group or ‘callsign’, A10A, scaled a mountain to reach one of the highest points of the route at 700m, only to find that the unmanned checkpoint that we were aiming for was actually located on the next mountain over. The cause was likely a case of rose-tinted navigation upon the crest of a wave of morale; and the solution was to force our tired, beaten bodies to pick up our bergens (rucksacks), lean into the wind and start walking again.
The whole exercise was characterised by contrasts between instances of joy and melancholy. Joy, such as walking along the top of a dam at daybreak after gathering close to full points in a command task (a test of command and mental dexterity under timed conditions with limited resources and extensive rules); and melancholy that hung over the group after walking for 3 hours in the middle of the night when fully exposed to the rather brisk wind that the Welsh mountains had provided.
There were moments of hilarity such as a round of quotes from ‘The Office’ when a night’s sleep had been replaced by walking; and gloom at the belief that the group ‘EMIT card’, or tracker, had been lost and that the previous hard-fought steps would have to be retraced in order to retrieve it. (Luckily, it had merely been hastily packed into a bergen and the morale vortex its loss would have caused was avoided.) To put it more concisely; LONG REACH was a series of very high peaks and very low troughs.
Personally, I learnt a great deal about the how the morale of individuals in the team has a pattern which is somewhat distinct from that of the group; those who are ‘up’ help those who are ‘down’ to keep their spirits up and to keep moving because in another few hours, the situation will no doubt be reversed. We all discovered how much further we could push ourselves beyond our perceived mental and physical boundaries, finally completing the 70km mountainous route in 33 hours and 20 minutes. Certainly not a winning time, unfortunately, but an incredible experience nonetheless.
Exercise LONG REACH is also the first event of the Sovereign’s Banner competition which pits each of the 9 Platoons of intake 103 against each other over a series of events across the year.
A notable event during this past week of life back in the Academy was the excellent talk given by Lt Col Roly Walker and his colleagues of the Grenadier Guards, in which they discussed their perceptions of conflict and the modern Army in an engaging and thought-provoking manner. We were very lucky to be addressed by these sources of such experience.
Having just returned from the one day Exercise FIRST ATTACK during which we were able to put the theory of the 8-man section attack drills into practice, we now look forward to hosting family and friends on Old College Sunday and showing them some of the fruits of our labours.