Soldier under Training (SuT) Alastair Byrne blogs again from the Army Training Centre, Pirbright, about the tenth week of his Phase 1 Training course. He’s been in Wales for a week of Adventurous Training.
On Monday morning we packed all our kit for a week of Adventurous Training in Wales. We were all excited about getting out of camp, and would be able to sleep on the coach on the way there, too – luxury!
Half way towards Wales we stopped off at a Service Station for a burger. This was the first time we had eaten anything except food from the cookhouse in a long while, so it was a great start to the week. We arrived at around 1700 and were issued all the gear for the week’s activities. In the evening we were shown around our new accommodation. A few people said they were cold, so to get us warm again we ran around and did press-ups until we had seen the entire camp! It’s not such a shock any more to go running when the PT instructors turn up – it’s just part of the routine. Our accommodation was a 24-man room with limited facilities – it was like going back in time!
On day two we woke up at 0500. The showers were a 2 minute walk away, so there was a mad dash to get there trying not to limit exposure to the Welsh weather! Hill walking was the first activity. I enjoyed hill walking back in Civvy Street, so I knew I would enjoy this. But there was a small twist – navigation and route cards were incorporated to test our skills. After the walk we found a field to camp in, and were in bed by 1800. I think we had over 12 hours sleep which is definitely the most I have had in 10 weeks. On Wednesday we walked the rest of the way to the pick-up point. The horizontal snow was not nice! The 24-man dorms were hard to get used to but after a while we all started to enjoy it, because we got to speak to more people from our Troop not just people in our Section.
On Thursday, we went rock climbing; unfortunately the rain was too bad for us to go outside and do it so we went to an indoor climbing centre. I faced a few fears, especially 60 feet up! Half way up my arms were dead – but I did it.
At night we went to a local pub. We thought that we would be allowed to have a drink, but orders came through that day that we would not. Everybody was shocked and karaoke was definitely off that night! We did impersonations of the training staff or each other which was quite funny.
We had a brief about what we would be doing on Friday. We hoped it would be canoeing, but unluckily it was caving. All night we spoke about falling down holes and getting stuck in cold, dark tunnels and to make things worse, on the way to the site the instructors tried to scare us with stories of experiences they’d had in the caves…
We abseiled 40 feet down into the caves then squeezed through a hole called the letter box. During my time leading I got the team through a tricky point. After I’d gone through I surveyed the area, without light, to check for obstructions. During my searching I suddenly fell down a hole. Fortunately I grabbed the side of the hole just at the right time, so I saved myself injury and was able to alert the rest of the team about the danger. The highlight of the cave had to be the underground river – it had such force that it acted like a water slide. As you passed though the tunnel you were able to see a type of rock formation. Then the freezing cold water turned your attention quickly. Captain Climpson was at the other end with a hand to drag us out. After 3 hours in the cave we emerged and had orders to change within 3 minutes and be on the bus!
I slept all the way back to Pirbright.
On Saturday I played pool and prepared for Sunday’s Church parade. I helped to lay a wreath on the Remembrance Sunday parade in a local village, which was a great honour. I spent the rest of the day doing admin – but something must have gone wrong as we have a locker inspection on Monday morning!
That’s week 10 over and done with. It’s good to be in double figures, but apparently the next four weeks will be the hardest ever! Can’t wait!