As the end of Phase 1 Training approaches for Soldier under Trainining (SuT) Alastair Byrne, he writes from the Army Training Centre, Pirbright, about the latest week of training. Did he pass the Personal Fitness Assessment?
On Monday we woke up at 5am and prepared for a day in the field. We learnt about the theory of grenades and how to handle them correctly. Although they were only demonstration models it gave us a good insight into how to use them correctly. A memorable moment was when a recruit threw one and it bounced off a tree directly in front of him. The grenade then rolled a few metres in front of the rest of the Section. Fortunately it wasn’t real but gave us a good excuse to practise our evacuation drills, which in this case was to dive as far away as possible. Later that day we were shown the techniques of throwing smoke grenades, I was lucky enough to be one of the demonstrators and throw one myself. Our last exercise that day was to learn about vehicle searches and how to search a civilian or any enemy forces correctly. That night we talked about the Combat Fitness Test (CFT) the following day, which was a pass or fail test. It involves a tab (tactical advance to battle) – in other words, a speed march.
I was a little bit worried about this one as it was timed and we would be carrying more weight. But after two miles my legs stopped hurting and I was able complete it in the allocated time. That afternoon we put our collar badges onto our number 2 uniforms – this made us all think about the Pass Off parade and realise that we could be leaving in three weeks! That evening me and all the other guys who are joining the Royal Corps of Signals had to attend a brief which gave us information about our Phase 2 Training in Blandford (Dorset) and what equipment to bring.
On Wednesday, we had our last battle PT on the assault course. The PTI explained that it would be an overload where we would be pushed to our limits. He wasn’t lying. We did a gun run – which is carrying equipment from one place to another whilst crawling, sprinting, running and jogging. It sounds easy but some of the equipment wasn’t light. Straight after that we had to get around the assault course with rifle and webbing. We got back, completely knackered and covered in mud, but the same drill – “upstairs, get a shower and get changed in 5 minutes.” At the start of training it’s chaos but you get used to the fast pace of turn around and we know it’s for a good reason. I now just say to myself “5 minutes? That’s generous!” After lunch we practised some rifle drill. I can tell that this will take a while to sink in. After that we had our official photo taken which we will receive when we pass out. We all looked smart and it felt like we were one step closer to the end of Phase 1.
We had our First Aid tests on Thursday. I passed the Basic Life Support test but unfortunately I didn’t pass the scenario-based test; I did the second time round though. It was a little annoying because it’s the only test I have needed a second go at. That afternoon we played volleyball in the gym and practised a lot of press- ups. Think we got to 80!
Friday was Personal Fitness Assessment day which included the mile and a half run, press-up and sit-up tests. I failed the run time when I first got to Pirbright so it had been playing on my mind all week, as I had to pass it. The first thing we did was the press-ups and then the sit-ups. On the way to the running track all I could think about was running technique and all the advice that the training team had given me. I ended up with a time of 10 minutes, which is nearly two minutes off my previous time. I had completed the dreaded PFA, and it wasn’t so bad come to think of it. Or PTI (Staff Martin) had prepared us well for it and all those days running around fields and the gym and doing circuits had certainly paid off. My fitness at the start of this course was average but now I feel fitter, more confident and able to handle the fast paced Army lifestyle a little easier.
That night we were issued all of our exercise equipment.
On Saturday morning we cleaned rifles until lunchtime. The NCO supervising the clean had a dentist’s pick, which could get into the smallest of gaps… so it took a while. Saturday night and most of Sunday we packed our equipment for Exercise FINAL FLING. I was really looking forward to it, as it’s our final assessment to see if we are suitable to be soldiers in the British Army. It will be a week packed full of sleep deprivation, attacks, running, ration packs, waking up to the sound of gunfire and general stress. Just another normal week then I guess!