Junior Soldier Bradnam blogs from the Army Technical Foundation College, Winchester about a busy week of adventurous training. He’s been mountain biking, sailing, abseiling, rock climbing and joining in with a new record attempt…
This week we’ve had a 4-day trip to Crowborough for Personal Development Training (also known as Adventurous Training). Lots of people in the troop have been looking forward to the chance to let off some steam and take a break from the military side of life. The first high point came on the bus journey to Crowborough – a stop at McDonalds! This raised the already-high spirits, and the week began in an upbeat manner.
13 Troop’s first activity was mountain biking. It’s rather hard to do the experience justice with words, but the best I can think of is ‘awesome’! Racing down mud trails cut between the trees, skidding around bends and taking the jumps and berms had everyone’s hearts pumping! And to top it off, then we braced up and went crashing through an ice pool – a particularly memorable moment and one that I definitely could not have experienced in any other job!
Straight after mountain biking we scraped off the mud and took to the water for some sailing. This was much slower-paced than the mountain biking but it was still interesting and exciting. We all got a chance to take control of the boat, giving orders to members of the crew and steering – although that was determined by which way the wind wanted to take us!
Day 2’s first activity was abseiling down a water tower. Standing at the top, with your feet hanging over the edge, being told to trust the thin piece of rope attached to you certainly gets the pulse racing! I had to take a very calm and collected breath before leaning out backwards over the drop and taking that first step off of the edge, which feels like the longest and hardest step physically possible. Although various people were nervous and reluctant to do it, every member of the troop succeeded in doing so. Running concurrently with abseiling was paintball! This involved 15 people – armed with paintball guns – running around the forest shooting at each other until their paintballs ran out. It was definitely far better than paying extortionate amounts of money to go paintballing in civilian life and getting shot in the first 10 seconds and having to sit the rest off the game out. That afternoon we all went canoeing. We were taught how to balance the boat, paddle forwards and backwards and turn. This was all put into practice with a game of water polo, but I capsized and ended up plunging into the lake. And as it’s December it was rather cold…
Day 3 started off with rock climbing in an indoor centre that had loads of routes of varying difficulty. It also had a potholing cave, which could fit about 10 people in comfortably. But we were up for a challenge and managed to get 32 people in – a new record! After rock climbing we played volleyball and tag rugby and as always the competitive side came out and we played in high spirits. In the evening a quiz was put on and 13 Troop came second with 57 out of 75.
The fourth and final day presented us with the OC’s competition. This is an inter-troop competition that involves a 2-mile run around a lake, carrying 2 barrels full of stones. It’s followed by a canoe trip out to a buoy and back up to the pavilion to raise the troop flag. It is a very competitive event which everyone wanted to win for their troop and be crowned as champions. The race came and we gave it our all, showing determination and bags of effort throughout. The troop pulled together to work as a team, motivating each other the whole way. Although we put in our best effort it didn’t go our way and we came third (of course we just gave the others a token head start!) And then we were packing up our kit and heading back to Winchester. The four days were some of the best in my life, not just in my Army training to date. Being paid to have a great time with your mates is truly awesome.
Although the adventure training was over it was not the end of the week. Our first range packages took place throughout the rest of the week. We went on the 25m range and also on the DCCT (indoor laser range) to put our marksmanship principles into practice and it was also a chance to experience live firing for the first time.
This week has been action-packed and full of life-changing experiences. Week 6 will not be quite so dramatic, but it is full of trials including the drill and battlefield casualty drill tests. Also it’s the final week before Christmas leave which means that our parents will be allowed to come down to see all that we have learnt over the 6 weeks so far. The drill test – if successfully completed – will mean we can were our regimental cap badges which will give us all a sense of pride. It will also be milestone from which we can look back on our achievements, and see how much we have changed as people.