It’s been a busy week at the Army Technical Foundation College, Winchester for Junior Soldier (JS) Bradnam. Fire and movement, a 5-mile run, more CS gas, a trip on a helicopter and an outdoor exercise… it’s all here. Read on!
My 13th week of Phase 1 Training started with the last of the range days which was the fire and movement section. This consists of one half of a section firing while the other moves forwards in short bounds. The actual test that was conducted was a 300m sprint in full kit, which had to be finished in less than 90 seconds. Full kit consists of webbing, body armour, helmet and rifle. There was then a 30 second rest period to steady your breathing, then a series of pop-up targets at a 100m distance. During one exposure one half of the section would shoot whilst the other bounded forward. These movements were done for 50m, and then the shoot was over. The run in full kit was definitely the hardest part. There were 8 lanes being used during the shoot and lane 8 was on a gentle down slope the whole way and was nice to run on. Lanes 1 – 3 were all uphill over raised shooting hills and were 10 times harder. Guess who drew the short straw and got lane 1! I was not in a good state when I finished that run. However I passed the shoot first time, and received top shot again!
Tuesday was the only working day spent on camp and it was memorable as it started with a 5-mile run, which led into the dreaded respirator confidence lesson. For this we step into a room filled with CS gas and test the fit of our respirators to prove it works. We then remove respirators and state name, rank, number and what regiment you are aspiring to join – before being asked questions! I made it to the end of my aspiring regiment before the effects of the gas hit me. Honestly, it hits you like a brick. Your eyes stream, your nose runs, you salivate uncontrollably and it feels as though someone is stamping on your lungs with flaming hot boots. There were some rather funny scenes of people diving out of the door onto the field and then coughing everywhere walking around with their arms spread letting the wind blow away the gas. It was an experience I never want to go through again…
Wednesday was the first day of Exercise HALFWAY and it started off on a massive high with everyone being transported to the training area via a Merlin helicopter – which was an awesome experience. Flying along with the tailgate open and the side door open added to the experience. We disembarked and cracked straight on with the exercise. We revised occupation of a harbour area and covered how to cross obstacles correctly, select routes carefully and how to move silently at night. It was instantly a better exercise than Exercise FIRST STEP due to the distinct lack of snow, which was fine by me! The first night out meant one thing – stag. This is another term for sentry duty and it is fast becoming the most despised thing in 13 Troop. The dreaded words of “You’re on stag” after being woken up at some ridiculous hour are certainly not an enjoyable experience.
Day 2 of exercise taught us how to use fire and movement correctly in the field as individuals and in pairs. We also covered camouflage and concealment and how to draw up a range card. The last formal lesson of the day was REEF (reaction to effective enemy fire). In this lesson we were attacked and then had to react accordingly and fight through the enemy which was good fun. During the night we went out on patrols as sections and practised things we had been taught. We were patrolling across a field when an Apache Longbow helicopter appeared out of nowhere and started low flying across the field and hovering inches above the ground. We laid up in a wood line to watch when it turned towards us, dipped its nose down to nod at us and them flew away. The Apache was no more than 20 metres away when it was doing this, which was amazing.
The third and final full day covered stalking up to a position and getting in to a position ready to take a shot at the enemy without being spotted. We also covered casualty evacuations. We were taught various different methods of removing casualties from the battlefield, all of which are extremely tiring. Although we complained at the time, they are very important as they are vital in Afghanistan at the moment. That night we went out on more patrols, were attacked at various times and all ended up attacking each other towards the end. This was good practice as there were various contacts at one time with casualties occurring at the same time. That was enjoyable and I would happily do that again. After moving harbour location, roughly around 6 o’clock we set up for a practice admin in the field test which we ran through to see where we need to improve. Apart from weapon cleaning this was the end of Exercise HALFWAY. We extracted from the area carrying our bergens for a mile to the coach and we returned to camp.
All in all it was a good exercise which everyone enjoyed. It is by no means the end of exercises though as there’s a test exercise in 2 weeks. Next week is going to be a good week as 13 Troop are heading to Normandy for a battlefield tour of the D-Day sites. Also next week contains Troop Commanders’ and the Commanding Officer’s room inspections which is yet another thing to cope with. But we will.