It pays to be a winner

2Lt Sam Westlake

2Lt Sam Westlake

Pegasus Company (“P Company”) is a gruelling training course which must be completed by all soldiers and officers joining The Parachute Regiment. It is attempted by soldiers on completion of their Phase 2 Training (Combat Infantryman’s Course) and by officers on graduation from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The course takes place over 3 weeks at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick (ITC Catterick).

The P Company mission is to test the physical fitness, determination and mental robustness, under conditions of stress, to determine whether an individual has the self discipline and motivation required for service with the Airborne Forces.

Second Lieutenant Sam Westlake, a recent graduate from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst who commissioned into The Parachute Regiment, is currently at Catterick Garrison undertaking this course. He’ll be blogging each day with details of his experiences and performance…

Day 1

"Noddy" hat

"Noddy" hat

The first day of P Company is a screening day designed to identify those who have the minimum level of fitness required to attempt the arduous course ahead.  51 of us arrived at the P Company lines at ITC Catterick varying in cap badge, size, age and rank.  We all had one thing in common, though – we were wearing “Noddy” hats. I suspect there was some Soviet influence in the design of the Noddy hat.  Whoever designed them, the intention was clear – to degrade the wearer!

The first assessment of the day was an 8-mile tab (loaded march) in 2 hours.  It started quickly with some doubles downhill but soon settled down into an easy pace.  From what I could see, no-one struggled.  The squad was structured with junior ranks at the front, seniors in the middle and what seems to be a large pack of officers at the rear.

Trainasium

Trainasium

Part 2 of screening was the Trainasium.  Imagine an adult climbing frame that tests one’s ability to carry out basic tasks at height.  The ‘shuffle bars’ were the hardest part of the Trainasium – 2 scaffolding poles approximately 30 feet above the ground. The task is in the name.  The rest of the circuit is closer to the ground and involves an illusion jump and a Superman-style dive into a cargo net.  We lost 4 men to the Trainasium, all falling victim to the shuffle bars.  The trick is to look at your feet or the bars, keep moving steadily and don’t stall.

The final stage of screening is the 1.5 mile best effort run, which has to be completed in under 9 minutes 30 seconds.  It’s a difficult course compared with many and, when combined with the tab in the morning, one can expect to come in 30-45 seconds slower than usual.  My personal experience of this run was an eventful one. I intended coming in at around 9 minutes. To do this I would need a strong start – my plan was to burst off the start line and run around the outside of the pack, avoid the tangled panic and cruise around the course to a victorious finish.  Unfortunately, no plan survives first contact with the enemy and I swiftly found myself in boggy ground.  At first I did not notice that my right shoe had come off.  The laughing from those in the Land Rover brought this error to my attention and by the time it was back on my sodden foot I had some catching up to do!  I am still here, however, so I must have made it round in time.

We lost a further 5 men to the run making a total of 9 down for the day.  The 42 that remained were given a P Company style welcome. I won’t go in to details, but what I will say is: “it pays to be a winner.”

19 thoughts on “It pays to be a winner

  1. Good luck Sir for the rest of the course. It’s a grueling course
    but i’m sure after coming from Sandhurst you will be pretty fit anyway. Keep up the good work and i’ll follow your blog to see how you are getting on.

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  2. I must have been a glutton for punishment for I did P Company twice; once in the TA and second four years later in the Regs. What got me through both tests wasn’t my level of fitness but my determination to be one of the Maroon Machine!! That had been drilled into my brain from the first day that I joined in 1983 aged 17. I was never destined to be a ‘Crap-Hat.’ Best of luck and remember, it is only pain!!

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  3. wish you all the best for the P COY, my son passed last week and is now on final excerise as i write! he says the 20 miler is the hardest! good luck and look forward to hearing how you get on with next events!

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  4. Keep at it Sir,as stated earlier “its only pain”..I did P company back in 69 at a grand fighting weight of 8.5 stone wet through.It was hard and grueling but I made it through by sheer guts and determination…plus I was the smallest on the course and no way was I going to fail.I will follow your blog as you progress..good luck..

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  5. Hi 2nd Lt Sam, nice 2read ur blog of strengh/dedication. Keep on ur toes. Face all challenges. learn ur gifts & share them.X

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  6. HI son completed that same course about nearly 2 years ago, good luck,its very hard,hes in afgan at the moment,only 7 more wks to go then hes home,all the best with your P company.

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  7. Remember what you are working towards, you have to want the blue badge of courage enough to get through the pain. Rather live one day as a tiger than a thousand as a sheep. Good luck

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  8. I remember as a young cadet in the CCF doing the Parachute Regiment assault course when we were stationed at Longmoor for our annual camp. When did P Company move from Aldershot and what was the reason?

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  9. good luck on “p” coy,as stated before i too did “p”coy twice with 10 para,first time in 81(passed) then again in 87(passed).one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,but its all worth it in the end,just to be able to say you have earned the Maroon beret. UTRINQUE PARATUS.

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  10. In 1958 we only wore plymsolls in the Dreaded Maida Gym – everything else was done in Boots.

    P Company (no apologies) motto was then “Mind over Matter – we don’t mind andyou don’t matter!”

    I did the Regiment’s eqivalent of the P Company course and of the 74 of us in Platoon 154 who succeedes at both Abingdon and Continuation Training 8 went to 2 PARA and I went to 3 PARA.

    Good luck Ben.

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  11. good luck 4 para jan 83,,harder than a big bag of hard things,,,,,,,,,any old d, company out there…………a pint at the red lion?

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