Officer Cadet Elizabeth Eldridge – undergoing officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst – writes again with an update on recent developments including a failure to blag effectively…
“Gas gas gas!” shouted Colour Sergeant Vezza.
“Nine, eight, seven…”
A zipped up bag containing my gas mask (respirator) must be opened.
“…six, five, four…”
My clumsy fingers must negotiate the back band.
The mask must be placed on my face.
I’m combat dead.
We practiced our gas drills until ready for deployment on exercise. The respirator test facility was an effective method of cooling my nerves before Exercise FIRST ENCOUNTER – known to all Sandhurst graduates as Exercise WORST ENCOUNTER.
The exercise in Thetford, Norfolk, demanded digging, more digging and digging whilst sleep-deprived, in order to establish trenches from which we could defend our position. The platoon worked very well together, the second of the intake dug in and first to finish; our company, Alamein, was the first to dig in and the first to finish at “end ex”. The exercise was defensive and the Company had to repel the Gurkha enemies’ attack in full Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protective clothing. The kit made the physical effort necessary under contact difficult because it caused sensory deprivation.
Every Officer Cadet pushed themselves beyond what limits they thought they had over five days of strenuous exercise with an average total of four hours’ sleep. To lead is to be an example and to ask others to follow you requires the currency that example buys. The Platoon Commander, Captain Webb, worked by our side all day from the end of the tactical scenario on Friday morning, filling in the trenches and returfing, until we finally got on the coaches that evening. It is the example of a Platoon Commander that each cadet of our platoon will seek to emulate on commissioning from Sandhurst.
The last few weeks have been a litany of Faraday Hall (War Studies and Defence and International Affairs), range work building up to our marksmanship test, battle physical training on the assault course and revision for PRACTAC, which was today.
PRACTAC – and all the revision before it – entails sitting on hillsides looking onto an enemy position and trying to figure out how to assault the position using the combat estimate. Today we tackled it in 45 minutes and the majority passed (some just).
I may not have thought PRACTAC through correctly; my one pager is a beautiful thing to behold (question six particularly comprehensive) and my control measures are etched on my overlay. However, attempts to blag questions one and two faired poorly. I stood in front of Captain Guthrie, the examiner in this instance, and began to read from a blank page (effects were jotted down and some tasks, deductions but not many – few) I faltered and became unstuck.
“Show me your AATAM, Miss Eldridge” the examiner demanded.
“No sir, you’re not allowed.” I countered assured that Captain Webb, my platoon commander, had said our questions one and two would not be read – failing to remember to addendum – ‘if you blag well’.
“Miss Eldridge, show me your AATAM.” I noted in his tone a cadence that would not brook argument and handed the disputed item over.
“Miss Eldridge, you haven’t written anything down?”
The appraisal of my orders with Colour Sergeant Vezza was much better.
We have reached the half way marker and looking back on the course there have been a few successes to note and a hundred of which I am secretly proud. I know that I am capable and will continue to strive to learn as much as I can whilst I am at the Academy.