The Army Technical Foundation College in Winchester is the location once again for this update from Junior Soldier (JS) Bradnam covering a very busy week of training.
Week 18 arrived – but unlike previous weeks the syllabus was rather different.
This week was PDT (Personal Development Training) and our first activity of the week was called “Footsteps to Discovery”. This was a 1-day survival package and it included fire starting, shelter building, cutting techniques, trapping and snaring, signalling and food preparation. Some of the things I saw that day have changed me! I will never eat crisps again after seeing how long they burn for and the amount of oil that comes out of just one. They are no longer food, but improvised candles. Trapping and snaring was good as it showed us how to catch food with resources from surroundings. We also learnt the laws surrounding the uses of these techniques in the United Kingdom. Signalling was another important lesson to learn because no matter how long you can survive for you will never be found if you cannot signal correctly.
Tuesday saw our return to the high wire course. Even though most of us had been on it before, the nerves were not diminished. The activities were increasingly difficult and we had to do Jacob’s Ladder, Fan Jump, and Bird Table. Jacob’s Ladder is a ladder with wooden beams at roughly head height however they get further spaced apart the higher you climb. It becomes very difficult hoisting yourself onto a wobbly beam with nothing solid to grab onto! During the day we also did a navigation course where we had to find our way through woodland to find markers on random trees – all good practice for the navigation in store for Thursday and Friday.
Wednesday came and we were introduced properly to 2 things – command tasks and tabbing. The command tasks that we attempted involved making pulley systems across a void to carry a stretcher and to make a bridge across another void. This allowed us to see how pulley systems were set up and also to see people’s strengths and weaknesses. Afterwards we had our first physical training session of the week, and our first tab. This is basically a fast walk with intermittent running whilst carrying webbing and patrol sacks. It’s a proper leg burner and definitely something that we need to get used to!
On Thursday we went to Aldershot training area to begin a 2 day non–tactical exercise, where we put into practice everything that we had been doing in the previous 3 days. There were 8 stands and at each there was a command task. We had to navigate to each stand, and at times this didn’t go according to plan. We got slightly misplaced at times but we managed it in the end. The command tasks were fairly long and complex with a lot to be thought about and limitations put in place to make each task that little bit harder. Our first command task was to get everyone across a river with their kit and to make a pulley system across the river to transport a stretcher back and forth. However only 1 person was allowed across the river at a time, and only 2 bergens could be taken across at a time with a 30 minute time constraint. This made things a little bit complicated. With all this we still completed the task within the time and achieved all of our objectives. Another command task was to recover a tyre from the bottom of a hill/cliff without pulling the tyre using your hands. We had 30 minutes to complete the task and had various pulleys to assist us. We thought quickly on our feet and placed a rope through the tyre and back up to the top of the cliff. We all got on the ends of the rope and heaved and within 4 minutes we had completed the task and packed away. The instructor on the task even consulted the rules to see if we were cheating because we were so fast!
That night we set up a base at stand 5 and set down for the night. But first we had to make our own shelter and assess the crate of ingredients given to us. That’s right we had to prepare and cook our own food! We were given vegetables and steak chunks so we made a stew. We were also given flour and yeast so we made flat bread to accompany the stew. It wasn’t actually that bad surprisingly!
Next morning we set off again to finish the rest of the stands which include pulling a Land Rover up a hill, using intelligence to “capture a terrorist” and avoiding IEDs. Once the stands were completed we ate lunch and were given one final task to complete. A 9km tab carrying 40lbs in weight. It sounds hard but it was not that bad really as we had 2 hours in which to complete it, although there was one rather steep hill to scale at one of the checkpoints. We had to pick up equipment from each stand and take it to the finish point. The equipment included wooden planks, ammunition tins, poles and jerry cans. Once we reached the finishing point we had a 10 minute break before attempting one last command task in a squadron competition. The aim was to build a bridge into a lake and retrieve a pole with information in which then led to more information. Some people got wet in achieving this but we carried on, and found out that the information led to black bin liners filled with sweets. What a find!
With week 18 now over the pass off is beginning to look achievable, however obstacles such a Section Commanders’ Tactics Day and Exercise FINAL FLING still stand in our way. They have proved too tough for many before us… the question is, will we do it?