Junior Soldier (JS) Bradnam chronicles an exhausting week at the Army Technical Foundation College, Winchester, in his latest blog.
As usual this week there’s been plenty to do and little time to do it in!
It’s been a week full of tests which had to be passed. Failing could lead to being “back-squadded”, a process that involves repeating relevant aspects of training. The 3 main tests were Map Reading, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and the Combat Fitness Test (CFT). However before we began these we had the Section Commanders’ Tactics Day which is a 1 day/night exercise. We went over fire and movement in greater detail and were also shown how to stop and search suspects and vehicles. This was good and it was actually quite surprising at how thorough the searches had to be, because weapons are so easily concealed. On top of this we also practised casualty evacuation. The day was also a chance to iron out any wrinkles in our drills before Exercise FINAL FLING.
Tuesday morning brought the practical side of the Map Reading test. We had to navigate around a training area and do various things with the map and compass to prove we knew what we were doing. There was a 40-minute time limit, so doing sharp drills was critical. We came back from that and before we had a chance to even have a shower, we had a 5-mile practise tab for the CFT on Thursday. It wasn’t exactly met warmly by some, but it was just another hurdle to overcome. The format was 2 miles squadded, 2 miles best effort and then a final mile squadded. This tab was all done carrying webbing, rifle and a bergen. The weight carried varied between people depending on which regiment they were joining. The Royal Engineers amongst us had to carry the heaviest load which was 20kg and the Royal Logistic hopefuls carried 15kg. Afterwards we had the Map Reading theory test which was a 40-minute question paper.
Afterwards I had a rushed shower and went to watch the 4 Rifles v 11th Signal Regiment boxing competition. This was exclusively for C squadron boxers only and it was brilliant. The standard of boxing was phenomenal. 4 Rifles, who hosted the event, smashed the Signals 7 – 2 with 6 bouts ending in a knockout. 5 of these were in the first round. It was a really good night and showed us what boxing will be like in our chosen regiments if we choose to continue with the sport.
Wednesday was the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear test which unfortunately meant a return trip to the Respirator Test Facility. The test involved changing the respirator canister, eating, drinking and decontaminating in a CS gas-filled environment. Any messing up the drills will result in exposure… but everyone passed first time. And only a couple of us felt slight effects from the gas.
Thursday was the CFT – a 6-mile tested tab that had to be completed in 1 hour 30 minutes. The tab was 2 miles squadded and 4 miles best effort carrying appropriate weight depending on regiment. The first 2 miles took 30 minutes to complete which left us with 1 hour to complete the remaining 4 miles. The winner did the entire 6 miles in 1 hour and 2 minutes, which meant he ran 9 minute miles carrying 20kg. I’m sure you will agree that is an impressive time. He also happened to be in 13 Troop! I came in at 1hour and 6 minutes which was 2nd in Troop. I was ecstatic with this even though I was absolutely spent by the end. For the rest of the morning we had rifle drill which is a lot harder than foot drill. Afterwards your arms feel dead and your hands bruised from slapping the rifle! The afternoon was fairly relaxed though which a relief as everyone was aching, bruised and blistered from the CFT.
Friday was upon us in no time at all. We had another lesson of rifle drill and watched the last episode of Band of Brothers. Finally we had a brief from the OC about Exercise FINAL FLING. He talked about what we would be doing over the time we were in Brecon and what to expect. It sounds wicked and I won’t spoil it by saying some of the things that are planned, but I am definitely looking forward to it.
So that was week 19. Another one flown by. There are now only 4 weeks until pass off, which is a scary thought. Exercise FINAL FLING is the last major thing and only a fool would begin to relax – it’s an exercise that will push us to our limits!