Soldier under Training (SuT) Donna Jones – a Territorial Army (TA) soldier training to be a Vehicle Mechanic with 119 Recovery Company, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) – has a tough week learning about drill and injuries, then sustaining a nasty one herself…
It’s funny how 2 weeks can fly by as quickly as it had done. It had been a busy week in the salon and I was feeling rather tired as we arrived at camp on the Friday evening. As soon as we got settled into our rooms, the three of us went off to our first and only lesson of the evening; values and standards. One of the girls had some bad news just before the end of the lesson and left without returning, so now we were down to just myself and Clare, the only other female. Numbers had dropped again this week though as we also lost two of the other boys from our group.
On Saturday I woke up early with the lark, and Clare and I made sure our uniforms were pristine before we went off for breakfast as we didn’t want to give the Drill Sergeant an excuse to shout at us. From 8am onwards it was drill, and it was quite chilly again this morning. We were the first ones on the drill square again, even arriving before the Drill Sergeant, who then gave the boys hell for being late. They weren’t really that late, but a funny phrase I hear all the time now keeps sticking in my mind – ‘hurry up and wait’! seems to be an Army phrase.
We were inspected first, water bottles checked and then straight on to dismissal and fall out. This went on for what seemed like forever, but I quite like doing drill. Some of the group couldn’t quite get it, so the Drill Sergeant shouted that we were an embarrassment to the camp, and made us just march large on the spot, fast for five minutes. It was hard not to laugh when you’re being shouted at, but the ones who did had to run to the telegraph pole at the other end of the square and back. We all groaned but no one wanted to be last.
The second lesson of the day was a rifle lesson, and this was much more fun. We were firing in the prone position, which we all enjoy, although it does take some getting used to as you shift weight to get comfy and then so your elbows don’t hurt. I was trying to get my breathing right and then going through the drills, all the while down on the ground and on my elbows. It was quite tough at first, as the rifle seems so heavy when you’re on your elbows and trying to do the drill, and my rifle was falling all sorts of ways. Also, trying to reach into your webbing whilst holding the rifle straight and change magazines is something we will all have to practice, but by the end of the lesson we all pretty much got it after much fumbling around.
Before lunch we had a health and hygiene lesson. We worked on how to look after yourself out in the field in different climates, and some of the clips and videos they showed were quite horrific: gangrene and foot rot from the heat and cold, frost bite where fingers and toes had fallen off, noses that had blackened. It was all really interesting. We broke for lunch and then returned to the class room for another lesson. This was more of the same but more focus on preventative measures. The Sergeant who took the lesson had quite a dry sense of humour and some of the younger boys didn’t get his jokes. I thought it was quite funny! After this we had a short break and then off for more firing drills. As soon as I dropped down to my knees I felt it – my elbows were bruised. God they hurt, and the rifle seemed even heavier after another 2 hours. But at least we were inside.
Physical Training (PT) followed with a circuit set up, followed by a game of basketball. All of us enjoyed this as it meant no run! We all gave a sigh of relief. The session helped us work up an appetite as next we were off for dinner. Oh the joys of Army food, it was more unhealthy options again.
We had another lesson after dinner on values and standards and then we broke for half way interviews, all of which was very good. The Sergeant said I need to have more confidence in myself, and that I do come across as the more mature student, not sure if that was good or not!
After a breakfast of bacon and egg it was straight out onto the drill square, which was surprisingly dry for a change. We were learning to salute at the halt. This was really funny, and at first the Drill Sergeant was laughing along with us but he soon showed his true colours. Boy can he shout. It’s surprising how many people don’t know their left to their rights as we went up and down the drill square. Some of the officer cadets that were on camp were watching us, which made the Drill Sergeant shout even louder. It was embarrassing by the end, but we got it…eventually.
We had a lesson on courage and discipline, something that is drilled into us at all times before we went off for our PT lesson, the one which we were all dreading.
We had our bergens weighed and checked, the Physical Training Instructors (PTI) making sure we all carried the correct weights for our Regiments. We then set off, just as it started to rain for our 3 mile tab. I was at the front of the group doing OK until the PTIs properly started running. It’s all quite hard going with your kit on and carrying your rifle. We crossed from the road into open ground, crossing over a dirt track onto loose gravel and unstable terrain when I lost my footing and fell forward.
My rifle hit me face on and knocked me out as everyone else piled on top of me. I got pulled up to me feet as my knee gave way. My combats were ripped to shreds and my knee bulging and bloody, the PTIs rushed everyone else on as one of the Sergeants stayed behind with me. As I saw my knee the floodgates opened, and then I was sick . My head was pounding from being knocked out, and as I couldn’t walk on my leg the Sergeant went back to camp to get a vehicle for me.
I was quite shaken up as they inspected my knee, which by now was huge with a lot of bruising showing. I was convinced I had broken it or chipped the bone, while my hands were covered in cuts from the gravel. I tried to pick bits out from them while still in pain from my head and knee and then couldn’t believe it as I found out the camp medics had left for the weekend. No one wanted to take me to A&E as we would be waiting there for hours.
When the rest of the group came back they were all shocked by the state of me, and all laughed as I now had a black eye forming. The Sergeant rang my unit to ask the driver to come early for me.
The driver from my unit was very good and took me straight to A&E back at home. I think I bawled for most of the way home, I’m such a nancy at times! I could hardly walk and the driver explained that my unit had a duty of care to me. He took me into A&E and then came back for me 3 hours later, once I’d been x-rayed and checked over. The nurse laughed as she cut my combats off as i had my long johns on underneath and they were also shredded. I was given some crutches and told to rest it for a few weeks. I had a nice shiner to match my football size of a knee.