Basic Training has been like a ‘pick and mix’ – you never know what’s coming next but you eat it anyway

SuT Thomas

SuT Thomas

Soldier under Training Kelly Thomas, a new recruit at the Army Training Centre in Pirbright, writes about her final week of basic training in the British Army.

Week 14

We all can’t believe this is the start of our last week. It feels a little like the first few weeks when we were sorting out administration, kit and practising a lot of Drill. Although this time it is Rifle Drill in preparation for our Pass Out. In sweltering heat we have been dressed up in smart kit trying not to let our weapons slip. There have been a few close moments but so far only one girl has nearly hit the deck as disco legs kicked in.

To break up our week we had a few fun PT sessions. One was map reading which did not initially sound much of a PT lesson but as soon as we were off it turned into a race and half an hour later the first team came back having pegged it round camp swiping all the check points and racing against each other. But it was nowhere near as competitive as rounders.

It was a great game as a number of people had never played before and didn’t know the rules. It turned out that catching the ball while running to base and throwing it to the girl on that base is not the way to play. We tried arguing a bit of Selfless Commitment for that one but the PTI wasn’t having any of it. Good job some of us do not require too much hand-eye co-ordination in our trades!

Back to Rifle Drill and surprisingly our bodies are aching all over. It is much more strenuous than it looks. Keeping step when your troop is right at the back is pretty hard but we are hoping the band on Pass Out day will make a difference.

Being the last week it saw the section competition draw to a close. With everything from map reading, physical testing, C-IED testing, field craft, skits, shooting and much more including penalty points for mistakes, the scores on the doors concluded 2 section the winners. Well done girls and enjoy your pizza!

These last 14 weeks have been a unique experience. For some of us have discovered skills and potential we didn’t realise we had and built confidence when there was not thought to be any. We have all developed qualities and formed bonds of a different kind. Having discovered our characters, emotions and beliefs we found ourselves working alongside people of all different qualities and personalities. Our eyes have been opened to opportunities not just within the Army from a career perspective but from a personal perspective of self belief and what we are capable of achieving for ourselves and for others.

The younger members of the troop have had a huge learning curve as they left home for the first time. Tears of home sicknesses were a daily occurrence, now those girls are more mature and independent and as much as they miss home the emotions are under control. The same goes for those who conquered fears. Everyone experienced something personal to themselves that developed them mentally. Not only are we physically stronger but we are all mentally tougher too. Army life is unique, Basic Training has been like a pick and mix, you never know what’s coming next but you eat it anyway!

On a personal note, I am proud of every soldier in my troop. I have felt privileged to be a part of and work alongside such a great group of girls. As I walk on to the Parade Square with my head held high I will feel proud of every one of you. There is not one girl who I haven’t worked with or had a laugh with along the way and not one who hasn’t overcome an obstacle (or two!) to be where we are.

You are all memorable to me in your own ways and this is one life experience that will stay with me to my grave. Thank you instructors and thanks girls can’t wait to bump into you in full swing Army mode in your trades or on the ground.