Junior Soldier (JS) O’Connell blogs about her time at the Army Technical Foundation College Winchester. “You change as a person here, and you may get doubts, everyone does just keep going. It will be the best thing you do!”
Week 1-6 is where you learn to become a soldier. It helps you find your strengths and weaknesses and develops you mentally and physically. You basically strip down to the basics in the first 6 weeks. No phones, no laptops, not allowed to walk around camp on your own let alone leave camp. If you’re a junk food lover, good luck! Chocolate and sweets will be a treat and your first fast food will be like heaven.
I have done more in these weeks than I have done in my life – going to Wales to do caving, hill walking (the worst thing I have done since I have been here. I had to sleep in a field full of poo, I was hungry and took the longer route round on the second day), climbing – I can now officially say I can pee in nature! You change as a person here, and you may get doubts, everyone does just keep going. It will be the best thing you do!
You do notice a massive improvement in yourself mentally and physically. Although I didn’t find it hard to fit into some of the core values (courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment), I have definitely developed in all of them. You will achieve things you never thought you could. I remember because we fidgeted on parade we had to stand to attention outside and wait there. I had quite a bad cold at the time and my nose started running but I had to be disciplined and leave it. It was embarrassing.
Also thinking back, from now, I am a lot fitter than what I was in week 1. I reckon I can lift a heck of a lot more weight and run a lot quicker and have more stamina, but we will see if there is an improvement with the PFA tomorrow. I hope to do well, especially as I want to transfer to the Royal Engineers to prove I’m just as good as their lads. We also have our first assault course lesson.
I’m happy the girls have returned from Fox troop to do it with us, but that meant the girls from 10 Troop have gone back upstairs. They all seemed happy it was going back to normal but it would have been nice to keep a few of those who came down.
I hope you enjoy cleaning as you do a lot of it. Every morning you will have block jobs and if you don’t clean them properly you will be living on the fence until you learn. I’m not going to say the Army is perfect and it’s for everyone because I’ll be lying, block jobs, inspections and writing your best books isn’t fun but it is a good choice to make if you can stick it.
Week 11 consisted of rifle practice, which led up to the rifle test on Friday. Not every day saw the best of weather, some days were heavy rain, which made it difficult to see when a rain drop went into your iron sight. I passed my rifle test. It was metal targets on the day we did the tests, which is a lot better than the paper targets because as it was manual it wasn’t as accurate. The targets popped up for 6 seconds then fell again in the test. In the 100m when you had to fire one shot from standing then 4 more in the prone I had 2 stoppages. Corporal Koff said she would take her hat of to me if I passed. I did but I was gutted she didn’t actually take her beret off.
The only day we didn’t do ranges that week was Wednesday as we had our PFA. It turned out to be ok but not as good as I hoped, but the PTI was impressed with me, which is a positive. I was the only girl to do decent press ups and although I didn’t reach 50 ( my arms were killing from the jerry can and ammo lift) it showed I have improved and had the determination to improve my press ups since being told they weren’t up to standard.
The PTI also said my sit ups were as good as my press ups. We didn’t get to do our mile-and-a-half route due to the IDF alarm going off and the road being blocked, so we did the bleep test instead. I got to 10.3, which I could have done better as I didn’t even start sprinting and missed the line first time, and went out not realising you can miss the line 3 times. But I still scored high – I will just have to beat it next time.
Exercise half way
All I can say about exercise half way is that it was a lick out! I hated the first 2 days as all we did was a night patrol, range cards, fire and movement and it was tiring. I was knackered. The rations aren’t great either; the best thing in it is the rice. But the Thursday was a lot better. It was more enjoyable, we had paintballing, although we did it the second day anyway we did it again to show the CO, and I got to play enemy against our troop sergeant and troop commander. You have to do fire and movement through the trees and it’s safe to say, I died. I got hit in the eye as it moved the face mask up and hit everywhere, my mask was yellow.
And then, after, we got to go in a Lynx. No other troop had the opportunity to do paintballing or go in a Lynx. The Lynx was the best experience, I thought I was blessed to see the Apaches flying over and taking off the day before but to actually get to go in a Lynx was amazing. We then did fire and movement which was tiring and was one of the horrible physical activities. The others were practising casualty evacuation where you had to drag people, firemen carry, which were the worst, and attacking our troop commander as we had to sort out a non compliant person to search (but that was more fun).
Then the last thing that I feel was a huge part of the exercise, was the attack at half 4 in the morning, which happened to be when I was on stag and to top it off just as I was about to leave stag. I had no idea what to do. I was running backwards and forwards packing things away, then there was a casualty, which we had to use an improvised stretcher and evacuate. That was horrid and stressful but you didn’t want to let the casualty die, especially as the casualty was someone in your section.