My name is Craftsman Thomas Mortimore and I am currently on Phase 2 training at 10 Training Battalion, Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.
March has arrived which means I finally start the part of my armourer course where I learn my trade. Since my last blog I had to pass the rest of my foundation course which was marked in 2 parts. For the practical element we had to make a tool from scratch. The Strap spanner shown in the picture below is what we all had to produce, but there was also a theory element which took the form of an NVQ exam on paper and an Army exam on the computer. And thankfully I passed both with 73/100 for my strap spanner and 86% for the written/computer tests. After a few more NVQ tests the next day we had officially finished the Foundation course. The next week I did my Category C theory revision and test which is for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. Monday was spent on the hazard perception test which is 19 video clips and you have to click when you spot a hazard. More points for the earlier you spot the hazard (passed that with 92/100). Following this there are multiple choice questions to answer. 100 randomly generated questions and a pass mark of 85. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning were spent going on the computers and going through every single question that the test could throw at you. I didn’t find out what my score was but I passed it at least.
“you’re tired and just want to sleep”
Inevitably there are breaks in our engineering training when we have to refocus on our main job as soldiers. After 4 days of Soldier Military Training (which involved 6 visits to the gym and some orienteering) our platoon had a weekend exercise in Dartmoor. We left camp about 6pm and arrived at 10pm. After getting our briefings and setting up in a hangar, our section set off at midnight to head towards the first of 6 checkpoints. The whole thing took 8 hours and we must have walked about 15 miles. However our ordeal wasn’t over because after just 2 hours we were sent back out again, this time to walk to objectives and carry out command tasks at each one. These are designed to test leadership skills and teamwork even when you’re tired and just want to sleep (which was just as well as most of us had about 36 hours of no sleep). The tasks varied from putting up a tent blindfolded with only one person able to see and give directions, to being “elite commandos” who have to work out which is the safe route out of a nuclear reactor from a load of numbers on a piece of paper. This task took 11.5 hours and understandably we were all tired after that. Our final task on Sunday morning was to complete the commando assault course which involved jumping over things, crawling over things, wriggling through things, climbing things and of course the monkey bars with 1 metre deep water below (yes we all got wet). Overall it wasn’t the best weekend I’d ever had but it had been fun and we had learned something from it as well.
Foreign weapons, light machine gun, sniper rifle and more
Here is the good stuff though because my trade course started. The first 3 days were the induction where we played with a few foreign weapons, field stripped a Light Machine Gun, Sniper rifle and Grenade Machine Gun, had a look around the Warrior and Challenger 2, and also set up a presentation for some VIP’s which meant one of each weapon the army uses was out on display which gave us the opportunity to handle them and see each one up close and personal. Thursdays meant it was back to the workshops for part 2 of bench fitting. As engineers we have to have very close control of our ability to manipulate materials, which is why we make tools. As I write, the current phase involved building a small hand vice. Skills like this are important because soldiers often find themselves in places where the tools they want are simply not available; imagine trying to take every tool to Afghanistan when you have to carry everything! Soon we will be fully immersed in learning individual weapons systems. More soon…