Rct Horrix is currently undergoing Phase 1 training at the Army Training Centre Pirbright (ATC(P)). Upon successful completion of the 14 week course he is set to start training at Blandford Camp as an Electronic Warfare Systems Operator. He has recently completed Exercise HALFWAY and is currently in week 8 of training.
The Early Days
I was born Terry Dean Horrix in Slough, Berkshire and have lived in and around London for the majority of my life. I had been working in London for the previous three years as a recruitment head-hunter for the investment banking sector. It was a good career but I felt that I wanted more from life and to challenge myself more than I currently was. Fitness has always been important in my life, I represented Arsenal FC as a schoolboy and have Boxed since I was 13. I was looking to find a career which encompassed fitness, travel, new experiences and a job where I would be making a difference. The British Army to me amalgamated all of these ideas and I decided to go for it.
The process to get into the army was a long one and fairly challenging. After completing my BARB test and interviews I attended ADSC. I was given an in-depth and thorough explanation on what to expect, but still it is one of those things that you never really know until you get there. I was fully prepared due to a very good recruiter at my AFCO and was looking forward to getting the process started. My ADSC was on a Monday and Tuesday, so I had the pleasure of battling through the mayhem at London Waterloo to get my train down to Brookwood in Surrey.
On turning up at Pirbright we got changed into our tracksuits and completed our medicals. I was quite nervous as I had heard numerous stories of people failing due to heart murmurs which are out of your control, however the medical went fine and I was passed fit to carry on ADSC. The rest of the Monday consisted of giving a talk to a group about me, jerry can carry; bag lifts, a Technical Selection Test (which is a maths test and a grenade lesson). Tuesday morning started with a test on the grenade lesson from the previous night to test our ability to retain information. This is not hard, but you definitely need to take note and revise from the night before. We then completed our 1.5 mile best effort run, where I got a time of 9.16 which I was fairly pleased with. Following this, we completed our team tasks, which are imperative to getting a high grade at ADSC. I ensured I put across strong ideas, whilst listening to the group and pushing the activity along to completion. I then finished my final interview, where I was told I had received an A grade.
After an eight month wait, my time to start Phase 1 training had finally arrived. It was quite tough leaving my previous life which had been very comfortable and one where I had pure autonomy as to what I wanted to do, where and when. I knew though, this ‘comfortable life’ was not for me and I needed to be challenged even though I was not sure what to expect!
Week 1 – Fit for purpose
The first couple of days primarily consisted of administration. We were sized up for all of our kit, made to fill in all required forms and complete another medical to make sure we are fit to complete Phase 1 training. Again, the medical went fine, but we had to receive a number of different immunisations, so if you hate needles, you won’t enjoy this part of training! The rest of the week consisted of introductory briefs regarding different lessons we would be having on the course and we also completed our fitness tests again to make sure we had come to Phase 1 in good shape and not ‘monged it’ as the corporals like to say.
Week 2 – Physical endurance and ‘Skill at Arms’
This was the week where I really felt like we started training properly. The two main focuses were physical training and skill at arms (SAA). SAA is lessons on how to use and handle the SA80 A2 rifle correctly, understand how the rifle works (mechanics) and how to clean it in adverse weather conditions. I really enjoyed these lessons as you start to feel more like a soldier, but there is a lot to learn and there is a lot of revision, these lessons do move at some pace.
Going back to the physical training, we completed our first endurance run. This incorporated “fartlek” training and hill runs. This was a session where I thought I was going to die. We had to run up the lovely ‘concrete hill’ six times, which definitely tests your mental and physical endurance, but on completing the run you do feel really good and have definitely pushed yourself harder than you would training on your own, obviously with a little ‘encouragement’ from the training team.
Week 3 – Upping the pace
The pace of the course really starts to pick up. We completed more skill at arms lessons to get ready for the Weapons Handling Test the following Monday. The rest of the week consisted of lessons on injury prevention, drill, physical training, map reading, substance misuse and a swimming test, a pretty intense week all-in-all.
Week 4 – All fired up
Started with the Weapon Handling Test, this is a test to ensure you are competent and comfortable working with the SA80 rifle, which I am pleased to say I passed. This meant that I was ready to go on the DCCT shooting range. This is a computerised range which is very accurate in seeing how good your shooting is I’m pleased to say I got 2nd best shot in the troop. We also had our first boot run which was hard and an experience I will remember. You just need to grit your teeth and push through. We also had our first live shoot on the range; it is a strange experience firing a live rifle for the first time, but one which I definitely enjoyed. Additionally, we had our first counter IED lesson which was really interesting, definitely my favourite subject so far.
Week 5 – ‘Dig In’
Week five is mostly based around Exercise FIRSTNIGHT. This is a three day exercise where you learn how to operate in the field, build a base called a harbour, camouflage and concealment, firing manoeuvres and many different things. My favourite was learning all the firing manoeuvres as this felt like proper soldering. The worst experience was digging shell scrapes. These are your living quarters where you dig a hole in the ground to sleep in, this was tough. After four hours of hard graft I finished, We then had a three mile tab back from our first exercise which tested your resolve as you were tired, hungry and moving along at a fast pace, but like everything in the Army, you need to grit your teeth and get through it.
Week 6 – ‘Hell Week’
Into week six, this is referred to by recruits as “Hell Week”. This is due to the large number of inspections we had, coupled with completing lots of drill….not my idea of fun. Monday morning started with our Troop Sergeant’s inspection which went well. This helps your confidence for further inspections, but you cannot rest on your laurels. Following this, we had an interval training session on the running track, this really pushes your fitness to its boundaries and definitely assists in bring down your 1.5 mile run time.
We also had our first battlefield casualty lesson which I found really interesting. This is a critical skill, so it is a class you pay the utmost attention in. We also spent a lot of time at the shooting ranges completing our LF4 and LF5 (Live Firing) which we fired at 50m and 100m. This went well and I got some good groupings with my shots. Shooting is something you have to really concentrate and focus on otherwise the smallest movement means your shots can spray all over the target. Our mid week was taken up with inspections and practising drill ready for our drill test the following Monday. Drill is not the most exciting activity, but is essential for teaching discipline and it does look good when we are all in step. We also had others lessons this week, map reading and CBRN (Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear). We learnt how to put on our CBRN suits and gas masks ready for the respirator test facility (gas chamber) in week nine. I get the feeling our corporal is looking forward to this!
Week 7 – Passing Inspection
The Monday of week seven is hugely important. The week started with our Sergeant Major’s inspection, which is the big inspection we need to pass. This went well; I got picked up on a couple of things, but nothing major so I passed….a big relief!!!! Following this, we had out PFA, fitness assessment, to see how and if your fitness had progressed since being at Pirbright. I completed all the lifts and carry fine. I then got 9.06 for my 1.5 mile which I was fairly happy with but I did really want to go under 9 minutes. The afternoon consisted of our drill test. The most nerve wracking thing is the inspection prior to completing your test. All of your kit has to be immaculate which mine pretty much was apart from losing half a point for a mark on my shirt. The drill test went well and I passed which was a big relief, even if we did make a couple of mistakes.
The Tuesday of week 7 consisted of our Phase 2 visits, which I had been really looking forward to. I had only seen one military barracks here at Pirbright, so I thought it would be interesting to see the standard of Blandford Camp. First impressions were good, look clean and have some good amenities to use when we get there, i.e. a bar! As I am going into Electronic Warfare there was only so much we could be told due to our security clearance, but nonetheless the day was highly informative and really gave me a good buzz in regards to getting to Phase 2 ASAP.
That evening was spent getting ready for our final ‘official’ inspection. This is by the Officer Commanding 1 (Fowler) Squadron. So, first thing Wednesday morning was the OC’s inspection. This went well and was a relief to get the last inspection completed. We had heard rumours that we were having bayonet training on the Wednesday afternoon! It seemed as if we had annoyed the corporals as they kept sending us for runs around the block and press ups, we were then told we were being worked up for bayonet training. The actual bayonet training was really fun but extremely hard, probably one of the hardest sessions I have completed in Phase 1 training. The corporals also made us realise the sacrifices made by our fellow soldiers killed in action and told stories of their tours of duty.
Thursday finally arrived; today I get to wear my Royal Corps of Signals cap badge for the first time on “Families’ Day”. We had numerous demonstration stalls, I was selected to go onto the weapons handling stand, helping to narrate as I apparently ‘like to talk’ says my corporal. I was also demonstrating firing positions and loading the rifle in front of the families. After this was completed we were free to go and enjoy our long weekend….ah the sweet smell of freedom.