Corps of Army Music takes on PARAs

Fastest Female ‘Tabber’.

Fastest Female ‘Tabber’.

From State events around London to parades for our troops, concerts or Rock and Pop Bands, the Corps of Army Music Bands can be seen at events around the world. A number of Bands have visited Afghanistan, performing traditional military music and popular Rock and Pop music, something the troops can really engage with and join in. The Corps also has an operational capability; CAMUS personnel can volunteer for various roles from Driver to Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG).

Musician Kate Bent is in the Band of The Parachute Regiment, part of the Corps of Army Music. She plays the Saxophone and Rock Guitar and has supported troops with music around the world including Afghanistan.

PARA’S 10 endurance

I first became aware of the PARAS’ 10 endurance race in 2009 when my Mum ran it in memory of my brother, Pte Joe Whittaker, 4 PARA, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2008.  It’s a challenge I’ve wanted to undertake since, but the opportunity had never quite materialized until this year.

Signing up for the challenge

CAMUS  PARA 10 Team

CAMUS PARA 10 Team

When I heard that there was to be a new PARAS’ 10 race to be held in our hometown of Colchester, I knew that this was the ideal time for the band to get involved. I had expected maybe three or four others to want to join me, so I was thrilled when 11 others signed up to the challenge.  While many choose to run the course, the “P Company Challenge” of completing the gruelling 10-mile course in less than 1 hour 50 and carrying a 35lbs Bergen (rucksack), as undertaken by The Parachute Regiment recruits, seemed fitting for the Regimental band!  As musicians (CAMUS), we undertake an 8-mile ‘tab’ once a year, but this involves carrying 15kg and we have a 2 hour time limit.  The PARAs’ 10 is 2 miles further, 6kg heavier and for those of us hoping to achieve the time, 10 minutes quicker!

P Company isn’t a requirement in the band of The Parachute Regiment, but when we are on parade, we represent the Parachute Regiment, so one of my reasons for putting a team in for the race was to give the band a chance to see how we fare against the regiment’s tough standards.

Running to the beat of the drum

CAMUS PARAS 10 Team

CAMUS PARAS 10 Team

Music of course involves working together, but this is a totally different way of working as a team.   Two band members have passed PARA training earlier this year and so their experience and high levels of fitness were very helpful when planning our training.  I wanted to embrace the ethos of the PARAs by pushing ourselves and exceeding the notion of just doing what’s necessary. The support we have had from The Parachute Regiment Charity, the Corps of Army Music Trust and of course PARA Band has been immensely encouraging.

Race day arrived early on Sunday 21 October (especially considering we only got in from a concert at 1 o’clock that morning) as we collected our race numbers and the PTIs weighed our Bergan’s.  We met up with a few other musicians from the Prince of Wales’s Division and Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai bands, and were led through an entertaining warm up by the PTIs.  The running race started at 11, followed by the “tabbers” 5 minutes later, and 542 of us fought our way across the start line for a good position.

The course started through Merville Barracks, which was fairly easy terrain and a chance to make good time.  I was certainly glad we’d done the first couple of miles fast as we were soon hit with all manner of obstacles to slow us down, from waist-deep water crossings to practically a whole mile of ankle deep mud.  I’ve never seen so much mud in my life as we were faced with at the 6 mile point!  Despite the energy-sapping nature of the course, we kept pushing ourselves, and the encouragement from the 16 Air Assault Brigade marshals spurred us through the last couple of miles.  All of the band team did fantastically well, and either achieved or exceeded their expected times, mostly with smiles on their faces as they crossed the finish line!

I was extremely shocked when, having been given my finisher’s medal, I was told that at 1:44.55, I was the first female to complete the course.  This made it extra special for me when the Band’s fanfare team arrived to play for the prize giving and I was awarded the trophy for Fastest Female ‘Tabber’.