My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my first week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.
Week 1 – The Army way
So the day had finally arrived. After a nine-month application process I was finally off to basic training! I was dropped off at the station by my mum and after an emotional farewell I was on my way.
I arrived at Winchester station ridiculously early, keen to make a good impression but mostly due to being too eager. Straight away I noticed another individual with a suitcase and a nervous look on his face outside the station – we must have stood out a mile. We started chatting until the two of us were picked up by a Corporal in uniform who informed me that I was in his troop and how lucky I was. I was too nervous to speak and just about got three syllables across, although he reassured me that I would be fine.
After arriving through the gates and feeling civilian life fade behind me, I was escorted to the gym to be sized up for shoes, trousers, beret and shirts. Soon after I was off to my block to meet my fellow troop members for the next 14 weeks. We all quickly got chatting and before long I had made 31 new friends. The ‘same boat’ situation applies here more than ever.
Then there was paperwork – lots of paperwork! We were told which sections we would be in and then we were to unpack and make our beds “the Army way” – a phrase I soon started hearing often! We spent the day bonding as a troop and before we knew it the day was over.
Tuesday morning and I was up early, showered, shaved and tired! After breakfast we were given a financial lecture from our Commanding Officer (CO) and Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) and then we were off for medicals!
Three vaccinations, blood/urine test and a dentist check up later and we were deemed fit for service in terms of health. A visit to the barber straight after for a traditional Army haircut (cue the opening credits to Full Metal Jacket) and we were good to go.
That evening we were taught how to assemble our webbing as well as how to apply a rifle sling by our section commanders, which were both vital skills that we would be applying a lot over our military career. Luckily, I managed to grasp the rifle sling pretty quickly and started showing other members of my section on how it should be done. One thing I have learned straight away is that the Army is all about working as a team, something which I massively respect and was a huge reason behind me joining.
Wednesday morning, after completing our block jobs (and slowly but surely becoming better at doing them), we had a lesson from our Troop Commander about badges of rank. Then we were marched to the church for an introduction to the Padre who would be dealing with the moral and spiritual aspects of life as a soldier. Despite not being very religious myself, I still found what he had to say very important and relevant to our careers in the Army.
After the church we lined up to receive our kit. I was ridiculously excited to finally look the part so that I could truly start feeling like a soldier. My fellow troop members felt the same way and morale was high. As well as our kit we were issued our berets, the military headdress, which is bent to the side and dons our Phase 1 capbadge for our first six weeks. After a lot of time shaping the beret, we all finally looked ready to begin our training.
It was block jobs as per the normal morning routine, then into our PT kits to do our Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA). We carried jerry cans 150m and lifted powerbags just like during selection, and then finally we had our 1.5-mile run. The difference between this run and that at selection is that you have PTIs and Corporals screaming at you every step of the way! Despite fear driving me, I managed a time of 10:53. A second slower than my ADSC time. Despite being annoyed with myself, I knew the PTIs here would soon whip me into shape. How right I was!
Showering, changing and given zero time to do either is a common theme in basic training but one that teaches you how to manage your time effectively. For the time being, however, we were too slow and politely informed of such by our Section Commanders. That evening, we were shown what to pack in our bergens for Exercise ICE BREAKER. This would involve a night in the woods, in order to get to know each other more as a troop, and give the training staff a chance to let us know more about them in a relaxed atmosphere. We finished the night by packing our bergen and ironing our kit.
We spent Friday morning having our first drill lesson on the parade square with our Troop Sergeant. We’re all afraid of her (rightfully so) and so tried extra hard not to make any mistakes. That didn’t go too well. Despite some people’s reservations I really enjoy drill and can’t wait to get better at it over time. The feeling of passing out on the same parade square that we have our lessons is a huge motivation not to give up during this process.
Making sure our bergens were packed, we were marched off to the woods for Exercise ICE BREAKER. Despite not packing a huge amount, the bergens were actually quite heavy. Again, I’m banking on the PTIs to whip me into shape. They have their work cut out it seems. When we arrived at the woods we were given a briefing on how to safely use a shotgun, as we were going to do some clay pigeon shooting. I had never fired a weapon before in my life so the opportunity for my first one to be a shotgun was very exciting.
It was finally my turn and after yelling ‘PULL’ the clay pigeons were fired. Despite only hitting 1 out of 6, I was very happy with the activity and loved the fact that I was getting paid for this! We then went into the woods where we were shown by our Section Commanders how to set up three different types of basha – a makeshift ‘tent’ involving our ponchos, tent pegs, bungees and of course the trees.
After setting up our basha for the evening (and taking a moment to admire my basha crafting ability) we then had ‘scoff’ (dinner) and sat around a campfire where our Troop Commander, Troop Sergeant and Section Commanders told us about their careers so far in the Army and the amazing places it has taken them. It was truly inspiring for all of us how much they have achieved already with the Army, and further instilled why we were all there. Then it was our chance to stand up and speak about our life stories, some of which were hilarious, including one chap from my section who wants to join the UAV regiment as he “wants to fly little planes” – a statement that had a Section Commander in tears! All in all it was a great night and one that strengthened the bond between us as a troop.
Saturday was very relaxed in comparison to the rest of the week. We dismantled our bashas, packed our bergens and marched back to camp. Then we washed, changed, had breakfast and were introduced to the Welfare Centre and the WRVS – a recreational area with pool tables, computer games, DVD’s, ping pong table etc. The chance to wind down after such as a busy week was music to our ears.
This came at a price however. That evening we were taught how to lay out our lockers and had to then spend the night sorting our lockers out ready for an early morning locker inspection. Nervous was an understatement!
After our normal morning block jobs, it was then time for our locker inspection. We were given the command to stand by our beds at attention and soon enough our Section Commander began to hunt for any mistakes we may have made. It didn’t take long for him to find some! I strangely enjoy locker inspections. However, every mistake they find is one I won’t make again. By the end of this process I am determined to have a faultless locker. For the time being however, “ten press-ups Vaughan!”
After breakfast we had a quick kit inspection (missed a loop for my belt!) and then we were marched to church. We were given a service and some hymns to sing. After the service we were treated to tea and biscuits, and ‘Roadrunner’ was on for the Scripture Reader’s children. It wasn’t long before 50+ recruits were huddled round the screen laughing and loving ‘Roadrunner’ more than the children did!
That evening we began to sort our lockers out ready for Monday’s locker inspection. After finally being convinced that my locker was up to a good standard, I crashed out in bed, smiled, and reflected on what a great first week that had been.
Bring on week two!
Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey
Find out about joining the Army
Find out about ATR Winchester