My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just begun Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.
Today was to be our first Skill At Arms (SAA) lesson and we were very excited at the prospect of holding the SA80A2 Assault Rifle for the first time. After arriving at the armoury and eagerly queuing, eventually I came into contact with the rifle I would be using for the rest of my time in Phase 1. I named it Roy the Rifle and off I took Roy for our first SAA lesson. This involved our Section Commander teaching us about Normal Safety Procedures (NSPs) which is when we check to make sure the rifle is safe. This process is to be done before and after anything involving the rifle and so it wasn’t long before all of us got the hang of it.
We had two lectures from our Troop Commander; one teaching us the phonetic alphabet (which was Golf Romeo Echo Alpha Tango) and the other about the importance of looking after our ears to prevent hearing loss – a tall order considering I’m joining the Royal Artillery! Then after changing into PT kit in rapid time we had our first proper PT session, endurance training. We ran, then ran faster, then faster to the point where I wanted to die. I unfortunately stopped twice due to pure exhaustion and the wrath of the PTIs was soon upon me. I have made a pact with myself never to stop again, however, as I felt terrible for doing so. We’ll see how that goes!
Finally we had ‘dispel the myth’; this involved having a Q and A session with two Recruits who are about to pass out and two Privates who recently have done so. This was a good opportunity to ask the questions that we didn’t want to ask the Corporals and was also good inspiration for the few among us who are letting homesickness get the better of them.
I had accidentally slept in this morning and so had to rush around double time to get my locker ready for our locker inspection. Unfortunately our Section Commander was unimpressed after the first few lockers and so we were informed that another inspection was to be carried out the following morning. I had gotten off lightly it would seem.
After breakfast we had a Basic Casualty Drill (BCD) lesson, which was all about first aid and how to treat a wounded soldier(s). This first lesson introduced us to our ‘aide memoires’ – a handbook that we can consult for any first aid queries. This was literally life saving information and we listened attentively.
Then off for Drill lessons with our Troop Sergeant. Today we learned how to left, right and about turn and also how to fall out. We already sound more professional when marching around camp and it’s a great feeling when we’re all in step. We had a swim test for PT, which was treading water for two minutes followed by four lengths in the pool. Jumping off the top board was slightly scary though. If I found that worrying, the high wire assault course will be an interesting experience! I was happy to finally pass something PT related and hoped that it would continue going forward.
In SAA we learned how to dismantle and assemble the rifle, followed by function tests to ensure the rifle works correctly afterwards.
We had a Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) brief which informed us how our contract worked and the windows in which we could Discharge as of Right (DAOR) if we wanted to. The thought has not even crossed my mind and I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I love it here.
For Drill we learned how to halt, a concept that gave most of us trouble. We’ve now been told that we have to march and halt everywhere on camp, including our block. To quote one of our Corporals: “from now on, if you’re not marching, you’re running!”
For PT we had another run, this time around the surrounding woods of our camp. I enjoyed the scenery and managed to complete this lesson without stopping, which was a great feeling. After an eight-second shower and a three-minute change of clothes I was ready for our Counter-IED lesson; designed to teach us how to potentially spot Improvised Explosive Devices. This was a very important lesson to finish off a long day and I think I may have fallen asleep before my head hit the pillow.
SAA lesson in the morning and we were taught about the different rounds the SA80 can fire and also how to load/unload and ready the rifle. These different procedures will all be tested for our Weapon Handling Test which we have to pass before we are allowed on the ranges; but more importantly these procedures could be the difference between a stoppage in a firefight, or a Negligent Discharge (ND) in camp. No room for error here.
We had circuit training in the gym for PT, which really got our sweat on. Despite the huge meals I have been having here, I can already see a difference in my weight. Will be very interested to see how much I have lost at the end of these 14 weeks. After PT we went to visit the Padre who spoke to us about the Army Core Values and how they affect not only our behaviour as soldiers, but also as people.
More PT followed. However, this time we were playing sports against another troop. It was interesting to see the competitive side of two different troops beginning to emerge already. After an exhausting day, we spent the evening getting our lockers ready for our Troop Sergeant’s locker inspection tomorrow. Nervous!
We had our locker inspection in the morning which was disastrous! I was caught trying to finish my block job and nearly had a heart attack when the door burst open and the yelling commenced from the Corporal! That will teach me to not wear my watch. Not a great start. As for our lockers, nothing was mentioned about the locker per say, but the surrounding area (window sill, plug socket etc) were missed out. I’ll take note of these for next time as I’m still determined to nail it before pass out.
SAA today was going back over how to strip and assemble the rifle and also how to clean it. This was very interesting although I’m sure the glamour will soon wear off, especially after cleaning it for the 300th time.
We had a functional skills lesson in English to prepare us for Phase 2. Functional skills are needed for promotion and it’s amazing that the Army provide these skills for us going forward to help us achieve as much as we can. It’s also a nice break from PT!
Another SAA lesson after that to practice everything we had gone over so far. This lesson culminated in races in putting slings on, stripping/assembling and functions test with the losing team receiving press ups. It all came down to me, and thankfully I’m a dab hand at putting a sling on. Winners!
We finished off the day beginning our lessons with our Troop Commander on Map Reading, with these lessons covering the basics on what a map is, how to fold it and what goes on it. There’s a lot to remember and I’ll be relying on the legend for the time being! Another long day and again I slept soundly!
This morning I woke up after by far my longest lie-in yet. After our usual morning routine we ironed our barrack dress for kit inspection. Unfortunately we hadn’t prepared for the rain and so we had to wear our combat jackets also – something none of us had ironed! Somehow my Jacket wasn’t too bad, but then made the blunder of calling the Corporal Sergeant. Ten press-ups for me.
For our drill lesson we learned how to “change step” and how to “front salute”. The moves are beginning to pick up in complexity but it’s also starting to come together.
PT is always worrying when it comes to kit inspections. Our shorts have to be perfectly ironed, and this includes creating a front and back crease which doesn’t exist prior to receiving them. This results in double creases, or creases simply not sharp enough. Either results in 25 press-ups. A water bottle not completely filled to the top will earn you the same reward! Today’s PT was a four-mile run around the surround area of camp. This includes very steep hills but also quaint country roads and a village. A very scenic route that capped off a very strenuous week of PT.
An early finish after PT was a huge morale boost. In the five minutes that I managed to nap, the lads put an ironing board and four practice wooden rifles on top of me. The banter is definitely picking up and so far the three sections are all bonding as a troop. There are some crazy characters to say the least; including an American who has joined as he believes our training is harder, an Irishman who is hilarious without trying (think Brad Pitt in Snatch), the poshest Welshman you could ever meet, four Scottish guys (including one who asked what size penny he should bring to SAA) and a seven-foot tall Scouser. And that’s just one section! It’s amazing how close we have all grown over two weeks and I definitely love the camaraderie aspect of the Army.
Today was purely an admin day, so we spent the morning perfecting our block jobs, went to the Welfare Centre to chill out for a couple of hours and then finished the day ironing all our kit for another Troop Sergeant’s inspection tomorrow. Hopefully this one will go better. Two weeks down, twelve to go… Buzzing!
Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey
Find out about joining the Army
Find out about ATR Winchester