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.
Back to our normal wake-up time and another Troop Sergeant’s inspection, which didn’t go too badly. But we were still picked up for things and will add them to the ever-growing list of things to check!
After scoff we had a lesson on marksmanship principles and then onto PT. Today was endurance and it was hot outside, a lethal combo! I seem to produce a ridiculous amount of saliva during PT and at one point had managed to get mucus all down my top, which my Troop Commander kindly pointed out to me – embarrassing!
Then the heavens opened. The second part of PT was to run around camp as a troop in the pouring rain. I personally love running in the rain and the feeling seemed to be mutual; all of a sudden we merged together as a troop and showed the rest of ATR Winchester who we were. 3 x 200m sprints to finish and we were done. A good session.
We fetched our webbing and made our way to Skill At Arms (SAA) for a lesson on the prone position and breathing properly whilst firing. I hate the prone position as it kills my elbows. Hopefully after a while I’ll get used to it.
Two new troops also arrived here today. It’s a good feeling to know we’re no longer the new guys but at the same time now we have to start showing our stuff. To finish off the day, our Section Commander treated us to an evening locker inspection with an added bonus of one the next day too. With all that to look forward to, I had an early night.
As predicted, locker inspections have quickly lost their appeal and are now becoming the uncomfortable norm. Every inspection is getting better however, with the mistakes being picked up becoming more menial with each attempt. We’re definitely improving.
We had a morning BCD lesson, which taught us about how to treat a casualty who has difficulty breathing and also how to apply field dressings. I enjoy these lessons as not only are they useful skills both in and out of the Army, but also because our instructor is simultaneously both a funny and terrifying man.
Next up was SAA where we learned about the different rates of fire, when we should use them and then practiced doing so in the prone position. We then marched with our rifles to the assault course to learn about different firing positions such as sitting or kneeling and also how to use windows, trenches etc for cover. The squatting position is a killer and I hope I never have to adopt it again! Who am I kidding?
We had lessons on Counter-IED (improvised explosive device), which included how a basic IED is made and what the components are. The simplicity of how they are made is shocking and I’ll be sure never to leave a magazine lying around!
We ended the day with PT. This turned out to be an introduction into agility; which involved rolls, leopard crawls and tackling the miniature assault course set up in the gym. It was good fun and despite being afraid on one obstacle (and making myself look like a plum in the process!), I eventually got used to it and my confidence grew. We spent the remainder of the day attempting to get our lockers up to scratch, a process all of us are now very familiar with.
In the morning we were given maps and compasses, and went around the camp whilst keeping track of where we were on the map. The area around camp is very scenic and the fact that we’re now approaching summer definitely improved our morning stroll! For PT, we had swimming. I thought I was a reasonably strong swimmer before this session – not any more. I never realise you could sweat in water! I finished the session absolutely exhausted.
Despite wanting to go to bed more than anything, up next was drill. As previously mentioned the weather here is brilliant and I couldn’t imagine what a drill lesson in the pouring rain must be like. So with my tan getting steadily topped up, we were taught how to both look and salute to the left and right. Then we went onto turning on the march, which we found extremely hard as it involves stepping off on your right foot – an uncommon practise in drill.
Swimming really takes it out of me, and I was asleep by 8pm; which in turn allowed my section to mess with me and take some less than flattering pictures, the banter is definitely in full force!
In the morning I had a dentist appointment. Free dental in the Army is a definite perk and the dentists here are even finding and correcting things overlooked by my civilian dentist, and all for free. After that we had another C-IED lesson which dealt with what to do should an IED be found. Hopefully I’ll never encounter this situation, however I’m aware that the possibility is very real. For PT, we played hockey and rounders with another troop. There is real competitiveness between the troops now, as was shown in hockey especially, with my legs taking a battering!
For our last SAA lesson before our Weapon Handling Test (WHT), we learned about stoppages and how to remedy them. There’s a lot to learn in these SAA lessons but my Section Commander is great at helping it all make sense. Hopefully I’ll reflect the hard work he has put in by passing tomorrow – fingers crossed. Troop Sergeant’s inspection tomorrow, surely this one will go well?
One of our worst inspections yet. We had run out of both time and materials and the effect was catastrophic. We were informed that another inspection was to take place that evening at 8pm, with hourly inspections after that if need be. We vowed to nail it for eight. Off then to map reading where our Troop Commander taught us about scales, distances and contours. The wavey lines all over a map now actually have some meaning to us!
In PT we used our skills taught previously (rolling, jumping over obstacles etc) and put them into practice with circuit training. The first few laps weren’t too bad, however the pace was upped each time and by the end of it my t-shirt was stuck to me! The end of the session also involved learning how to properly climb a rope. I’m not a natural.
We went to the armoury where I signed out Roy the Rifle ready for our WHT. Although nervous, I had spent a lot of time beforehand making sure I was prepared. This paid off it seemed, as I was almost flawless, merely being picked up for brushing the sight instead of solidly checking it. I’ll take that! I’m now safe to use a rifle on the ranges.
The hours before 8pm were stressful. Everyone rushed around double-time making sure everything was spot on. The time came, and the atmosphere was tense! Again, hard work had paid off it seemed. Much better effort we were told, no more inspections that night! Bed time.
Another Troop Sergeant’s inspection in the morning, and as we had passed the night before, we were sure we would pass this morning. Wrong. Our beds were quite scruffy and not all folded the same way. Uniformity is a big thing in the army and everything has to be the same. This resulted in another inspection at 7pm, which hurt me more than anyone as I’m an Arsenal fan, and this inspection now clashed with our cup final. Gutted!
What cheered me up slightly was that today was our first Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT) lesson, which is basically a live firing range, but computerised. The accuracy is first class and our instructors can see any mistake we make, right down to pulling the trigger too quickly! I hoped that I would be a natural at shooting and spent the time waiting to get myself into the zone. Unfortunately I missed the point of our first firing test, which is to simply make sure all of your rounds hit as close to each other as possible – rather than on the target.
Cue two failed attempts, when everyone else had passed. My head dropped, but my Troop Sergeant told me not to worry and that it’s ok to not be amazing after my first shoot. My resolve was restored and up I went for attempt number three. I put into practise everything I had been taught so far (including just focusing on my round groupings) and thankfully I passed on the third attempt! Straight after, my Troop Commander stepped up to the plate and showed me how it’s done. His grouping was amazing and reminded me that marksmanship is a skill and one that gets better with practice. There was a definite spring in my step on the march back.
Much like yesterday, a good portion of today was then spent preparing for another inspection, this time paying particular attention to the beds, including ironing the sheets and pillow cases and implementing ‘hospital corners’. To our credit, our beds looked amazing when we had finished and none of us particularly wanted to sleep in them in fear of messing them up again!
Our inspection went well and as a reward we went to the Welfare to wind down for a couple of hours. I got to see Arsenal lift the trophy and end our nine-year drought and my morale went through the roof after what had been a tough week of inspections.
A nice lay in this morning and, to top it off, no PT today!
Apart from a brief drill lesson (where we learned how to change step and about turn on the march) – today is pure admin. The opportunity to get our lockers squared away at our own pace is a great feeling, and we’re all in good spirits. I can’t believe I’ve been here for three weeks already, the time has flown by. On to week four!
Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey
Find out about joining the Army
Find out about ATR Winchester