My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my fifth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.
Today was spent on the ranges, only this time we were firing at ranges of 50m and 100m. Going by my previous poor efforts I wasn’t feeling very confident. Before we got started however we were given the opportunity to bore sight our weapon to line up the sight to the aperture. Mine was way off! Hopefully this would explain my woeful accuracy.
We were divided into two groups and our group were first up to go behind the range as “Butts Party” which involved raising the targets and patching up the holes. This gave us the opportunity to relax for a while and have some coffee on a wet Monday morning, which was awesome. I’ve never enjoyed Mondays before in any previous job; this is a refreshing first!
Our time came and we took turns firing at the different distances in different positions. I later found out that I was hitting the white patch of the target more often than not at 100m, which has filled me with confidence that perhaps I’m not as terrible as I thought.
The rest of the day was spent waterproofing our kit and packing our bergens for Exercise FIRST STEP. A good few hours went into this, forgetting kit for exercise isn’t advisable!
We spent the morning unpacking our bergens and showing our Section Commanders that we had all our kit. Once all was confirmed, we set off for Exercise FIRST STEP.
We arrived at our harbour area and were taught how we occupy one, then proceeded to do so. We were also taught about fire control orders, snap ambushes and sentry duties to name a few. We set up our bashas, cooked our rations on our hexi cookers (which tasted awesome) and began stag rotation. My shift was 0100-0300 hrs. Staying awake was hard work but not as hard as finding my way back to my basha in the pitch black! A long, fun and educational first day.
Reveille at 0430 hrs and after ‘stand to’ straight into morning routine. This involves cleaning your rifle, wash/shave, boots and breakfast. It hadn’t stopped raining and the mud hindered us slightly. We failed our morning inspection and were debriefed by our Section Commanders; a good start to the day.
Lessons came thick and fast where we were taught hand signals for patrolling, firing manoeuvres, monkey runs, and casevacs to name a few. We were able to practise firing manoeuvres with blank rounds which was good fun and were also treated to a demonstration on how to suppress the enemy; something we can look forward to during Exercise HALFWAY.
After dinner and lessons I took my position for stag duty at 2100 hrs. Stand-to was called and I had forgotten to pack my roll mat onto my Bergen. Others had made similar mistakes and we were all disciplined by our Section Commanders. Lesson learned however.
Once we’d finished our ‘re-education’ we went straight onto a night patrol; using our hand signals to keep silent and also incorporating our map reading skills, which was useful. After the patrol, I had the job of setting up my sleeping area in darkness, a skill I need to get used to sharpish! With casevacing, leopard crawling and furious note taking, I was out like a light once I finally found my sleeping bag!
Up again at 0430 hrs, this time with more sleep and a better understanding of what needs doing when. A frantic morning routine took place and I thankfully wasn’t scrutinised too heavily when inspected. Phew!
Before we left our harbour area to head back to camp, we had to erase any evidence we were ever there. This meant taking down our bashas, destroying the sentry positions we had made and removing tracks. After that we set off.
When back at camp, we were tasked with completely cleaning our rifle of carbon, dirt and rust. Carbon gets everywhere. Every time we thought we had our rifle clean, our Section Commander would instantly find more carbon!
Eventually our rifles were to an ok standard and returned to the armoury. We then had PT which was an intense swimming session. Muscle-ups and in-outs (in and out the pool quick-time) were the name of the game and we were even more exhausted than before.
The final task was to climb up the diving board, turn around and fall backwards. For some reason, the idea of doing this didn’t agree with me at all. I couldn’t breathe and began to violently shake. My first panic attack – brilliant. The PTI saw me and managed to calm me down, but I now felt like a wimp in front of my troop, not a great feeling. Wanting to face my fear, I ended up jumping off the board a few times normally. Still felt like a let-down though!
After swimming we had drill to try and polish up our skills for our drill test next Thursday. We want to pass, but we also want to be the best troop. Fingers crossed!
In the morning we had sports for PT where our troop played football. I prefer this sort of exercise as you’re not as aware how much running you’re doing. The downside is I’m horrendous at football. With a last minute winner (which I even contributed to – sort of), our team won 7-6. Happy with that!
Afterwards we had another lecture on military law where we were told about chargeable offences such as falling asleep on stag. Must make sure not to let this happen to me.
We had an evening drill lesson, again just to brush up our skills. The downside to evening drill is the uniform. A heavy green jumper which itches like mad and made me heave just putting it on – a sight my section enjoyed immensely! After drill our time was our own. Admin it is.
In the morning we weighed our webbing and bergens for our first 10kg TAB (Tactical Advance to Battle). This is basically a fast-paced walk with bouts of jogging thrown in. None of us found this too bad, which is a good sign, although we all know this won’t be the case for long!
After this was more drill, something we’re all now not too shabby at.
Today was our first opportunity to deal with the public as the face of the British Army. We were to act as marshals during a 26-mile charity run for Naomi House Children’s hospice in Hampshire – a very worthwhile charity.
Me and another recruit had checkpoint 28, five miles from the finish line and so would be trying to give the runners that last bit of encouragement needed to get them to the end. During our stint as marshals, we had kids waving at us, adults smiling at us, a local resident even brought out coffee and homemade cookies to us. It’s a really good feeling doing a job which is appreciated by so many and I’m prouder than ever to be doing what I’m doing.
Despite being a long day, I’m glad we did it and glad we were able to help out towards such a good cause.
Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey
Find out about joining the Army
Find out about ATR Winchester