Armourer course fires all barrels

Latest blog from Craftsman Thomas Mortimore, currently on Phase 2 training at 10 Training Battalion, Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.

Now that we’ve started getting into the actual weapons on the armourer course, we had to start with general principles. This covers the basics of all weapons including cycle of operations, types of weapons, types of operations and ammunition types. We also did a practical on barrel inspection where we had to look through 20 different barrels and find faults (if any). This was a good test of our judgement as even the tiniest thing could cause major problems in the future.

Afterwards we started work on the Browning Pistol; this is the pistol that the army have used for decades up until recently. We had to know how to strip the weapon to its individual parts and put it back together again, perform tests on certain components and identify faults.

Weapons testing

There are two practical tests to pass and a theory which is combined with GP’s. The first test involves examining four different weapons and identifying things that are wrong with the components or analysing failed test firings.

The second part of the test involves being given a weapon with previously identified faults which we then have to fix by replacing the parts. The trick though is that the spares you get given could be faulty, and there may be a fault which wasn’t identified previously.

Practice makes perfect

Our final weekend was spent on exercise at a nearby simulation of a Forward Operating Base (FOB) as one might see in Afghanistan. We started practise on various situations such as area cordoning and control, setting up vehicle checkpoints, crowd control, casualty evacuations, room-to-room clearance and patrolling techniques.

Learning room clearance techniques

Learning room clearance techniques

We then moved to a bigger FOB and commenced our scenario. We started off with various patrols around the area using the skills we had learnt earlier. We set up vehicle checkpoints, cordoned off suspicious areas and had to deal with angry mobs and enemies, all played by members of our platoon. We then took a shift as the Quick Reaction Force who had to be ready to deal with any situation and react to it quickly. Finally we took sentry positions and guarded the FOB from any attacks. The whole exercise was really exhausting, but I really enjoyed it because it is much more modern compared to the exercises at Phase 1 training.

More to look forward to next month as the weapons systems get ever more complicated.

Artificers vehicles back on track – with short stop for Jubilee and REME Corps weekend event

Sgt Veal

Sgt Veal

I am Sergeant Ryan Veal. I joined the Army in December 1999 and completed basic training at ATR Pirbright. This was followed by phase 2 of my training during which I was taught my primary trade as a Vehicle Mechanic B at SEME Bordon

Resistance testing

The pace of the Artificer course has regained its momentum after the Easter leave period and completed Level 3 of the course; this level consisted of mainly Maths, Science and Statistics.  The Statistics element of the course involved testing the resistance of 100 resistors, analysing the results and completing an assignment.

Level 4 marked the start of in-class assignment exams for Science on: Belts, Clutches and Epicyclic gears. As much as it being a welcome change to the usual 3 hour fight; with the exam paper and trying to remember important mathematical and engineering science formulae, it proved to some members of the course to be almost as challenging as the memory game. Level 4 of the course also consisted of 2 weeks of Vehicle Electrics and Electronics at 11 Training Battalion REME in Arborfield, and provided a change of scenery for the course as well as a change to the usual Maths and Science overload.  This element of the course involved AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current) theory and 3 exams.

REME Corps Weekend – June 16th

The course has now returned to Bordon and they are looking forward to taking part in the activities planned for the Queens Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and assisting in the REME Corps Weekend activities on June the 16thin Arborfield.

REME corps weekend 16th June 1012

Jubilee – REME corps weekend 16th June 1012

The upcoming months are already looking a very busy period for the course, members of the course within 2 Platoon, Quebec Company are preparing to deploy on Exercise NEXT STEP at the end of June. 3 Platoon, Quebec Company are due to Deploy on Exercise STALLION SPIRIT in July. Weekend Exercises are part of the mandated training for all soldiers at 10 Training Battalion.  Twelve months is spent at the School learning a trade and not touching weapons, for the youngest soldiers the Exercises provide progression training from the time spent in basic training and acts as a measure to prevent skill fade.

For the more experienced it is the opportunity to act as Platoon Commanders in a benign environment where mistakes will not cost lives.

The wider experience

I joined the Army in December 1999 and completed basic training at ATR Pirbright, after which I was able to begin my Vehicle Mechanic B course at SEME Bordon. Having completed basic trade training in Oct 2001, I was posted to 3 Battalion REME (3BN REME) in Paderborn; where I was next deployed with 2 Royal Ghurkha Rifles (2RGR) straight to Mrkonjic Grad in Bosnia for 6 months. Whilst posted with 3 BN REME I was deployed on OP TELIC 1 and based at a Kuwait army Base close to the Iraq border.

I was promoted to Lance Corporal in 2003 and posted to 3 Logistic Support Regiment RLC (3 LSR) based in Abingdon. In 2005 I deployed to Iraq – Shaibah Logistic base, and returned to SEME Bordon in February 2006 to complete my Vehicle upgrading course, followed with a posting to 7 Transport Regiment RLC (7Tpt Regt RLC) in November 2006 as a Class 1.

I deployed in 2007 as an acting Corporal to the Contingency Operating Base (COB) in Iraq with 1 Battalion REME (1Bn REME), where I was attached to 16 Squadron Tank Transporters. I was promoted to Substantive Corporal in Oct 2007. I returned to Bordon in 2009 where I completed and passed my PAAB and went onto pass the Artificer maths course at Worthy Down.

In May 2010 I was posted to 104 Force Support Battalion REME (104 FS BN REME) in Bordon, and then immediately to Tidworth. I was promoted to Sergeant in February 2011 and selected for Artificer training; to be course loaded in October 2011.

Major Phase

Two months in to the Major Project phase of the course which consists of all elements taught including: Engineering Materials, Engineering Science, Electrics and the use of AUTO CAD.  A requirement of the course is for all members to complete, as a group, a project on any type of fault/problem and provide a Solution to a known problem on any Vehicle/Equipment currently in service use. The culmination of this part of the course is to present the solution to theCampCommandant, The head of the Engineering Science Department, and SME (Subject Matter Experts) from DE&S (Defence Equipment & Support) in Oct/Nov 2012.

Lap, butt and fillet: The art of welding

Metal working techniques - heating metal in the furnace.

Metal working techniques – heating metal in the furnace.

My name is Craftsman Thomas Mortimore and I am currently on Phase 2 training at 10 Training Battalion, Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.

April started off with the continuation of tool making where we completed our mini vice. A week of filing, sawing, drilling and more filing it was complete. Just like the strap spanner there was a theory test as well as a mark for the vice. The results were 77% for the vice itself and 83% for the theory exam where our knowledge of tools and their use were tested. Just before we finished this phase we had a week and a half of Easter leave, which gives us time to catch up on family and friends, and of course remembering some of the luxuries you had like a double bed and lie ins. The occasional break from training is important because it just gives you the time you need to relax before your back to duty.

At the beginning of April I went with the SEME shooting team to a shooting competition at Bisley over a weekend. We were firing 7.62mm target rifles at targets placed at 300, 600, 900 and 1000 yards.  I found it surprisingly easy to hit the target even at 1000 yards, but it was a lot harder to actually hit the centre. I will confess I came second to last, but I really enjoyed it and it was different to the normal Tuesday evenings because I had been used to firing smaller and lighter rifles with the weekly shoots after work.

The mini vice I made.

The mini vice I made.

After bench fitting, we moved on to welding. Firstly we used oxyacetylene to make several joints including lap (one piece partially over the other), butt (one next to the other) and 2 kinds of fillet welding (one upright across the middle of the other). We then used an oxyacetylene cutter to cut pieces of metal. All this is something that I have never done before and it takes a while to get used to it. The last thing was Manual Metal Arc welding, which involves electricity and extremely high temperatures. I found this quite challenging and it took some getting used to before I made some improvements. The pieces we made would be marked along with the theory test.

Scorching hot furnace

The last thing we did this month was blacksmithing and heat treatment. This involves standing around a scorching hot furnace and heating up a piece of metal up to 900oc and then hammering it until we got the required shape that was needed. We made several tools including a chisel, centre punch, hexagonal spanner socket and a junior hacksaw. All this requires time and patience as it could be tricky getting the right shape but after a few hours practise you start to get the hang of it and know what to do to correct something.

Next month involves sheet metalwork, workshop procedures and Surveillance Systems.

Here is the good stuff: my trade course started

My handmade strap spanner

My name is Craftsman Thomas Mortimore and I am currently on Phase 2 training at 10 Training Battalion, Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.

March has arrived which means I finally start the part of my armourer course where I learn my trade.  Since my last blog I had to pass the rest of my foundation course which was marked in 2 parts. For the practical element we had to make a tool from scratch. The Strap spanner shown in the picture below is what we all had to produce, but there was also a theory element which took the form of an NVQ exam on paper and an Army exam on the computer. And thankfully I passed both with 73/100 for my strap spanner and 86% for the written/computer tests. After a few more NVQ tests the next day we had officially finished the Foundation course. The next week I did my Category C theory revision and test which is for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. Monday was spent on the hazard perception test which is 19 video clips and you have to click when you spot a hazard. More points for the earlier you spot the hazard (passed that with 92/100).  Following this there are multiple choice questions to answer. 100 randomly generated questions and a pass mark of 85. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning were spent going on the computers and going through every single question that the test could throw at you. I didn’t find out what my score was but I passed it at least.

“you’re tired and just want to sleep”

Inevitably there are breaks in our engineering training when we have to refocus on our main job as soldiers. After 4 days of Soldier Military Training (which involved 6 visits to the gym and some orienteering) our platoon had a weekend exercise in Dartmoor. We left camp about 6pm and arrived at 10pm. After getting our briefings and setting up in a hangar, our section set off at midnight to head towards the first of 6 checkpoints. The whole thing took 8 hours and we must have walked about 15 miles. However our ordeal wasn’t over because after just 2 hours we were sent back out again, this time to walk to objectives and carry out command tasks at each one. These are designed to test leadership skills and teamwork even when you’re tired and just want to sleep (which was just as well as most of us had about 36 hours of no sleep). The tasks varied from putting up a tent blindfolded with only one person able to see and give directions, to being “elite commandos” who have to work out which is the safe route out of a nuclear reactor from a load of numbers on a piece of paper. This task took 11.5 hours and understandably we were all tired after that. Our final task on Sunday morning was to complete the commando assault course which involved jumping over things, crawling over things, wriggling through things, climbing things and of course the monkey bars with 1 metre deep water below (yes we all got wet). Overall it wasn’t the best weekend I’d ever had but it had been fun and we had learned something from it as well.

Getting up close and personal with the weapons

Foreign weapons, light machine gun, sniper rifle and more

Here is the good stuff though because my trade course started. The first 3 days were the induction where we played with a few foreign weapons, field stripped a Light Machine Gun, Sniper rifle and Grenade Machine Gun, had a look around the Warrior and Challenger 2, and also set up a presentation for some VIP’s which meant one of each weapon the army uses was out on display which gave us the opportunity to handle them and see each one up close and personal. Thursdays meant it was back to the workshops for part 2 of bench fitting.  As engineers we have to have very close control of our ability to manipulate materials, which is why we make tools. As I write, the current phase involved building a small hand vice.  Skills like this are important because soldiers often find themselves in places where the tools they want are simply not available; imagine trying to take every tool to Afghanistan when you have to carry everything!  Soon we will be fully immersed in learning individual weapons systems.  More soon…

Artificer training: Assignments coming thick and fast

Sgt Veal

Sgt Veal

I am Sergeant Ryan Veal. I joined the Army in December 1999 and completed basic training at ATR Pirbright. This was followed by phase 2 of my training during which I was taught my primary trade as a Vehicle Mechanic B at SEME Bordon.

I was promoted to Sergeant in February 2011 and selected for Artificer training on the April 2011 ASCLB (Artificer Course Loading Board) to be course loaded in October 2011.

 

Carling Cup

The pace of the artificer course has drastically increased, we have now completed approximately 5 months of the course and have now progressed onto Level 3, which is the start of the HND level Maths and Science.  The first two levels of the course are the building blocks needed to be at the level required to be able to progress further.

February was a very busy month for the course, some members of the course and volunteers/volunteered members were lucky enough to take part in the Commanding Officers Inter-Company physical endurance competition, which consisted of an obstacle course and various other physically demanding challenges around the local training area.

Some members of the course were able to visit Wembley Stadium and take part in the opening ceremony of the Carling Cup Final and were extremely fortunate enough to get photos taken with the Carling Cup before it was presented to Liverpool Football Club.

We also visited DE&S (Defence Equipment & Support) and organisation in Abbey Wood responsible for developing new equipment.  The visit was so that we could speak to project managers in the field of  Urgent Operational Requirements (UOR’s)  and equipment already in service  about project ideas.  Each Artificer has to complete a fairly complex engineering project as an element of their Artificer training so the visit was a good place to start.

Raring to go

All members of the course have now fully grasped the importance of having to put 100% into the course in order to pass.  Assignments are now coming thick and fast as well as exams and taking your eye off the ball is now not an option if you wish to pass.

A good working relationship is required whilst on the course with all members of Permanent Staff and Babcock Instructors; this will make life that little bit easier whilst at Bordon.  As the course progresses it becomes clear how reliant you become on the instructors for further help and guidance for assignments and understanding the frustrations from both sides of the desk is required. The instructors should be rewarded for their patience when instructing HND Level subjects to people who have been away from full-time education for many years.

The Month of March is upon us, filled with exams, assignments, mess life and exercises. All members of the course are raring to go fuelled by the knowledge that we only have a year left until promotion and scrolling.

Learning the trade of the Armourer: From classes to clay pigeons

Cfn Mortimore

Cfn Mortimore

My name is Craftsman Thomas Mortimore and I am currently on Phase 2 training at 10 Training Battalion, Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME).Learn more about Thomas’s background here

Common Foundation Course

February for me this year is all about the Common Foundation course. This involves Technical Drawing, Maths, Science, Engineering Materials, Bench fitting and Health and Safety. The pass mark for the Common Foundation Course exams is 60% which may seems easy, especially as all the exams have multiple choice answers, but best advice really (and anyone will tell you this) is to revise thoroughly. The revision classes are 6-7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (it’s not optional to go) and you usually just answer questions from an exercise book on the topics you have covered up until that point and there is always a Sergeant there to help you if you are stuck or don’t understand something.

One hundred per cent

Technical drawing took four days during which you will submit three pieces of work, all of which are dictated by the instructor so there really is no way to fail unless you don’t listen to them. Maths, Science and Engineering Materials overlap each other, but Maths and Science is a couple of weeks whereas Engineering is four days. Anyone who did Resistant Materials/Design and Technology at school will understand a lot of what is done. I passed Engineering with 75%. Maths covers a lot of GCSE grade modules like Algebra, Conversions, Area, Circles, Diameter, Trigonometry and Graphs. I passed Maths with 95% which I was really happy with. Science focuses on the Physics side and includes conversion from one unit to another, force, mass, work, power, temperature, friction and pressure. If anyone remembers drawing the “equation triangles” at school then they are extremely useful. I passed Science with 100%

Benchfitting is a key skill for REME tradesmen

Benchfitting is a key skill for REME tradesmen

Health and safety was two days long and consisted of a day and a half going through computer lessons and questions covering all the topics. The main purpose of bench fitting is to teach you the basics of engineering. The practical project will be a strap spanner which will be built in approximately three days worth of work. You start with a practice piece and learn all about drilling, taps and dies, sawing and most of all, filing.

Clay pigeon shooting for sport on a Wednesday afternoon.

Clay pigeon shooting for sport on a Wednesday afternoon.

Clay Pigeon

I do not wish to give the impression that it is all classroom work though.  There is plenty of time set aside for sports and physical training. There are a huge variety of sports you can choose to do every Wednesday afternoon and various clubs have extra hours after work. I had done swimming in the past, but after realising the full range of sports available to me (and the fact the swimming pool is 100m down the road and free to use) I chose something I never thought I would get the chance to do; Clay Pigeon. February had started off very cold and as a result when I spent my first time clay pigeon shooting I could barely use the shotgun, let alone hit the target. Later on I also took part in the target shooting with the rifle club.

Most of the PT during this period is all about building up strength, and there seems to be no better way to do this than an hour of squats every Tuesday and Friday. Whether you’re throwing 10, 15 or 20kg bags into the air, squatting with weight on your back/shoulders, or lifting up weights and trying to look like an Olympic weightlifter, you’ll know whether you have worked hard because your legs will be like jelly and you will barely be able to get down the stairs. All this however is extremely useful because it builds up your muscles in your legs allowing you to gain a better run time and carry heavy items for longer distances e.g. your back pack on exercise.

So hopefully by the time I write next month’s blog I should have a quicker run time and have completed foundation training. The next chunk of my training is the real meat where I learn my trade as an Armourer.

Back to school: Five months on the Artificer’s course

Sgt Griffiths
Sgt Griffiths

I am Sergeant Jonathan ‘Griff’ Griffiths, I have been in the REME for 14 years, during which I have been an Armourer and Metalsmith, completing two basic courses and two class one courses. I am currently training to become an Artificer*

More assignment work

After being on the course for five months and settling into the daily routine, the course demands are beginning to move up a gear.   The course has just completed level 3 maths and science exams, which for me personally is a major hurdle that is a milestone in the course.  The obvious jump in workload is through being given a lot more assignment work to complete.  I find the majority of it fairly straightforward, but have had assignments that have been confusing to understand the task requirements. To get them completed I have had to sit with the instructor that issued the assignment. Ensuring a good working relationship with your instructors is definitely advisable.

Life within the company is also quite demanding at times, alongside the increase in course related work, the regimental demands often complicate an already packed timetable.  Such demand just have to be accepted and got on with. The issues with the requirements of work at a company level or for the sergeants mess is that it is issued with complete ignorance to what is occurring in the course timetable.  This can result in, for some, going on an exercise in a quiet period of the course meaning they can focus and perform well. If you are unlucky enough to have to go on an exercise during a hectic time of the course this can result in having very little time to prepare and rehearse, resulting in a huge increase in stress and pressure that has a wide effect on your performance on all aspects of the course and personal goals during the working week, such as basic things like being able to get time to do PT, squeezing it in.  Also not forgetting contact time with family and friends on top of all of this.

Share the workload

During high-pressure phases of the course there is little that can be done other than muddling through the best you can, although if something is going to be severely affected it is best to let instructors/company staff know.  There are many opportunities for carrying out a sport during the course, funds are available to aid you to do this.  This should be taken full advantage of if it is possible to do so.  One thing to bear in mind is that it is wise not to take on too much, especially if you are the kind of person that will struggle academically. Whist it is easy to take things on and people will be more than willing to pass responsibility on to you, it is worthwhile considering if the workload would be overly excessive resulting in course work suffering and people being let down.  A solution to this is to find a few guys interested in a sport and go into it together, so you can share the workload.

Five months down

Mess life within the unit is good. The forecast of events is always full and the majority of events are well organised.   In fact the only negative with the mess is that most of the functions occur during the week which means staring at a white board for 7 hours the following day means you can’t take full advantage of taking part fully as traditionally expected, as trying to learn after having a few ports and pints of beer is painful.

PT is on a Monday which is good timing for the lesson as it breaks up Monday.  It is a shame and a disadvantage only having one lesson in the week.  I have tried to overcome this disadvantage by getting in the gym on a Tuesday and Thursday evening and going for a longer run on Wednesday sports afternoon.  Of course when the pressure increases during the course and assignment hand-in dates approach, the only thing you can do is decrease the gym time, which is annoying.  I always start the week planning to go, and try hard to get there, or it would be easy to stop going and fall into the trap of just doing a single PT lesson on a Monday, which is obviously not enough to maintain fitness.  Five months down and I’m “good to go”.

*Artificers receive advanced training in their trade and are able to pick up a range of further qualifications such as the BTEC Higher Diploma, HNC, HND or BSc degree. Artificers are then able to progress even further up the ranks with successful completion of the intensive Artificer course leading to Staff Sergeant and the opportunity to then progress to Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1).  Being an artificer can also lead to an Officer’s commission and leadership training at RMA Sandhurst, after which it is possible to become a Chartered Engineer.

More at this link: www.army.mod.uk/reme/career/18066.aspx