Time for selection: Preparation is the key

Recruit Andrew Vaughan is 25 years old and is about to start Phase 1 training at Army Training Regiment (ATR) Winchester, where he hopes to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

 

ADSC* and the waiting game…

Recruit Andrew Vaughan

Recruit Andrew Vaughan

Those two months flew by – quicker than I would have liked if I’m honest. Had I prepared enough? I felt really nervous. I really wanted to pass first time and spent those eight weeks reading everything I could about what to expect, how to prepare and what not to do.

Before I knew it, I was being driven to the station by my Mum at stupid AM to embark on the journey to Brookwood Station, Surrey where ATC (Army Training Centre) Pirbright awaited. After a long train journey and a McDonalds breakfast to calm the nerves, I was at Brookwood Station. It was easy to see who else was there for ADSC. Guys with suitcases and terrified looks on their faces, guys much younger and thinner than myself I might add. Brilliant!

I started speaking to a guy who had been training for the Paras, his fitness was unbelievable and I didn’t look forward to eating his dust on the 1.5 miler. He shared my fear, however, of the medical. This takes place almost straight after we get there and the worst part is, there’s nothing you can do about it. Either you are medically ok or you’re not. As long as he passed that he said, he’d smash it. I wished him luck, even more nervous now than before.

 

If we can’t look after a water bottle, should they trust us with a gun?

We lined up outside the station and after exchanging small talk a bright pink coach pulled up. We all had a giggle over the colour of the coach until the Sergeant stepped out and gave us a glare which instantly shut us up. He then told us to line up, give him our surnames – “‘don’t care about your first name” – put our bags in the back and get on the coach.

It was a short but tense trip from the station, none of us spoke from the moment we met the Sergeant. We knew this was where it got serious. We were led to a hall, asked for our documents and assigned a number and small water bottle. Our job was to look after this water bottle like a pet, ‘do not let it leave your side’. Although a strange task, this is to see if we can look after things. After all, if we can’t look after a water bottle, should they trust us with a gun?

We then had our medical including urine, eye, hearing, ECG (heart) tests and finally a meeting with the doctor – “cough please”! Thankfully everything went well and I was then given a bib with my number on to indicate I was fit to proceed and to get started making my bed. Making the top bunk of a bunk bed isn’t easy by the way…

I later found out that the guy who I spoke to at the station had failed the medical with a burst eardrum and was sent home to return in six months. I truly felt sorry for him and the intensity of this process was drummed home harder than ever. Best of luck to him in the future.

 

Be yourself and show your passion

On, then, to a lecture from a retired Major who spoke about the opportunities available to us in the Army. This really raised our morale and got us pumped for the rest of the two days. I had never wanted it more at that point!

Next was the Icebreaker. This was a very important part of the ADSC and I had revised and practised quite a bit beforehand. You stand up in front of a room full of senior officers and your fellow candidates and speak about yourself; why you’re joining the army, what job you’re going for and a topic given to you on the day. All you can do is be yourself and show your passion. Revising does help though as you will be asked questions afterwards.

After that I had to do the BARB test and then a TST test. These were to get a sense of my logic and maths skills. Luckily I am quite good at both and thankfully passed these without too much of a problem. Again revision is your friend.

After that was a lesson on Lynx and Apache helicopters, which we were to be tested on the next morning. We took our notes and spent a lot of the evening – you guessed it – revising. We tested each other in our bunks that evening to the point where I’m sure I dreamed about Lynx and Apache helicopters! Day 1 was over and we had survived so far, Day 2 however was where things were to jump up a notch.

Day 2

Can we swap legs and lungs, please?

5:30am and the lights come on accompanied by a loud voice of “Wake up”. We performed our wash duties and had our helicopter test. The revision had paid off and we all passed without much difficulty. We had breakfast – a choice of continental or “fat boys” breakfast. I decided to be sensible and go for continental, I’ll tell you now that watching the lads devour a full English while I settled for my croissants was torture! Then straight out onto the court to begin our physical tests. We were split into two groups to perform the jerry-can test and the powerbag lift tests simultaneously. I was up first along with four others to do the jerry-can test – a test which I had been dreading! We had to walk 150m (5 laps of 30) with our PTI, I found it much easier than I thought to be honest and was told to slow down at one point. 150 metres later and I was over the moon!

Up next, the bag lifts. Starting from 15kg we had to lift powerbags up on to a 1.5m platform, which is to simulate loading ammo crates and what-not onto a truck. You then increase to 20kg, 25kg, 30kg and then 40kg. 30kg I started feeling it and 40kg was quite naughty. No dramas however and again over the moon!

Then the moment we had all been waiting for and for the most part dreading. The 1.5-miler, 800m warm-up and then best effort of two laps round the camp. I was so nervous but could only do my best I kept telling myself.

Aaaaand we’re off! Straight away the younger fitter lads had already done a Usain Bolt on me, but I wasn’t worried about them, this was my personal battle. Not far into the run and I began to get out of breath, my stamina has never been amazing and the voice in my head was telling me to “stop. Give up. Go home.” This was drowned out by a louder voice: “Keep going. You want this. Don’t stop.”

After a gruelling one and a half laps, the finish line was in sight. I ran for my life. I ran for my future. Knackered, gasping for breath and desperate to lie down, I had finished! I later found out that a guy who had eaten a massive full English and somehow got lost during the run, still finished in under nine minutes. Fair play to the man, can we swap legs and lungs please?

Absolutely covered head to foot in mud

This sense of euphoria was short-lived however; we were quickly taken to put our overalls on ready for the team tasks. We had a brief but gruelling session of PT where at one point I thought I was going to die, a feeling I’m sure Phase 1 will have plenty of! Then we had a grenade lesson where two people would crawl through a tunnel, throw a grenade and then shout ‘GRENADE’! When this happened, the rest of us had to hit the deck as fast as we could. My turn came up and I embarrassed myself by throwing the grenade like a five-year-old girl. The only person worse than me was a guy who managed to hit the top of the tunnel and have the grenade bounce back on him, killing him in a real life scenario. We’ll both have to work on our throwing technique before the real thing I think!

Then on to more team tasks, a massive part of ASDC and one where people can throw away or salvage their chances of passing. They look for participation but also the ability to listen; to work as a team. We performed three tasks which basically involved getting from point A to point B without touching the floor, collecting an ammo crate along the way etc. They all required thought and initiative – we only passed one out of the three, but the tasks are more to do with how you work in a team.

Absolutely covered head to foot in mud, we had 30 minutes to get showered, packed away and changed into our suits for our final meeting. I have never gotten ready so fast in my life! Packed away and suited up, I waited for what felt like the longest time in my life; where I had to stand to attention and shout with full authority “SIR!” once my number was called. This time came, Sir was shouted (with a compliment of “Good man”) and the meeting with a Major began.

“How did you find this experience?”
“Hard work, but amazing sir”
“Good answer”

After an amazing meeting where I was told that I performed well in the Icebreaker and the team tasks, and that I had run a time of 10:52 (a personal best and one I was delighted with) – I was told I had passed! A high B grade no less and I won’t lie, I fought back tears.

That was the end of ADSC. I thanked the instructors for their time and kept my water bottle as a memento as I made my way back home, taking with me a few friends, some fantastic memories and a huge grin that lasted the entire journey home.

Not long after I received the phone call with a start date.

A week to go!

The last two months have flown by to be honest. Forms to fill in and send off, check! Kitlist to buy, check! A decent level of fitness to achieve, check-ish! And here I am now with a week to go, which will consist of running, running and more running.

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright 

Find out about ATR Winchester

*Army Development Selection Centre

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  February 2014
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Pirbright
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Weekend 6

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Rise and shine

Weekend 6 began in the same vein as the previous 5, with a very early start on Saturday morning. Once the shock of waking up had passed, it was time for the day’s lessons. We were all quite apprehensive throughout the weekend as we knew that it was the final TAB on Sunday. The TAB is the course output standard and if failed to finish in the given time we would have to go back to weekend 4 and try all over again! That was not a prospect any of us particularly relished. Saturday’s lessons were a mixture including values and standards, health and hygiene and an introduction to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear). Saturday evening ended at about 19:00 with a session of circuits in the gymnasium. I made the mistake of eating too much at dinner and spent the whole session tasting blackcurrant cheesecake mixed with savoury rice! Another mistake I will never make again.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Warming up nicely in my CBRN kit.

Sunday was a similar day to Saturday and there was a fair bit of hanging around waiting for lessons. We were in the classroom for a few early lectures and then we were off for our first shoot. The indoor range consisted of laser equipped SA80 rifles. They are tethered to a sophisticated machine that records exactly where your shots fall on the screen to your front. They are also CO2 operated so you get a good sense of the recoil that would be experienced when you get to fire the actual rifles.

This was the first time that most of our course had ever shot a rifle and I was impressed to see how quickly everyone mastered the marksmanship principles that we had been taught. The idea is to create as small a spread of shots as possible on the target. Clearly, being able to shoot proficiently is an important skill for any soldier. I don’t think anyone on our course will have too many problems in this area!

Good luck

The finale of our six weekends was quickly upon us and we were all lined up ready for our three-mile TAB which had to be completed in 45 minutes to pass the test. We set off at the required pace and soon we were getting into the 15-minute-mile rhythm. Things began to get a little unpleasant when we turned off the nice tarmac road and headed for a muddy track around the perimeter of the base. The track is very hilly and had now had large puddles full of foul-smelling stagnant water! However, we all pressed onwards and soon we were heading for the finish line outside the gym. Then it was done. We all passed the TAB and with a little bit of course administration to complete, our six weekends came to an end. It felt nice to stand on parade knowing that we had completed the first phase of our Army Reserve careers.

Fall out!

Fall out!

So now we can all look forward to TSC Bravo. I know it will be much harder and more demanding than TSC Alpha. However, we have had a tremendous grounding and we have had first class training. You hear many people say that the British Army is the finest Army in the world. Well, I can honestly say that if we continue to receive the standard of instruction that we have had so far, then I won’t disagree with that statement. I feel proud to have come through this phase of training and I feel fortunate to have had such capable and helpful instructors. My thanks to you all for helping a middle-aged man through some demanding days!

As I look back I have to be honest and say that some of it was physically demanding. Some of it was mentally demanding but all of it has been thoroughly enjoyable. I am sure that each one of us has now found that we have different areas of strength as well as areas that require more work. I have learnt a lot about myself over the last few months and hopefully I can improve on my weaker areas in time for TSC Bravo.
It is time for me to sign off. I hope that you have enjoyed my blog and I really hope that any of you who are thinking of joining the Army Reserve will now have a better understanding of this phase of training? All I can say is that if I can do it then so can you! Good luck.

The Team together at the finish.

The team together at the finish.

I hope that it is all okay? Thank you for the opportunity to write this blog over the last few months. I have enjoyed it very much. Also, a big thank you to all the staff at ATU South. It has been a very rewarding time for us all and we all feel confident that we are ready for TSC Bravo.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  January 2014
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Pirbright

Weekend 5
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

New team, new challenge

It has been some time since my last blog just before Christmas. I should actually have completed all my Alpha phase weekends by now but the real world caught up with me and I was unable to attend the planned weekend 5 with my original course. That was a real shame but I wish them all the best of luck in their Army careers! You never know we may meet each other again in the future.

Preparing for the day's exercise.

Preparing for the day’s exercise with the new team.

This meant that my actual weekend 5 would now be with different recruits and different instructing staff. I have to be honest and say that this wasn’t a position I particularly relished. The team dynamics are well established by weekend 5 and I did feel like I was imposing to begin with. Happily, we all got along and my course mates were very gracious in welcoming me to their course. Overall, I think we all had a very good weekend.

The weekend was almost exclusively conducted in the field. Early Saturday morning we made our way to the exercise area and prepared for a long day of lessons. We learnt many new skills throughout the day form patrolling to preparing a ‘harbour’ area. Saturday finished with sentry duties throughout the night into early Sunday morning. Fortunately, the weather remained moderate which was fortunate as severe conditions had been forecast! Although, I did have to get up twice through the night to re-fasten our ‘Basha’ which was attempting to achieve flight in the high wind.

Closer to becoming a soldier

Sunday morning started with kit packing, ration pack breakfast, and personal administration. We were each inspected to ensure that we met the high standards that had been set. We were then thrown in to fire and manoeuvre rehearsals and drills. This really is where the fun part of training begins. We were issued with several hundred rounds of blank ammunition which we happily disposed of in various scenarios. Sometimes storming as pairs, sometimes repelling as the enemy. Always good fun. It is physically demanding but really gives you a feeling that all the training is coming together and you are inching ever closer to becoming a real soldier.

"Clean It Again"

“Clean It Again”

Coming close to failure

The exercise was stood down and we returned to Pirbright for the tedious part of the weekend…..cleaning the rifles! I would never believe that it could take so long and become such a huge undertaking cleaning one rifle. How wrong you can be! After countless attempts at getting the rifle passed by the assembled scrutinisers, I finally handed it back to the armourer with a huge sense of relief.

Last thing to mention was the two mile TAB. For some reason this proved to be quite a struggle this weekend. Whether it was fatigue from the weekend itself, or just a lack of preparation, I can’t say. I did finish it but if I’m honest, and that had been the three-mile TAB on weekend 6, I would have failed. Not good at all. More work will be required over the next couple of weeks to ensure that I don’t have a repeat performance.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  December 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Pirbright

Weekend 4
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Weapon Fires Weapon Stops

The focus of Weekend 4 is most definitely around the weapons handling test. We spent most of Saturday learning and practicing the last of the rifle lessons in preparation for the test on Sunday. We had all grasped the majority of the drills but, as ever, the devil is in the detail. Whilst there is some room within the test for minor errors any more than this could result in a re-test or even a possible back course, as I understand.

Weapons handling (library pic)

Weapons handling (library pic)

I am happy to report that all six (We lost one and gained two new members!) of us were successful in passing the weapons handling test at the first attempt. This is the first real milestone achieved so far in our Phase 1 training. The next real test is coming on Weekend 6 and that is the 3 mile TAB which, I discussed in my last blog. With this in mind I have been working hard, whilst away from the weekends, slowly building up my ability to carry load over longer distances. Hopefully, I shall be adequately prepared for the 3 mile TAB in a few weeks’ time.

Out for a Sunday morning stroll

Out for a Sunday morning stroll

Values and Standards

We also had several lessons on the values and standards expected from the modern soldier. I found these lessons particularly engaging. We were privileged to watch videos of soldiers who had carried out extraordinary feats of bravery whilst on recent operations overseas.

Furthermore, we discussed how we thought those standards and values would impact on both our military, and civilian lives. I believe the purpose was to highlight that there really is no distinction in the way you should behave when wearing, or not wearing, this uniform,

We completed the obligatory PT sessions, from which I was till aching 3 days later! Although our PT instructor was gracious enough to tell us on the Saturday that we would be hurting for many days to come! In his words “At least I didn’t lie”. Yes indeed. Thank you for your honesty Staff.

Looking ahead we have a few weeks break now before Weekend 5. This isn’t quite the blessing it first appears. It will take considerable motivation to not over indulge during this festive time. I am going to try and keep up the training over these weeks in preparation for the last 2 weekends. Moreover, I am now beginning to contemplate how challenging TSC (Bravo) may well be for me. However, best not to get too far ahead of myself as there is plenty left to do!

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  December 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Army Training Unit( South), Brunswick Camp, Pirbright

Weekend 3
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

It has been three weeks since my last weekend away and I have to be honest and say that my motivation levels were not at their highest. This is definitely something that you should consider when choosing to opt for the six weekends or the intensive two-week ‘Malta Challenge’.

Whilst the weekends fit in better around my work commitments, they do require considerable self-motivation. After a long, and stressful, week at work it is very tempting to postpone a cold and demanding weekend away with the Army. However, it struck me that it is exactly at these times that you need to dig deep and show determination. The effort required to pass these weekends starts long before the Friday night!

Even my elbows are sore!

Weekend three seemed to consist, mostly, of Skill at Arms lessons. We spent so much time lying in the prone position on the classroom floor that everyone’s elbows began to feel the pressure. On a positive note we are all doing very well in this most important area. We have the Weapons Handling Test coming up on Weekend four, which is our first pass or fail test. It seems incredible, and a testament to our trainers, that we have learnt so much in such a short time. It does prove that the Army has developed a very effective tried and tested system for training recruits.

Tactical Advance to Battle (TAB)

Saturday’s physical torture (Sorry that should read physical training) was an introduction to the Personal Fitness Assessment or PFA. This consisted of as many press-ups and sit-ups in two minutes respectively followed by the mile-and-a-half-run. For the first time I actually didn’t feel too bad following PT, which was most welcome. Hopefully, my fitness and resilience levels are beginning to improve?

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

Getting up to scratch for the Personal Fitness Assessment.

On Sunday we had an introduction to ‘Tabbing’. This is a forced march whilst carrying a load. Our first foray was a two-mile march in boots and carrying the SA80. The speed at which you are required to march is just above that which is comfortable so it quickly starts to wear you out.

As we progress through the weekends we will have to complete three miles in 45 minutes whilst wearing full kit, carrying the bergen and the SA80. This forms the final test and is completed on Weekend six.

By all accounts this is the area that can catch many recruits out. Whilst walking at this speed is unnatural for most, it is the introduction of weight that causes problems. I myself could feel ‘Hotspots’ on the heels of both feet even after 2 miles. I shall have to practice more at home and try to prevent these hotspots from forming blisters. Blisters are most definitely the enemy!

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  November 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Army Training Unit( South), Brunswick Camp, Pirbright

Weekend 2
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

Never enough time

Weekend 2 began in earnest on Saturday morning with a palpable change in tempo. We were introduced to a new Corporal who was far more vociferous than our previous. He barked his orders at increasing decibels until we adhered to the given instructions! That said, his depth of knowledge of the course content over the weekend was most impressive.

The new Corporal was barking

Taking it all in!

The ability to do everything that it is required of you at a pace that seems ludicrous is something you begin to accept. There never seems to be enough time no matter how seemingly simple the task. This relentless pressure is applied from the outset and the expectation is that you will react instantly and without question. The subliminal lesson being taught is clearly a fundamental cornerstone of all military discipline.

The group dynamics are slowly evolving and this is interesting to observe. We are becoming more comfortable in each other’s company and our true characters are beginning to come through. This is definitely a very positive experience enhanced by the occasional collective adversity!

In the field

The emphasis of weekend 2 is centered around the introduction to Fieldcraft and your first night out in the field. As with everything else there are numerous lessons where every detail is explained and covered including what to pack, what to wear and even how to correctly wash yourself!

The final briefing before our night in the field.

The final briefing before our night in the field.

The actual night in the field was a cold affair punctuated with being woken every 2 hours to carry out a relaxed patrol for an hour. It is fair to say that by reveille at 06:00 on Sunday we were all a little bit jaded.

Sunday began with a three-mile steady-state run followed by drill and more weapons handling lessons. We are all becoming more proficient in handling the SA80 and are acutely aware that our weapons handling test is fast approaching. Again, throughout the weekend it was stressed how important fitness is in completing the weekends. We had inputs from both our instructors and the PT staff.

The contented commuter

These weekends are certainly action-packed with very little down-time but they are enjoyable. My Monday morning commute, following the weekend, has now become a reflective affair rather than the usual tedium. I like to consider what we have achieved over the weekend and that gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.

My advice to anyone reading this who is unsure whether they should give it a try or not is ‘Don’t hesitate!’. Just remember to keep smiling and make sure you get your fitness levels up. That said it’s now time for my Wednesday run.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Teaching old dogs new tricks: Journey of a Reservist recruit

Date:  October 2013
Army Reserve Recruit: Craftsman Garry Freire
Initial Training (six weekends): Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) course
Location: Army Training Unit( South), Brunswick Camp, Pirbright

Weekend 1
Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Friere

Craftsman Garry Freire is an Army Reserve soldier from 103 Bn REME embarking on his Trained Soldier Course (Alpha) (TSC(AO)) at Army Training Unit (South), Pirbright. He has six weekends to complete this part of initial training. Cfn Freire is a Policeman in his civilian life.

The long drive

Experience has taught me that the anticipation usually far exceeds the reality when confronted with stressful circumstances, or experiences, in my life. However, even when armed with this knowledge the long drive from Portsmouth to Pirbright  had my stomach churning. Sharing the drive with me were two other recruits just about to embark on their two-week TSC (Bravo) course at Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright. I’m not sure who on the minibus was more quiet!

I was dropped off at Brunswick Camp and made my way to the registration area in the drill hall. After a short wait I was escorted to my new home for the next couple of days. On entering the barrack block I was pleased to see several, equally startled, young men who had already claimed their respective bed spaces. It would be fair to say that the prefab buildings, making up Brunswick Camp, would not win a four-star rating in the Good Hotel guide. Then again, I didn’t think I would be sleeping or relaxing too much over the forthcoming weekend.

Reveille

We were introduced to our cadre staff, who all seemed remarkably pleasant and genuinely helpful. I hoped that this new-found friendship would last for the entire weekend that we were to be there! Breakfast was calling and then we would begin our lessons in earnest.

Our first introduction to drill on the parade square! We were told you do drill because “It’s good for the soul!” …….Questionable

Our first introduction to drill on the parade square. We were told you do drill because “It’s good for the soul”!

The whirlwind begins

You quickly realise that that there is an awful lot of information for your grey matter to absorb and there is very little time in which to achieve this feat. I am 42 years old and pushing at the envelope of acceptability for the Army Reserve. The old adage of ‘teaching old dogs new tricks’ was resonating through my mind as the pace quickened throughout the day.

The series of lessons undertaken covered a wide spectrum from learning about Military Law through to Health and Hygiene. We had to do our mile-and-a-half run and were introduced to the gymnasium and the Physical Training staff. I think all my fellow recruits would agree (Maybe with one 19-year-old, extremely fit exception) that PT strikes terror into the hearts and minds of most who tread the boards of those hallowed gyms.

I need to work on my fitness or I am sure that the following five weekends may prove to be a very painful and somewhat uncomfortable affair. Our weekend finished much as it had begun with a disparate set of lessons culminating in a final PT session before we wearily boarded our minibuses for that long return journey home.

Read more about Cfn Freire’s journey here

Medals, international rugby and mud glorious mud

emma peacock

emma peacock

Follow Musician Emma Peacock who plays flute and piccolo in The Band and Bugles of The Rifles. She has been in the band for two years, having completing Phase 1 training at ATR Pirbright and Phase 2 at The Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.

All you can eat

After a week off to recover from the “Swift and Bold” concert in The Royal Albert Hall (see my last blog for all the details), we were back on the coach for over eight hours up to Edinburgh.  We were visiting 3 Rifles for their Homecoming Parade, Freedom Parade and Medals Parade.  The first night we went out to celebrate a promotion and a birthday.  It was a very good night!  Luckily the next morning was off and we didn’t have anything on until a Medals Parade rehearsal that afternoon.  The rehearsal went well, but it was absolutely freezing.  This was to be a common reoccurrence while in Edinburgh.

That night we were back in the city, having an all you can eat Chinese buffet and going to a salsa bar.  But it couldn’t be a late night as the next day was the Homecoming Parade.  This involved a march down a big hill to a local church next to a picturesque river.  The brass group played for the church service and then it was time to march back up the hill.  That afternoon was another Medals Parade rehearsal.  It took hours to warm up after it.

The troops marching down the Royal Mile.

The troops marching down the Royal Mile.

The next day was the big event.  It was families’ day for 3 Rifles and the day started with a march down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh city centre, giving the battalion the Freedom of the city.  This was then followed by the well-rehearsed Medals Parade back on camp.  There was just enough time after the parade for us to get some lunch and experience the atmosphere of the families’ day before we were back on the coach and travelling back down to what felt like the tropical climate of Winchester.

Battle PT

I am part of the Woodwind Quintet and on 15 November we went to play for the RAPTC (Royal Army Physical Training Corps) Officers’ Mess Dinner Night in Aldershot.  I was really looking forward to the PTIs doing handstands during their regimental march, as this was what people had promised would happen, but I was disappointed as all they did was sing along!

Saturday 17 November was a big engagement for us as we were playing at Twickenham Stadium for the rugby game between England and Fiji. There were 82000 people in the stands and it was an amazing feeling when they were singing along to us playing the National Anthem, the noise is unbelievable and an amazing experience.

The Band and Bugles of The Rifles and The Rifles Fijian Choir on the ground at Twickenham stadium.

The Band and Bugles of The Rifles and The Rifles Fijian Choir on the ground at Twickenham stadium.

This last week we’ve been in our barracks  and Corporal Jessup, our band Physical training instructor, organised a session of battle PT.  There was a lot of mud, a little blood, some ripped combats and some very sore bodies the next day.

Musician Hughes is currently doing her BTEC in Music for The Uniformed Public Services and so as part of this she helped oversee a teambuilding afternoon which involved command tasks and activities.  This was great fun and had us running all over camp

Postman to Soldier – New Recruit becomes a Soldier

Rct-Richardson

Rct-Richardson

Rct Richardson has recently completed Phase 1 training at the Army Training Centre Pirbright (ATC(P)).  He is set to start training at Blandford Camp as an Electronic Warfare Systems Operator shortly.  This new career move was to be a massive change for both me and my family, but I was certain that the upheaval would be worth it for such a challenging and rewarding career

 

Week 11 – Annual Combat Marksmanship

'In the firing line'

‘In the firing line’

This is undertaken by all soldiers in the army every year, but this was to be our first.  My shooting has been on a bit of a rollercoaster.  Some days I find I do quite well and others not so well, leaving me a little concerned about my today, so, as I was in the second detail I just sat and watched the others shoot.  This gave me a good chance to see how it all worked and in what order.  I was rather nervous when I started my ACMT, I messed up 300m and also 200m.  I had managed to compose myself by the end of the shoot and passed the 100m and 50m.  Disappointed, but I knew I had to perform well in order to pass the re shoot.  I passed both the failed distances second time round.  Not what I really wanted; a first time pass would have been nice, but at least I passed in the end.

The end of the week we had our output TAB; the first four miles as a squad, at around four miles an hour, then the last two miles where our best effort.  We were able to run or TAB and I knew I could pass it just tabbing, but I wanted to get a good time.  The first four miles were steady, with a bit of running to warm us up and then we were on our own.  I ran the first mile, then a combination of tabbing and running for the second mile.  We had 30 minutes to complete the two miles and I achieved a respectable 18 minutes, 11th in the troop.  I was very pleased with my result.

Apart from having to re-shoot a couple of distances in the ACMT, this week has been very enjoyable.  I have crossed a few more tests off the list as I move ever closer to the end.

Week 12 – Forward Operating Base (FOB)

This is the last Exercise we complete at Pirbright.  This is what we have to look forward to next week, but first we had two days this week in the FOB.  This gave us a chance to experience life in a FOB, working the gate and stagging on in the sanger.  We had a few lessons on various procedures to follow while on sentry duty on the gate and how to react when you come under indirect fire (IDF).  This rather amusingly meant when the Cpl let a dummy one off we had to lay face down in the gravel, arms tucked in; it looked like we were all playing ‘dead fishes’.  We also had our photos taken, our Section, with Cpl Verth in the centre flanked by us.  This will definitely make a good Christmas present for friends and family!

We had a live Fire + Movement assessment on the Tuesday; moving down the range one bound at a time then taking shots at electronically controlled targets.  As a section we had an inspection first and one of us got picked up for not having a clean barrel, not too bad though.  Once the inspection had taken place we commenced the live firing part of the competition.  We did well as a section, but unfortunately we didn’t win.  We were a respectable 2nd out of the seven Sections taking part.

The CS gas still stings a little

CBRN training

CBRN training

Wednesday and Thursday we had CBRN practice and then practical test.  We had been taught various drills to be completed in a CBRN suit and a respirator.  We had a practice on the Wednesday and it went well.  The CS gas still stings a little, but this time we didn’t have to breathe it in or open our eyes, so no ‘funny’ photos this time.  Thursday test went well, did my drills as practiced and more importantly I didn’t panic!

Counter IED (C-IED)

C-IED training

C-IED training

The end of the week we had our Counter IED (C-IED), practical and theory.  These lessons we’ve had on C-IED are some of the most interesting and I quite enjoy them.  We had our practical first; been able to spot possible IEDs and also markers and then we had our theory test.  2 Section had all rigorously revised so the test was relatively easy.

What mates are for! 

The highlight of the week had to be our day release.  This is where you are allowed off camp on a Saturday afternoon.  I didn’t have any money, but the lads in 2 Section kindly offered to put a couple of pounds in each to help me out; that’s what mates are for!  We enjoyed an afternoon in Guilford, wandering about in and out the shops.  More importantly we had time to go to Nando’s for dinner!  It was nice to be off camp and chill out for a bit, especially as we have Exercise FINAL FLING next week!

Week 13 – Exercise FINAL FLING

This was the week we would embark on Ex FINAL FLING; this was to be our last Exercise; a culmination of all the skills we had learnt in the last 12 weeks.  I was apprehensive about FINAL FLING, mainly because of the rumours you hear from Troops ahead of you.

Night Patrol

The Troop Commander briefed us on the situation in the area, enemy and friendly positions, strengths and weaknesses, all designed to add a little realism to the Exercise.  The weather was abysmal; the rain was bouncing off the ground and flooding the square outside our block.  While we waited to deploy we kept our spirits up by singing songs in the corridor, often attracting strange looks from some of the staff!  We deployed in the rain and tabbed to our chosen harbour location, once all that was set up we got into normal routine.  Later that evening we went on a patrol to gather intelligence on the enemy.  Patrolling at night is exciting, you feel very aware of your surroundings and strange noises you hear.  We returned to the harbour and set up stag; not fun in the cold rain getting out of your warm sleeping bag to sit for an hour.

Battlefield Casualty Drill (BCD)

Tuesday, after morning routine, we went on another patrol.  This time we came across two enemies laying IEDs.  Just as we approached there was a loud explosion; one of the IEDs they were laying went off.  This meant our recce patrol became a casualty evacuation (casevac).  We casevac’d the men to a helicopter landing site then continued on our patrol.  On the way back we came under attack and had to return fire and peal into a nearby wood block.  We regrouped then returned to the harbour, with a snap ambush injured both the ATO men.  We had to rapidly get them into the FOB and then perform our battlefield casualty drills (BCD).  What an exciting and eventful day.  I was crying out for a good night’s sleep, but it wasn’t to be; more stag keeping watch in the sangars.

Enemy attacks

Following the recent activities and the enemy increasing in numbers in the area, our Troop Commander decided that at first light the next day we would commence more section attacks on enemy positions and eradicate them from the area.

We woke at 0430 hours, prepped for battle then left the FOB.  We had planned two section attacks.  We patrolled out in arrow head formation, once the enemy made contact, we engaged.  I was in the flanking fire team and like the previous section attack on Wednesday we comfortably eliminated the enemy.  When we reached the last enemy position our Section Commander, Cpl Verth was injured in a blast.  It was then our job to casevac him out of the area as quickly as possible.  Cpl Verth is well built, and it took all our strength and determination to carry him to a safe location.

Once we arrived we were faced with friendly causalities lying on the ground.  We then had to administer first aid and carry out our BCDs.  This was made harder because we were all starting to feel the physical strain.  I dealt with the casualty with a severe limb loss.  I followed my BCD booklet; applying a tourniquet and field dressing and I think I did quite well.

Stretched to the max

Casualty Evacuation

Casualty Evacuation

Just when we thought the Exercise was over, we were shown two stretchers, each with a large dummy on.  We had to, as a Troop, run the stretchers what felt like 2km.  This was exhausting, but as soldiers we dug deep and with determination we finished the run.  We had done it, we had finished FINAL FLING.  We returned to the FOB for a well earned meal of bacon, sausage, eggs and beans, and of course a large cup of tea.  That had to be one of the best tasting meals I’d had, knowing we had completed FINAL FLING.

Ex FINAL FLING had to be the most exhausting and exhilarating experience of my life.  Not sure I’d do it any time soon, but never say never!

Week 14 – The end in sight

Richardson - Stick orderly

Richardson – Stick orderly

Our last week in Pirbright has finally arrived.  We just have a lot of drill to learn for our Passing Out Parade on Friday and of course a lot of bulling to do.  Monday to Thursday we learnt a lot of rifle drill, I learnt the drill, but on the day I won’t have to do rifle drill.  I won the award for Best at Drill, so instead I get to carry a stick and accompany the Colonel on the big day.  Wednesday evening we went to Sandes and had a cuppa and a burger with Cpl Verth, it was nice to have a relaxed chat with him as we were nearly soldiers in the British Army and no longer recruits.  Thursday we had a dress rehearsal for pass off, it went well, but it didn’t stop me feeling apprehensive about the day.

Friday had arrived; we got to wear our Section T-shirts to breakfast.  The T-shirts we designed ourselves and have our Section on, a little emblem and have our Section Commander’s and our names on the rear.  It felt really good wearing them, as we had seen so many Troops before us wearing them and looked forward to the day we would.  We got dressed, put on our number two suits, our well bulled shoes and our caps and were ready to march onto the square.

Marching with Pride

As the band started I felt nervous and excited.  The moment we marched onto the square I couldn’t have been any prouder.  The Parade went well; it was fantastic for all my family to see me on the square and also pick up my award.  All that hard work I put in over the last 13 weeks had finally come to an end.

A New Family

'Passing Out' Parade

‘Passing Out’ Parade

I felt relieved it was all over.  I was looking forward to spending some time with my family before starting my Phase 2 training.  I am excited about my trade training at Blandford Forum in Dorset, but also a little sad to say goodbye to the lads of 2 Section who I have lived with for the last 14 weeks.  I am so happy I did what I did in choosing to join the Army; I am part of another family.  With that in mind I finally wish the lads of 2 Section all the best in their future careers; Horrix, Carr, Stanley, Hughes, Colvine, Doherty and of course my Section Commander and mentor Cpl Verth.

The Last Hurdle

 

Rct-Horrix

Rct-Horrix

Rct Horrix has recently completed Phase 1 Training at the Army Training Centre Pirbright (ATC(P)).  He is set to start training at Blandford Camp as an Electronic Warfare Systems Operator shortly. Fitness has always been important in my life, I was looking to find a career which encompassed fitness, travel, new experiences and a job where I would be making a difference.  The British Army to me amalgamated all of these ideas and I decided to go for it.

Week 11 – Test Week

So onto week 11 this is known as test week along with week 12. Monday started with the Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT), in preparation for the ACMT on Thursday. This DCCT was for us to practice our firing positions and get used to firing with no help from the Troop staff which is how it works on the Army Combat Marksman Test (ACMT). All went well and assisted me in feeling confident for Thursday. We then had a five mile (Tactical Advance to Battle) TAB in preparation for our 6 Mile test on the Friday. This was really hard going as they worked us really hard to ensure we were ready for Friday. It’s the hills which really get to you, but if you are struggling you can always count on a little ‘gentle’ encouragement from the Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) or Troop staff. Once we finished I felt like a baby giraffe, but was glad it was completed.

Shooting Straight

Dense woods on the heathland around Pirbright are not good for agriculture - but they are good for military training. This is near Aldershot, the "Home of the British Army"

Dense woods on the heathland around Pirbright are not good for agriculture – but they are good for military training. This is near Aldershot, the “Home of the British Army”

We spent all of Tuesday on the ranges in preparation for Thursday. This was a live fire practice shoot at 50m, 100m, 200m and 300m. I shot really well and was one of only six people to pass the shoot, which gave me a confidence boost going into Thursday.

We then had our haircuts first thing Wednesday morning which I don’t like as I get pretty attached to my hair, but we all need to look the same so off it went. At least this was the last time we had to have a number two all over, so can at least start looking normal again! A Basic Life Support test was next, which went really well. This is an integral skill which I wanted to do well at, as this is something which I might have to use in the future, not just in the Army but in coming across any situation even in civilian life. All the lads did really well on this and passed. We spent the evening in the DCCT, practicing for the ACMT the following day. This was a good opportunity for us to further practice our positions and get our shooting head on for the following day.

So the day of the ACMT arrived and I was feeling pretty confident. We went straight into it in the morning. I was put in the first detail as I had been one of the most consistent shots in our Troop. I performed really well, hitting a lot of targets at 300m, 200m and 100m, however, I somehow failed at 50m which I was bemused at especially as I hit 5/5 on the re-shot. Anyway, I passed the shoot which is a big hurdle for all recruits to overcome.

Tactical Advance to Battle

Friday morning we had our 6 mile TAB first thing. I was a little apprehensive as it is 6 miles with weight on your back, but was determined to do well. The first four miles we completed as a squadded march which was fine. It was then two miles best effort, which I ran pretty much all of apart from tabbing up the hills. I got a time of 18 minutes 50, which I was pleased with. That put me about 8th in the Troop. Following this, we had a lesson on the rules of engagement with the Troop Commander so we know the do’s and don’ts on operations.

Not a bad week all in all, quite a lot going on but really happy to pass my ACMT and output TAB, two big hurdles out the way!

Week 12 – Preparing for the final push

So Monday and Tuesday of week twelve consist of completing Ex FINAL FLING Phase 1. This is where we get to spend a night in the Forward Operating Base (FOB) to fully understand how it works in preparation for FINAL FLING the following week. FINAL FLING is our final exercise which brings all the skills we have learnt together and puts them into action for a week. We had numerous lessons whilst in and around the FOB such as learning to throw grenades, how to stag on the sangers, searching personnel and how to deal with Indirect fire (IDF) coming in. All lessons were really good, but the best was yet to come.

We went on a night patrol with the Section and Corporal and got into a huge fire-fight, putting all the skills of Fire and Movement into action. Once we had won the fire-fight we had a casualty evacuation (casevac) back to the FOB. This was really hard work as you are carrying dead weight on a poncho (improvised stretcher), and having to run as hard as you can. We carried the casualty what felt like over a mile and is really a test of your strength, fitness and mental toughness, coupling this with adrenaline you really go for it as if it is a real life situation. I definitely slept well that night.

On target

Early rise Tuesday morning; for our Section Fire and Movement assessment on the ranges against the other six Sections in the Squadron. We had to run 300m as a Section and then hit seven targets from different distances. It was hard work as you are out of breath when you get to your first firing position, but I did well hitting 7/7 targets, as did most of the lads in the Section. We came 2nd out of seven Sections, which was a good achievement although we did miss out on first place by one point. Whilst on the ranges we also completed our Battlefield Casualty Drills (BCD) test. This is where you are put into scenarios and you have to treat a casualty effectively utilising skills we had been taught in previous lessons. All went well and everyone passed.

Wednesday morning started with a practical CBRN lesson, learning different drills which we would have to demonstrate in the test the following day. We learnt how to clean our respirator and ourselves (Decontamination drills) whilst still in a chemical environment, oxygen canister changes, drinking and eating drills and emergency drinking drills. It is easy to see if you haven’t paid attention as you will inhale the CS gas and start coughing during the test. Luckily, I did the drills correctly and didn’t get exposed again – thank God!

The afternoon consisted of our final assault course session, which was really hard work. We did log races around the track, then going straight onto the assault course as a Section best effort. I felt like I was going to pass out, but got through it. We also had to practice casevac’s, so our PTI’s really pushed us hard, but I guess they were always going to considering it was our last session. Looking back, it was good fun though.

Appointment with Cpl Verth

We completed our final Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA) on Thursday morning, completing press ups, sit ups and a 1.5 mile run. I did really well, smashing 80 press ups in two minutes, 71 sit ups and a strong time on the mile and half. We then had another appointment Cpl Verth for our final CBRN test. This consisted of completing all the drills we had been taught in the chamber the previous day and ensuring they were all correct as these are life saving skills. We also had questions on CBRN once we passed the practical phase to make sure we understood all the theory too, so when I was told I had passed I was pretty relieved. Cpl Verth looked a bit down as this would be our last practical period in the respirator test facility and he does so enjoy CBRN.

Friday morning consisted of a PT session in the pool where we completed swimming races which were good fun and a change from the usual swimming PT sessions which tend to really take it out of you. All afternoon was concentrated on C-IED where we completed our practical assessment, doing 5m and 20m checks. This is checking the ground in and around you for signs of IED’s and potential hazards. Everyone passed and was something everyone took very seriously due to current operations and how this skill can definitely be a life saver. We also had a theory test to make sure we had understood all the principles, which again everyone passed.

This was the two test weeks now completed which was a big relief. Now just one more major hurdle in Ex FINAL FLING before I can think about getting on the parade square and passing out of Pirbright. Looking forward to FINAL FLING and putting everything I have learnt into action, although I know I will be hanging out by the time it finishes.

Week 13 – The FINAL FLING

I Woke up Monday morning with mixed emotions about FINAL FLING this week. I was looking forward to it, but a little apprehensive with what to expect, coupled with the fact it was monsoon weather as we set off on FINAL FLING. We started with an intelligence briefing from the Troop Commander about the situation (Scenario), we were going into. The training team wanted to make this a realistic exercise so we were moving into an area which contained enemy, IED’s etc.

We tabbed to the area where we wanted to set up our harbour and started to go through the motions, i.e, set up a snap ambush, then started digging in our harbour area. Once this was all done your mindset changes – to start thinking strategically and like a soldier. Our first day was quite relaxed, until the evening when we went out on our first patrol. We had heard of an enemy position so we went out on a recce patrol, to further understand the enemy, their base, how many there were, weapons being used etc. Once completed, we went back to the harbour area and started our stag rotation – fun!

Self detonation!

Woke up Tuesday morning pretty cold and wet due to the weather, but it’s just a case of getting on with it. We went out on patrol Tuesday lunchtime to dominate the ground and try and pick up further intelligence. I was point man in the patrol (First man), so had to keep my eyes peeled. We came across two individuals who were laying IED’s which actually blew them up. We assisted them and casevaced them out, whilst gaining information on what they had been doing. As we continued our patrol, we got ambushed and after suppressing the enemy we pealed out, re-grouped and moved back to the harbour area. Later that night, we went out on a recce patrol to find an enemy position and gain further intelligence. Following this patrol, the decision was made to attack them the next day.

Commence Attack!

Wednesday morning was quite relaxed, making sure our kit was all clean, rifle in good working order and then the order was given that we were to commence our attack. I was appointed as grenadier for the attack which I was looking forward too. We broke our Section into two fire teams, one to be used as fire support (Delta fire team) and Charlie fire team which were the ones to commence the main attack. Our Section Commander orchestrated the attack placing Delta where they needed to be, and then we (Charlie) started doing fire and movement to get closer to the position. Delta and Charlie were both attacking the position suppressing the enemy, then as my job was the grenadier, I had to crawl to the enemy position, post a grenade then follow it up and kill the enemy. This was awesome and really good fun. We then searched the enemy dead and their base, moved back to our harbour to brief the Troop Commander on what we had found.

Under Attack!

Early hours Thursday morning we got attacked in our harbour and IDF’d, so we had to move from the harbour area) pretty sharpish. We then tabbed to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) and set up for the next night. I was appointed 2IC (Second in Command) whilst in the FOB, it was good to be in a position of responsibility.

We went out on our first patrol to scan the area, coming across two farmers who supplied us with a lot of information on enemy in the area and IED’s. Other rotations that day meant being on security at the FOB, and being part of the quick reaction force (QRF) who are there to support any patrols who get into trouble. Later that evening when I was part of the QRF, a patrol came across an IED, so we were deployed along with an IED team, which we had to escort.

The situation was controlled, but as we came back into the base the IED team ironically stepped on an IED. As 2IC, my Section Commander told me to control the situation which I did by getting the injured back into the FOB, getting them medical care and ensuring everyone knew what they were doing, whilst keeping the situation calm. My Section Commander was pleased with how I handled the situation.

Driving the enemy out

Following this, the decision was made from the Troop Commander that we were going to launch an attack the following morning to fully drive out the enemy from the area. We were told what we were going to do and to be ready to move at 0530 am.

Now getting up at 0430 am to get ready for an attack is hard work as you are not awake, let alone thinking strategically on what needs to be done. However, that quickly changed once we set off. We reached our rendezvous point at 0630 ready to commence our attack. We had to attack two enemy positions of which I was grenadier on the first attack and 2IC on the second. Both attacks were quite long, hard work but really enjoyable. At the end of our last section attack our Corporal got shot, so we had to casevac him out of the killing area. Our Corporal is a big guy, so this was pretty hard. We also came across three more causalities, which needed to be treated ASAP. As 2IC, it was my responsibility to command the situation which I did and everything went well.

Through gritted teeth

At this point, I thought that was the end of the exercise, but we then had a surprise casevac. We had two heavy dummies on stretchers between our Troop and had to run with them for about 1 kilometer. This was really hard work as we were mentally and physically exhausted, but this is when it becomes mind over matter, gritting your teeth and pushing through. Needless to say, we worked hard and got to the end. This was the end of the exercise. We tabbed back to the FOB, cleared everything up and moved back to barracks, where we cleaned our rifles and our kit.

An Awesome experience

I can honestly say it is the best and hardest thing I have done in basic training and would tell all other recruits that they will feel the same way. Next week is week 14, the week of our pass off. Looking forward to this so much, but not looking forward to a whole week of rifle drill!!!!!

Week 14 – ‘Pass-Out’ week.

'Soldiers Soldier' Award

‘Soldiers Soldier’ Award

A week we had all worked hard to get to and one I wanted to enjoy every minute of. The week started really well as I was told that I had won two awards on pass off, Soldiers’ Soldier, which is an award voted for by the recruits on who they feel has upheld the Army’s Core Values and performed best. I was really happy to have won this as it’s your peers who recognise your ability, even though there were numerous people who could have won it. I was also awarded Best Recruit which was a real honour. So, this would mean marching up and being presented two medals on pass off in front of my family which I couldn’t wait for.

Drill

Monday started quite slow, getting a lot of kit sorted from exercise last week and then spent the rest of the day practicing rifle drill. I thought I was not going to like rifle drill as drill has not been my favourite activity at Pirbright, but I actually quite liked it. Tuesday was quite similar, we had to make sure the block and our Section room was highly cleaned, we returned our military kit which we would not be taking to Phase 2 and then completed more drill. We marched onto the square to practice the pass out format, which definitely got me looking forward to Friday. We also had an hour of PT where we completed an orienteering competition which was good fun.

Wednesday started with a couple of lectures to do with pay and a lesson from the Padre. We then had sports PT, where we played kick ball. This is an adaptation of rounders but you kick a football instead of using a bat. It’s a pretty good game and everyone seemed to have a good time doing it. Following this, we had drill where we completed a run through of our pass out parade with the Sergeant Major. This went really well, and again got me buzzing for Friday. Thursday was much the same but this time we had a full dress rehearsal with the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM).

Everyone had to be on their A game as if you mess up bad you could potentially not be allowed on the square to pass off. Fortunately, everything went well and the RSM was happy although with a few minor tweeks needed. Thursday evening came up and everyone had a really good night, even if it was a little sad as it was our final night and I am going to miss this Pirbright and the friends I have made.

Finishing Phase 1

'Passing Out'

‘Passing Out’

Friday morning had finally arrived, woke up feeling pretty nervous but happy in knowing I am finally finishing my Phase 1 training. We started the morning by going to the cook house with our section T-shirts on which we had the tailor make. Our Corporal joined us and I could see he was going to miss us (Not that he would ever admit it!). Following breakfast, we got changed into our No 2 dress and got prepared for our pass out. After a few words from the Sergeant Major, we marched onto the square in front of all our families. This definitely made the blood and sweat shed over the last 14 weeks worth it. The parade went really well and I was really proud to have to march up and receive my awards too. We then had a celebratory drink (a beer finally) with our family and friends. It was then time to leave and embark on a new challenge, Phase 2 training…………………

It’s been an experience

Pirbright

Pirbright

I will leave Pirbright with lots of memories and ones which I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ve had some great times and less great times, but overall it is an experience I am glad I challenged myself to achieve. Phase 1 is pretty difficult to get through so I am looking forward to going home and relaxing for a while.

I want to wish everyone in Mather Troop 2012 all the best for the future, but especially 2 Section where I have made some friends for life. I want to wish Carr, Colvine, Stanley, Hughes, Doherty and Richardson (2 Section) all the best in the future and their careers. A special thanks must got to Corporal Verth who has taught me a lot and who has been nothing but kind (cough). Jokes aside, I have learnt a lot from my training team and many skills I know I will apply in my future career, so a big thanks must go to them.

But, for now I must say Adois to Pirbright and hello to Blandford where I commence my Phase 2 training………………