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

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.