You’re in the Army now: ‘Stand to’ for Exercise Halfway

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

Recruit Andrew Vaughan.

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my seventh week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

 

Week 7

Monday

After a great long weekend, the first thing we had on our agenda was the high wire. I’m not great with heights and had been dreading this for a while! We were briefed, strapped in and off we went. We took smaller obstacles first and then eventually the high wire itself came.

A very nervous climb, and I was on top of the platform where I fell to pieces. Hyperventilating, a lot of hesitation and a self-slap to my face to man-up occurred yet still I didn’t jump. After what must have been 5-10 minutes, I eventually managed to drop where the rest of the Troop applauded me, which I appreciated immensely.

Straight after a stressful start to the week was our first go on the outdoor assault course. The 6-foot wall is a killer, the 12-foot I’m dreading. A good workout session though and a lot of fun too, a good distraction from the high wire previously.

Afterwards, we learned about the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and the Rules of Engagement, and then finished off with a military knowledge test – a test quizzing us on the variety of things we’ve been learning from week 1. I don’t think I did too badly, but we’ll see!

Tuesday

We started off with some map reading, this time relating the map to the ground. A lot of map reading is beginning to go over my head, but thankfully we have both our permanent staff and also our best books to consult. Better hit the books.

Another C-IED lesson where we were taught what to do should an explosion occur. The amount to remember to do when chaos is occurring is daunting.

Endurance training for PT today, which involved max effort sprints around the playing field. We started off doing relay 400m sprints followed by 200m and then 100m. We were absolutely hanging out by the end of it, and then we had core exercises such as sit-ups and crunches to finish off with.

Our CBRN lesson taught us how to adjust our respirators for our personal use and how to don and doff said respirators correctly. We were then told we would go into the chamber filled with CS gas, in order to give us confidence that the equipment works. Half of us were nervous, the other half including myself were strangely excited.

Outside the chamber, when trying to tighten my mask, I pulled the strap incorrectly and broke it. I was now about to enter the gas chamber with a broken respirator. Brilliant. The signal was given and in we went!

We had to walk around the chamber and the others did exercises whilst I was taken to one side just in case. Thankfully the gas hadn’t affected me at this stage and I was up first to take the respirator off. One deep breath and off it came!

The Corporal asked me my name, rank, number and then a bunch of other questions. I’m not sure whether the gas level had thinned at this point or that I’m not as vulnerable to CS as some of the others (probably the former) but I managed to last a very long time in the chamber.

Eventually though, my face was on fire and breathing became harder by the second, I was allowed to leave and the fresh air on my face was both amazing and horrible. I walked up a hill and patted down my kit and sat back to watch the other lads leave the chamber in comical ways. An interesting end to the day.

Wednesday

In the morning we had our bergens checked as today we were off on Ex HALFWAY – an exercise that seems to bring smiles to the faces of our permanent staff when mentioned – a worrying sign.

After being dropped off and tabbing for a while, we were briefed by our Troop Commander and then took it in turns to apply cam cream and grass up our helmets and webbing. Upon trying to pick up my Bergen to move out, one of the arm straps completely snapped off. Brilliant. 2 items in 2 days didn’t bode well for me. Luckily our Corporal made a makeshift knot which would hold for a while, and I had to leg it forward to my section.

We set up our harbour area and then were taken for lessons. These lessons included how to judge distances, how to draw range cards and how to call out enemy positions – a skill we would need for our section attacks which would follow in the exercise. To finish off, we had our evening meal and set up our bashas, beginning our night-time stag rotations.

Thursday

A terrible start to the day as me and half our section weren’t woken up at 0430 hrs, a poor move from whoever was on stag! This left us unable to get ourselves ready for ‘stand to’ in time and re-education followed!

After re-education, we were to conduct our morning routine – something I still struggle to complete in time. To make it worse, due to being on stag last with minutes to go before inspection, I quickly rushed to dissemble my rifle for inspection and didn’t take the magazine off. Simply put, I could’ve had a Negligent Discharge (ND) – a huge deal in the Army. I won’t be making that mistake anytime soon.

We spent a good portion of the day learning firing manoeuvres and how to both suppress, approach and assault the enemy in a firefight. We started off in pairs with one man providing cover whilst the other advanced and then vice versa. This eventually grew into two groups of two, and finally finishing with the entire section attacking. It took quite a while to get the hang of it but we got there in the end. Once there, we then also learned how to withdraw and also how to peel left and right. The process is in itself exhausting but the adrenaline and excitement keeps you going.

Exercise Halfway.

Exercise Halfway.

We came back and had photos taken both as a Troop and also in our respective sections which was quality. A smoke grenade going off in the background was also a nice touch. After lunch we were taught about how to describe an enemy and also how to describe a vehicle using different acronyms. Afterwards we had some time to rest or complete personal admin – mine was spent cleaning the rifle, an activity I really cannot seem to get good at for some reason.

We went on patrol and were suddenly under attack. We used what we had been taught and managed to locate, suppress and attack the enemy. Afterwards we moved in and began to search the enemy position.  I was given the job of covering the enemy soldier. After that we were all buzzing from the experience and finished our patrol in high spirits.

After dinner, our Section Commander decided that we were going to go on a night-time recce (reconnaissance) patrol in order to gather intelligence on the enemy, using the enemy description techniques previously taught to us. We used the cover of darkness and the long grass to make our way to the enemy’s position without being seen. Despite light flares going up (and us using a previous lesson to avoid detection) we managed to get close enough to be able to take down a faint description of the enemies and their harbour area. We had been previously warned that there was a threat to anyone who got themselves caught so we were all as stealthy as possible. Luckily, we were in and out without being seen and made our way back to the harbour area to sleep.

Friday

After our usual stand-to procedure, we got ourselves ready for our morning inspection test. Out of 27 of us in the Troop, 5 of us passed – myself not one of them. For some reason, I truly cannot seem to be able to clean the rifle properly and at this point I was beginning to lose faith in myself. The 22 of us who failed were treated to a stern warning from our Troop Commander about the unacceptable level of failure. Exhausted, I collapsed in my shell scrape and began to self-reflect. Despite knowing I can only do my best, my best needs to get better – sharpish!

Afterwards we were taught about the 6 section battle drills which is, simply put, a step-by-step process on what actions to take starting from preparing for battle right through to regrouping after the battle is won. These 6 steps put into place everything we have been taught so far and now we can see it all coming together.

We were taught how to search enemies and enemy vehicles and were soon off on patrol to practise. Before long a vehicle came our way and we were given the job of stopping the vehicle, gaining the passengers’ cooperation and searching all parties. My input was severely limited for this as I was tasked with watching the road for more vehicles – however from what I heard our section didn’t do too badly.

We went off on another patrol and made our way to a bridge. It wasn’t long before most of us spotted the enemy and the firefight began. We used our training and despite a few mistakes managed to win the firefight. We began to search the enemy when one Recruit searched a bag to discover a grenade. BOOM! Casualty! We then had to casevac a stretcher with 4 huge Jerry cans up a hill towards the safety area. I was one of the first four to carry this extremely heavy casualty and from prior exhaustion from the battle kicking in – it wasn’t long before I was drained. To make matters worse, one of the other four dropped the stretcher, bringing me down heavily with it! We picked up the stretcher and carried on evacuating, however by this point I was done. I was at the back jogging at what can only be described as a snail’s pace and eventually my Section Commander had to literally push me up the hill in order to make it. Not a great feeling.

That evening we were briefed on how we were going to launch an attack on the enemy at 0315 hrs, with each section providing a different role in order to effectively destroy the enemy and then went back to our routine. Unfortunately some recruits on stag were caught asleep and we knew trouble was coming. All of our Troop were marched out into the field where our Corporal explained the severity of sleeping on stag – something I have come close to doing myself to the point but thankfully not! Willpower and coffee granules work well for me. Halfway through the Corporal threatening to have the next sleeping stag thrown off the exercise, the scene was then topped off by a sudden thunder-storm hitting us. Not a cloud had been in the sky throughout the entire exercise and it seemed quite fitting for the weather to change at that precise moment.

Absolutely drenched, we set up our bashas in the dark and went about trying to get our heads down for 0315 for a mission which now had an extra level of difficulty attached with the sudden climate change!

Saturday

It felt like my eyes had only just closed when suddenly the place erupted. “STAND TO!” – the enemy had launched an attack on us! We all got into our positions and began to fire upon the enemy lurking in the treeline trying to approach our position. Smoke grenades had been thrown into the harbour area, enemies were everywhere and the place was generally hectic! We managed to push them back, but we knew it wouldn’t last long.

After a while I heard a crunch of grass eerily close to my basha and I looked to the right. About a hand’s distance away was an enemy’s silhouette –  I roared “enemy on my position” and began to open fire, thankfully causing the enemy to flee back into the woods.

The firefight continued for ages until eventually trip flares lit up our harbour area and the sound of loud explosions simulating mortar fire were upon us. Our Troop Sergeant screamed at us to get our kit on our backs as we were moving out. We grabbed our stuff rapid time and evacuated the harbour area, keeping on the move until we were well away from our previous area. After a personnel check, it seemed a recruit had lost his rifle! It turns out that the rifle was taken off him during his sleep in order to instil the habit of having the rifle at arms distance – in the sleeping bag with you if sleeping!

Eventually all our Troop and their rifles were accounted for, and section by section we moved off. Our section came under attack on a path and we used the peeling method in order to push up and then back down the path whilst providing effective fire towards the enemy. This we were pretty good at and marked the end of attacks for the exercise. We had a chance to change into dry kit and pick up any brass cases we could find from the attack. We made our way towards some woods, set up some covering bashas and went to work on morning routine whilst waiting for the coach.

After hot scoff and a futile attempt at cleaning the rifle, we made our way back to the coach. Back at camp, we started washing all our kit for a kit inspection on Sunday. This took a good portion of the day, with mud and dust in high abundance back in our block by the time we had finished. After sweeping the floors numerous times, our area began to return somewhat back to normal. Hopefully the effort put in would be recognised tomorrow.

Sunday

Our kit inspection wasn’t fantastic, with my webbing still having some dirt in but some others had crimes much worse. We felt the wrath of our corporals and were informed of a full locker inspection on Monday. Straight back into the swing of things it seems!

After some admin time, we were given the magazines and BFAs from the exercise, which had to be cleaned. After one glance it was clear why. A few days in the field and they were infested with rust and carbon. We took 3 each and went to work on cleaning. Just like the rifles, I’m not great at cleaning magazines and by the time I had cleaned three to a high standard, others had completed 6 and above. I’m praying I can improve on simple tasks like this soon. Overall it’s been a tough week but I’ve managed to get this far and I’m determined to go the whole way with extra effort going into the areas I lack in. Starting with rifle cleaning!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: Pride on parade before hometime

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my sixth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 6

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

We started the morning by getting sized up for our No 2 Dress, the uniform we’ll be wearing for pass out. Very smart!

Next was a lesson with the Padre on the ethics of the Army, and shown a clip from Platoon highlighting the vast difference of what’s right and what’s wrong as military.

More drill with 2 section commanders who corrected minor mistakes a lot of us are still making.

Finally a code of conduct lesson with our Troop Commander who informed us what we can and can’t do during our long weekend.

Tuesday

Today was spent mostly on the ranges zeroing our rifles to ourselves. Apparently my grouping was pretty good, which I’m happy about.

After cleaning our rifles and handing them in to the armoury, we had drill. Here we practised what would be happening on Thursday and our last attempt was really good according to our Troop Sergeant. Happy with that!

Troop Commanders locker inspection tomorrow. I hope we impress him!

Wednesday

Our locker inspection didn’t go too badly today. However, a spare locker some of the section use for storage was also inspected and let us down.

For PT, we had another indoor assault course in preparation for the outdoor assault course, which we would be tackling next Monday. The session was, as usual, intense but rewarding – apart from somehow getting a drawing pin in my toe, which stopped me completing the last lap. My luck is horrendous.

Functional skills and then last bit of drill before the big day tomorrow. So excited to see my family and I’m praying I pass my drill test! Long weekend to look forward to and a well earned rest!

Thursday

Huge day today; one we had been looking forward to for some time. In the morning we got into barrack dress, making sure we looked immaculate. Due to time constraints I only managed to properly bull one shoe, I hoped it would be ok though.

After a kit inspection, and a quick iron of my sleeves, we were marched to the square for our drill test. Our troop were first to do this test and we all wanted to pass with flying colours.We were put into open order and had a kit inspection from the Regimental Adjutant. My kit was apparently quite good other than one shoe being evidently shinier than the other. Damn! Despite a couple of hiccups our Troop all passed! Morale soared and we knew we were getting our cap badges in front of our families, a great feeling.

The recruits on parade.

The recruits on parade.

We completed some admin to kill time and then back to the square for the ceremony. We marched on as a squadron, marching past our loved ones without daring to look at them lest we make a mistake. Thankfully nothing of the sort occurred, and one by one we received our prized cap badges to rounds of applause. The self pride is indescribable and I can’t imagine how I’ll feel at pass out!

After matching off the square, we were finally allowed to see our families. After lots of hugs, each troop then had to put on a demonstration to our families giving an insight into the sort of things we’ve been learning the past 6 weeks, from our different uniforms to ration packs to setting up a basha on exercise. It’s a nice touch to be able to show off our newly acquired knowledge.

A quick change into our civilian suits and we were free to go! A 3 hour drive home and a curry with my friends to cap off one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

See you on Sunday Winchester!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: First Step, football and feeling good

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my fifth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 5

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

Today was spent on the ranges, only this time we were firing at ranges of 50m and 100m. Going by my previous poor efforts I wasn’t feeling very confident. Before we got started however we were given the opportunity to bore sight our weapon to line up the sight to the aperture. Mine was way off! Hopefully this would explain my woeful accuracy.

We were divided into two groups and our group were first up to go behind the range as “Butts Party” which involved raising the targets and patching up the holes. This gave us the opportunity to relax for a while and have some coffee on a wet Monday morning, which was awesome. I’ve never enjoyed Mondays before in any previous job; this is a refreshing first!

Our time came and we took turns firing at the different distances in different positions. I later found out that I was hitting the white patch of the target more often than not at 100m, which has filled me with confidence that perhaps I’m not as terrible as I thought.

The rest of the day was spent waterproofing our kit and packing our bergens for Exercise FIRST STEP. A good few hours went into this, forgetting kit for exercise isn’t advisable!

Tuesday

We spent the morning unpacking our bergens and showing our Section Commanders that we had all our kit. Once all was confirmed, we set off for Exercise FIRST STEP.

We arrived at our harbour area and were taught how we occupy one, then proceeded to do so. We were also taught about fire control orders, snap ambushes and sentry duties to name a few. We set up our bashas, cooked our rations on our hexi cookers (which tasted awesome) and began stag rotation. My shift was 0100-0300 hrs. Staying awake was hard work but not as hard as finding my way back to my basha in the pitch black! A long, fun and educational first day.

Setting up our bashers

Setting up our bashers

Wednesday

Reveille at 0430 hrs and after ‘stand to’ straight into morning routine. This involves cleaning your rifle, wash/shave, boots and breakfast. It hadn’t stopped raining and the mud hindered us slightly. We failed our morning inspection and were debriefed by our Section Commanders; a good start to the day.

Lessons came thick and fast where we were taught hand signals for patrolling, firing manoeuvres, monkey runs, and casevacs to name a few. We were able to practise firing manoeuvres with blank rounds which was good fun and were also treated to a demonstration on how to suppress the enemy; something we can look forward to during Exercise HALFWAY.

After dinner and lessons I took my position for stag duty at 2100 hrs. Stand-to was called and I had forgotten to pack my roll mat onto my Bergen. Others had made similar mistakes and we were all disciplined by our Section Commanders. Lesson learned however.

Once we’d finished our ‘re-education’ we went straight onto a night patrol; using our hand signals to keep silent and also incorporating our map reading skills, which was useful. After the patrol, I had the job of setting up my sleeping area in darkness, a skill I need to get used to sharpish! With casevacing, leopard crawling and furious note taking, I was out like a light once I finally found my sleeping bag!

Thursday

Up again at 0430 hrs, this time with more sleep and a better understanding of what needs doing when. A frantic morning routine took place and I thankfully wasn’t scrutinised too heavily when inspected. Phew!

Before we left our harbour area to head back to camp, we had to erase any evidence we were ever there. This meant taking down our bashas, destroying the sentry positions we had made and removing tracks. After that we set off.

When back at camp, we were tasked with completely cleaning our rifle of carbon, dirt and rust. Carbon gets everywhere. Every time we thought we had our rifle clean, our Section Commander would instantly find more carbon!

Eventually our rifles were to an ok standard and returned to the armoury. We then had PT which was an intense swimming session. Muscle-ups and in-outs (in and out the pool quick-time) were the name of the game and we were even more exhausted than before.

The final task was to climb up the diving board, turn around and fall backwards. For some reason, the idea of doing this didn’t agree with me at all. I couldn’t breathe and began to violently shake. My first panic attack – brilliant. The PTI saw me and managed to calm me down, but I now felt like a wimp in front of my troop, not a great feeling. Wanting to face my fear, I ended up jumping off the board a few times normally. Still felt like a let-down though!

After swimming we had drill to try and polish up our skills for our drill test next Thursday. We want to pass, but we also want to be the best troop. Fingers crossed!

Friday

In the morning we had sports for PT where our troop played football. I prefer this sort of exercise as you’re not as aware how much running you’re doing. The downside is I’m horrendous at football. With a last minute winner (which I even contributed to – sort of), our team won 7-6. Happy with that!

Afterwards we had another lecture on military law where we were told about chargeable offences such as falling asleep on stag. Must make sure not to let this happen to me.

We had an evening drill lesson, again just to brush up our skills. The downside to evening drill is the uniform. A heavy green jumper which itches like mad and made me heave just putting it on – a sight my section enjoyed immensely! After drill our time was our own. Admin it is.

Saturday

In the morning we weighed our webbing and bergens for our first 10kg TAB (Tactical Advance to Battle). This is basically a fast-paced walk with bouts of jogging thrown in. None of us found this too bad, which is a good sign, although we all know this won’t be the case for long!

After this was more drill, something we’re all now not too shabby at.

Sunday

Today was our first opportunity to deal with the public as the face of the British Army. We were to act as marshals during a 26-mile charity run for Naomi House Children’s hospice in Hampshire – a very worthwhile charity.

Me and another recruit had checkpoint 28, five miles from the finish line and so would be trying to give the runners that last bit of encouragement needed to get them to the end. During our stint as marshals, we had kids waving at us, adults smiling at us, a local resident even brought out coffee and homemade cookies to us. It’s a really good feeling doing a job which is appreciated by so many and I’m prouder than ever to be doing what I’m doing.

Despite being a long day, I’m glad we did it and glad we were able to help out towards such a good cause.

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: Realities of War

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my fourth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 4

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

Week 4 began with PT in the morning. Today involved outdoor circuit training which is increasing in difficulty each time. The session was tough and together with the heat, we produced a lot of sweat!

We had functional skills after to brush up on our presenting skills prior to our presentations tomorrow during our Realities of War trip. We’re all looking forward to leaving camp for the day and being in the outside world for a while!

After that was DCCT where we had to take shots in the sitting, kneeling, squatting and standing positions. These were killer and again I failed on my first attempt, however, I passed on my reshoot. I’m still gutted I couldn’t pass first time and will have to practice these positions in my own time.

The evening was spent preparing for our trip tomorrow and I was sound asleep by half 8!

Tuesday

Today was our Realities of War trip and after breakfast we all boarded the coach to the Army Medical Services Museum.

After a quick snooze on the coach, we had arrived. We filed into a classroom where our Troop Commander and one of our Troop Corporals spoke about some of their experiences of human losses from tours they had been on. This was to tie in with the theme of the Realities of War and that death is unfortunately a huge part of war.

We were introduced to a retired Major who had spent “36 wonderful years in the Royal Artillery” (our chosen cap badge) and who gave us a lecture on the First World War. His knowledge is incredible.

Our Realities of War trip to the Army Medical Services Museum.

Our Realities of War trip to the Army Medical Services Museum.

Off then to the Museum itself where we learned how far the Army has come medically since the First World War. A fact I found fascinating was that if you broke your leg in WW1, you had an 80% chance of dying. Wow.

From there we went to Brookwood cemetery, the largest military cemetery in the UK. Despite being a place of great sadness, it’s also absolutely beautiful and I had a lump in my throat the whole way round. We had a small remembrance service with the Padre and were then shown around the cemetery. The cemetery is split into different sections depending on the nationality of the deceased and after visiting them all, we were given a small cross to place in front of any grave we saw fit. I placed mine in front of Captain G.M.R Vaughan-Sheehan.

We returned to camp and gave presentations as sections using prior research and information gained today.

Wednesday

With our webbing packed from the night before, off we went to Worthy Down to tackle the ranges for our first live firing session!

Unfortunately, the Army carries out almost everything alphabetically and as my surname begins with V, I’m always last! This time was no different and had a while to wait, I spent this time however, brushing up on my BCD drills. There’s always something to do here, being idle is looked at as a sin!

During the Realities of War visit.

During the Realities of War visit.

My turn arrived and it was time to fire Roy with live ammo for the first time! My DCCT sessions have shown that I’m awful at shooting and nerves quickly set in. After carrying out safety checks we were given the command to LOAD, MAKE READY and get into the various firing positions. The recoil caught me off guard the first few times!

Live firing on Worthy Down Ranges.

Live firing on Worthy Down Ranges.

After completing our firing, our groupings were measured and I managed to pass all except prone and sitting and straight after I retook them. Thankfully, I managed to pass this time and felt a huge sense of relief!

Ended the day with an inspection with one tomorrow to follow!

Thursday

I started the day with my second and final dentist appointment. This unfortunately conflicted with our PT session of the day and I’m surprised to hear myself say that I’m actually gutted I missed PT!

Next up was drill – in a thunder storm! We gathered under shelter until it died down a little, but watching rain bounce off the parade square was a strangely beautiful sight. Just praying it doesn’t do the same on our pass out!

After drill was another lesson with the Padre who spoke to us about loyalty and selfless commitment – two huge values in the Army.

We finished with a BCD lesson on bleeding and breakages. We practised applying field dressings on each other and that was us done for the day.

Friday

First up today was SAA where we were taught about how to shoot crossing targets. I currently struggle to hit stationary ones however!

After was PT – our first boot run! This included hill sprints, static runs and push ups for our lack of enthusiasm! Very hard work, but no pain no gain and in this particular instance I gained a lovely blister for my efforts!

We concluded with a map reading lesson where we took grid and magnetic bearings with a compass. It’s all starting to make sense now and I’m looking forward to applying these skills on our next exercise.

Also as an added bonus, we received our peak caps today. They look awesome!

Saturday

Today was very relaxed in comparison to the week.

We started off with PT. Saturday Circuits! We warmed up in a humorous way, with our PTI getting us to imagine we were kayaking to a private beach where we could order a cocktail from a barman. This scenario involved several exercises such as steering the kayak, climbing a tree, throwing down a coconut and smashing said coconut. By the end of it our water tasted as good as a cocktail! We then entered the gym and saw a multitude of mats on the floor. Each mat consisted of an exercise including squats, sit ups, press ups and, of course, burpees. A gruelling hour and a half later and it was over. Although horrific at the time, I am beginning to feel good after PT!

We were then given our first CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) lesson which taught us the basic theory on what these all are and their devastating effects.

After that was pure admin for the day! We spent some time in the Welfare Centre and enjoyed having some time to relax!

Sunday

A whole day of admin today. We spent it preparing our bergens for Exercise FIRST STEP which is coming up on Tuesday. Can’t wait!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: The Dismounted Close Combat Trainer

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just begun Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 3

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

Back to our normal wake-up time and another Troop Sergeant’s inspection, which didn’t go too badly. But we were still picked up for things and will add them to the ever-growing list of things to check!

After scoff we had a lesson on marksmanship principles and then onto PT. Today was endurance and it was hot outside, a lethal combo! I seem to produce a ridiculous amount of saliva during PT and at one point had managed to get mucus all down my top, which my Troop Commander kindly pointed out to me – embarrassing!

Then the heavens opened. The second part of PT was to run around camp as a troop in the pouring rain. I personally love running in the rain and the feeling seemed to be mutual; all of a sudden we merged together as a troop and showed the rest of ATR Winchester who we were. 3 x 200m sprints to finish and we were done. A good session.

We fetched our webbing and made our way to Skill At Arms (SAA) for a lesson on the prone position and breathing properly whilst firing. I hate the prone position as it kills my elbows. Hopefully after a while I’ll get used to it.

Two new troops also arrived here today. It’s a good feeling to know we’re no longer the new guys but at the same time now we have to start showing our stuff. To finish off the day, our Section Commander treated us to an evening locker inspection with an added bonus of one the next day too. With all that to look forward to, I had an early night.

Tuesday

As predicted, locker inspections have quickly lost their appeal and are now becoming the uncomfortable norm. Every inspection is getting better however, with the mistakes being picked up becoming more menial with each attempt. We’re definitely improving.

We had a morning BCD lesson, which taught us about how to treat a casualty who has difficulty breathing and also how to apply field dressings. I enjoy these lessons as not only are they useful skills both in and out of the Army, but also because our instructor is simultaneously both a funny and terrifying man.

Next up was SAA where we learned about the different rates of fire, when we should use them and then practiced doing so in the prone position. We then marched with our rifles to the assault course to learn about different firing positions such as sitting or kneeling and also how to use windows, trenches etc for cover. The squatting position is a killer and I hope I never have to adopt it again! Who am I kidding?

We had lessons on Counter-IED (improvised explosive device), which included how a basic IED is made and what the components are. The simplicity of how they are made is shocking and I’ll be sure never to leave a magazine lying around!

We ended the day with PT. This turned out to be an introduction into agility; which involved rolls, leopard crawls and tackling the miniature assault course set up in the gym. It was good fun and despite being afraid on one obstacle (and making myself look like a plum in the process!), I eventually got used to it and my confidence grew. We spent the remainder of the day attempting to get our lockers up to scratch, a process all of us are now very familiar with.

Wednesday

In the morning we were given maps and compasses, and went around the camp whilst keeping track of where we were on the map. The area around camp is very scenic and the fact that we’re now approaching summer definitely improved our morning stroll! For PT, we had swimming. I thought I was a reasonably strong swimmer before this session – not any more. I never realise you could sweat in water! I finished the session absolutely exhausted.

Despite wanting to go to bed more than anything, up next was drill. As previously mentioned the weather here is brilliant and I couldn’t imagine what a drill lesson in the pouring rain must be like. So with my tan getting steadily topped up, we were taught how to both look and salute to the left and right. Then we went onto turning on the march, which we found extremely hard as it involves stepping off on your right foot – an uncommon practise in drill.

Swimming really takes it out of me, and I was asleep by 8pm; which in turn allowed my section to mess with me and take some less than flattering pictures, the banter is definitely in full force!

Thursday

In the morning I had a dentist appointment. Free dental in the Army is a definite perk and the dentists here are even finding and correcting things overlooked by my civilian dentist, and all for free. After that we had another C-IED lesson which dealt with what to do should an IED be found. Hopefully I’ll never encounter this situation, however I’m aware that the possibility is very real. For PT, we played hockey and rounders with another troop. There is real competitiveness between the troops now, as was shown in hockey especially, with my legs taking a battering!

For our last SAA lesson before our Weapon Handling Test (WHT), we learned about stoppages and how to remedy them. There’s a lot to learn in these SAA lessons but my Section Commander is great at helping it all make sense. Hopefully I’ll reflect the hard work he has put in by passing tomorrow – fingers crossed. Troop Sergeant’s inspection tomorrow, surely this one will go well?

Friday

One of our worst inspections yet. We had run out of both time and materials and the effect was catastrophic. We were informed that another inspection was to take place that evening at 8pm, with hourly inspections after that if need be. We vowed to nail it for eight. Off then to map reading where our Troop Commander taught us about scales, distances and contours. The wavey lines all over a map now actually have some meaning to us!

In PT we used our skills taught previously (rolling, jumping over obstacles etc) and put them into practice with circuit training. The first few laps weren’t too bad, however the pace was upped each time and by the end of it my t-shirt was stuck to me! The end of the session also involved learning how to properly climb a rope. I’m not a natural.

We went to the armoury where I signed out Roy the Rifle ready for our WHT. Although nervous, I had spent a lot of time beforehand making sure I was prepared. This paid off it seemed, as I was almost flawless, merely being picked up for brushing the sight instead of solidly checking it. I’ll take that! I’m now safe to use a rifle on the ranges.

The hours before 8pm were stressful. Everyone rushed around double-time making sure everything was spot on. The time came, and the atmosphere was tense! Again, hard work had paid off it seemed. Much better effort we were told, no more inspections that night! Bed time.

Saturday

Another Troop Sergeant’s inspection in the morning, and as we had passed the night before, we were sure we would pass this morning. Wrong. Our beds were quite scruffy and not all folded the same way. Uniformity is a big thing in the army and everything has to be the same. This resulted in another inspection at 7pm, which hurt me more than anyone as I’m an Arsenal fan, and this inspection now clashed with our cup final. Gutted!

Prone - Recruit Vaughan undertaking the DCCT.

Prone – Recruit Vaughan undertaking the DCCT.

What cheered me up slightly was that today was our first Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT) lesson, which is basically a live firing range, but computerised. The accuracy is first class and our instructors can see any mistake we make, right down to pulling the trigger too quickly! I hoped that I would be a natural at shooting and spent the time waiting to get myself into the zone. Unfortunately I missed the point of our first firing test, which is to simply make sure all of your rounds hit as close to each other as possible – rather than on the target.

Recruit Vaughan undertaking the DCCT.

Recruit Vaughan undertaking the DCCT.

Cue two failed attempts, when everyone else had passed. My head dropped, but my Troop Sergeant told me not to worry and that it’s ok to not be amazing after my first shoot. My resolve was restored and up I went for attempt number three. I put into practise everything I had been taught so far (including just focusing on my round groupings) and thankfully I passed on the third attempt! Straight after, my Troop Commander stepped up to the plate and showed me how it’s done. His grouping was amazing and reminded me that marksmanship is a skill and one that gets better with practice. There was a definite spring in my step on the march back.

Much like yesterday, a good portion of today was then spent preparing for another inspection, this time paying particular attention to the beds, including ironing the sheets and pillow cases and implementing ‘hospital corners’. To our credit, our beds looked amazing when we had finished and none of us particularly wanted to sleep in them in fear of messing them up again!

Our inspection went well and as a reward we went to the Welfare to wind down for a couple of hours. I got to see Arsenal lift the trophy and end our nine-year drought and my morale went through the roof after what had been a tough week of inspections.

Sunday

A nice lay in this morning and, to top it off, no PT today!

Apart from a brief drill lesson (where we learned how to change step and about turn on the march) – today is pure admin. The opportunity to get our lockers squared away at our own pace is a great feeling, and we’re all in good spirits. I can’t believe I’ve been here for three weeks already, the time has flown by. On to week four!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: If you’re not marching, you’re running

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just begun Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 2

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

Today was to be our first Skill At Arms (SAA) lesson and we were very excited at the prospect of holding the SA80A2 Assault Rifle for the first time. After arriving at the armoury and eagerly queuing, eventually I came into contact with the rifle I would be using for the rest of my time in Phase 1. I named it Roy the Rifle and off I took Roy for our first SAA lesson. This involved our Section Commander teaching us about Normal Safety Procedures (NSPs) which is when we check to make sure the rifle is safe. This process is to be done before and after anything involving the rifle and so it wasn’t long before all of us got the hang of it.

We had two lectures from our Troop Commander; one teaching us the phonetic alphabet (which was Golf Romeo Echo Alpha Tango) and the other about the importance of looking after our ears to prevent hearing loss – a tall order considering I’m joining the Royal Artillery! Then after changing into PT kit in rapid time we had our first proper PT session, endurance training. We ran, then ran faster, then faster to the point where I wanted to die. I unfortunately stopped twice due to pure exhaustion and the wrath of the PTIs was soon upon me. I have made a pact with myself never to stop again, however, as I felt terrible for doing so. We’ll see how that goes!

Finally we had ‘dispel the myth’; this involved having a Q and A session with two Recruits who are about to pass out and two Privates who recently have done so. This was a good opportunity to ask the questions that we didn’t want to ask the Corporals and was also good inspiration for the few among us who are letting homesickness get the better of them.

Tuesday

I had accidentally slept in this morning and so had to rush around double time to get my locker ready for our locker inspection. Unfortunately our Section Commander was unimpressed after the first few lockers and so we were informed that another inspection was to be carried out the following morning. I had gotten off lightly it would seem.

After breakfast we had a Basic Casualty Drill (BCD) lesson, which was all about first aid and how to treat a wounded soldier(s). This first lesson introduced us to our ‘aide memoires’ – a handbook that we can consult for any first aid queries. This was literally life saving information and we listened attentively.

Then off for Drill lessons with our Troop Sergeant. Today we learned how to left, right and about turn and also how to fall out. We already sound more professional when marching around camp and it’s a great feeling when we’re all in step. We had a swim test for PT, which was treading water for two minutes followed by four lengths in the pool. Jumping off the top board was slightly scary though. If I found that worrying, the high wire assault course will be an interesting experience! I was happy to finally pass something PT related and hoped that it would continue going forward.

In SAA we learned how to dismantle and assemble the rifle, followed by function tests to ensure the rifle works correctly afterwards.

Wednesday

We had a Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) brief which informed us how our contract worked and the windows in which we could Discharge as of Right (DAOR) if we wanted to. The thought has not even crossed my mind and I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I love it here.

For Drill we learned how to halt, a concept that gave most of us trouble. We’ve now been told that we have to march and halt everywhere on camp, including our block. To quote one of our Corporals: “from now on, if you’re not marching, you’re running!”

For PT we had another run, this time around the surrounding woods of our camp. I enjoyed the scenery and managed to complete this lesson without stopping, which was a great feeling. After an eight-second shower and a three-minute change of clothes I was ready for our Counter-IED lesson; designed to teach us how to potentially spot Improvised Explosive Devices. This was a very important lesson to finish off a long day and I think I may have fallen asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Thursday

Getting to grips with Roy the Rifle.

Getting to grips with Roy the Rifle.

SAA lesson in the morning and we were taught about the different rounds the SA80 can fire and also how to load/unload and ready the rifle. These different procedures will all be tested for our Weapon Handling Test which we have to pass before we are allowed on the ranges; but more importantly these procedures could be the difference between a stoppage in a firefight, or a Negligent Discharge (ND) in camp. No room for error here.

We had circuit training in the gym for PT, which really got our sweat on. Despite the huge meals I have been having here, I can already see a difference in my weight. Will be very interested to see how much I have lost at the end of these 14 weeks. After PT we went to visit the Padre who spoke to us about the Army Core Values and how they affect not only our behaviour as soldiers, but also as people.

More PT followed. However, this time we were playing sports against another troop. It was interesting to see the competitive side of two different troops beginning to emerge already. After an exhausting day, we spent the evening getting our lockers ready for our Troop Sergeant’s locker inspection tomorrow. Nervous!

Friday

We had our locker inspection in the morning which was disastrous! I was caught trying to finish my block job and nearly had a heart attack when the door burst open and the yelling commenced from the Corporal! That will teach me to not wear my watch. Not a great start. As for our lockers, nothing was mentioned about the locker per say, but the surrounding area (window sill, plug socket etc) were missed out. I’ll take note of these for next time as I’m still determined to nail it before pass out.

SAA today was going back over how to strip and assemble the rifle and also how to clean it. This was very interesting although I’m sure the glamour will soon wear off, especially after cleaning it for the 300th time.

We had a functional skills lesson in English to prepare us for Phase 2. Functional skills are needed for promotion and it’s amazing that the Army provide these skills for us going forward to help us achieve as much as we can. It’s also a nice break from PT!

Another SAA lesson after that to practice everything we had gone over so far. This lesson culminated in races in putting slings on, stripping/assembling and functions test with the losing team receiving press ups. It all came down to me, and thankfully I’m a dab hand at putting a sling on. Winners!

We finished off the day beginning our lessons with our Troop Commander on Map Reading, with these lessons covering the basics on what a map is, how to fold it and what goes on it. There’s a lot to remember and I’ll be relying on the legend for the time being! Another long day and again I slept soundly!

Saturday

This morning I woke up after by far my longest lie-in yet. After our usual morning routine we ironed our barrack dress for kit inspection. Unfortunately we hadn’t prepared for the rain and so we had to wear our combat jackets also – something none of us had ironed! Somehow my Jacket wasn’t too bad, but then made the blunder of calling the Corporal Sergeant. Ten press-ups for me.

For our drill lesson we learned how to “change step” and how to “front salute”. The moves are beginning to pick up in complexity but it’s also starting to come together.

PT is always worrying when it comes to kit inspections. Our shorts have to be perfectly ironed, and this includes creating a front and back crease which doesn’t exist prior to receiving them. This results in double creases, or creases simply not sharp enough. Either results in 25 press-ups. A water bottle not completely filled to the top will earn you the same reward! Today’s PT was a four-mile run around the surround area of camp. This includes very steep hills but also quaint country roads and a village. A very scenic route that capped off a very strenuous week of PT.

An early finish after PT was a huge morale boost. In the five minutes that I managed to nap, the lads put an ironing board and four practice wooden rifles on top of me. The banter is definitely picking up and so far the three sections are all bonding as a troop. There are some crazy characters to say the least; including an American who has joined as he believes our training is harder, an Irishman who is hilarious without trying (think Brad Pitt in Snatch), the poshest Welshman you could ever meet, four Scottish guys (including one who asked what size penny he should bring to SAA) and a seven-foot tall Scouser. And that’s just one section! It’s amazing how close we have all grown over two weeks and I definitely love the camaraderie aspect of the Army.

Sunday

Today was purely an admin day, so we spent the morning perfecting our block jobs, went to the Welfare Centre to chill out for a couple of hours and then finished the day ironing all our kit for another Troop Sergeant’s inspection tomorrow. Hopefully this one will go better. Two weeks down, twelve to go… Buzzing!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

You’re in the Army now: ‘Ten press-ups Vaughan!’

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my first week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 1 – The Army way

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

So the day had finally arrived. After a nine-month application process I was finally off to basic training! I was dropped off at the station by my mum and after an emotional farewell I was on my way.

I arrived at Winchester station ridiculously early, keen to make a good impression but mostly due to being too eager. Straight away I noticed another individual with a suitcase and a nervous look on his face outside the station – we must have stood out a mile. We started chatting until the two of us were picked up by a Corporal in uniform who informed me that I was in his troop and how lucky I was. I was too nervous to speak and just about got three syllables across, although he reassured me that I would be fine.

After arriving through the gates and feeling civilian life fade behind me, I was escorted to the gym to be sized up for shoes, trousers, beret and shirts. Soon after I was off to my block to meet my fellow troop members for the next 14 weeks. We all quickly got chatting and before long I had made 31 new friends. The ‘same boat’ situation applies here more than ever.

Then there was paperwork – lots of paperwork! We were told which sections we would be in and then we were to unpack and make our beds “the Army way” – a phrase I soon started hearing often! We spent the day bonding as a troop and before we knew it the day was over.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning and I was up early, showered, shaved and tired! After breakfast we were given a financial lecture from our Commanding Officer (CO) and Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) and then we were off for medicals!

Three vaccinations, blood/urine test and a dentist check up later and we were deemed fit for service in terms of health. A visit to the barber straight after for a traditional Army haircut (cue the opening credits to Full Metal Jacket) and we were good to go.

That evening we were taught how to assemble our webbing as well as how to apply a rifle sling by our section commanders, which were both vital skills that we would be applying a lot over our military career. Luckily, I managed to grasp the rifle sling pretty quickly and started showing other members of my section on how it should be done. One thing I have learned straight away is that the Army is all about working as a team, something which I massively respect and was a huge reason behind me joining.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning, after completing our block jobs (and slowly but surely becoming better at doing them), we had a lesson from our Troop Commander about badges of rank. Then we were marched to the church for an introduction to the Padre who would be dealing with the moral and spiritual aspects of life as a soldier. Despite not being very religious myself, I still found what he had to say very important and relevant to our careers in the Army.

After the church we lined up to receive our kit. I was ridiculously excited to finally look the part so that I could truly start feeling like a soldier. My fellow troop members felt the same way and morale was high. As well as our kit we were issued our berets, the military headdress, which is bent to the side and dons our Phase 1 capbadge for our first six weeks. After a lot of time shaping the beret, we all finally looked ready to begin our training.

Thursday

It was block jobs as per the normal morning routine, then into our PT kits to do our Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA). We carried jerry cans 150m and lifted powerbags just like during selection, and then finally we had our 1.5-mile run. The difference between this run and that at selection is that you have PTIs and Corporals screaming at you every step of the way! Despite fear driving me, I managed a time of 10:53. A second slower than my ADSC time. Despite being annoyed with myself, I knew the PTIs here would soon whip me into shape. How right I was!

Showering, changing and given zero time to do either is a common theme in basic training but one that teaches you how to manage your time effectively. For the time being, however, we were too slow and politely informed of such by our Section Commanders. That evening, we were shown what to pack in our bergens for Exercise ICE BREAKER. This would involve a night in the woods, in order to get to know each other more as a troop, and give the training staff a chance to let us know more about them in a relaxed atmosphere. We finished the night by packing our bergen and ironing our kit.

Friday

We spent Friday morning having our first drill lesson on the parade square with our Troop Sergeant. We’re all afraid of her (rightfully so) and so tried extra hard not to make any mistakes. That didn’t go too well. Despite some people’s reservations I really enjoy drill and can’t wait to get better at it over time. The feeling of passing out on the same parade square that we have our lessons is a huge motivation not to give up during this process.

Making sure our bergens were packed, we were marched off to the woods for Exercise ICE BREAKER. Despite not packing a huge amount, the bergens were actually quite heavy. Again, I’m banking on the PTIs to whip me into shape. They have their work cut out it seems. When we arrived at the woods we were given a briefing on how to safely use a shotgun, as we were going to do some clay pigeon shooting. I had never fired a weapon before in my life so the opportunity for my first one to be a shotgun was very exciting.

It was finally my turn and after yelling ‘PULL’ the clay pigeons were fired. Despite only hitting 1 out of 6, I was very happy with the activity and loved the fact that I was getting paid for this! We then went into the woods where we were shown by our Section Commanders how to set up three different types of basha – a makeshift ‘tent’ involving our ponchos, tent pegs, bungees and of course the trees.

After setting up our basha for the evening (and taking a moment to admire my basha crafting ability) we then had ‘scoff’ (dinner) and sat around a campfire where our Troop Commander, Troop Sergeant and Section Commanders told us about their careers so far in the Army and the amazing places it has taken them. It was truly inspiring for all of us how much they have achieved already with the Army, and further instilled why we were all there. Then it was our chance to stand up and speak about our life stories, some of which were hilarious, including one chap from my section who wants to join the UAV regiment as he “wants to fly little planes” – a statement that had a Section Commander in tears! All in all it was a great night and one that strengthened the bond between us as a troop.

Saturday

Saturday was very relaxed in comparison to the rest of the week. We dismantled our bashas, packed our bergens and marched back to camp. Then we washed, changed, had breakfast and were introduced to the Welfare Centre and the WRVS – a recreational area with pool tables, computer games, DVD’s, ping pong table etc. The chance to wind down after such as a busy week was music to our ears.

This came at a price however. That evening we were taught how to lay out our lockers and had to then spend the night sorting our lockers out ready for an early morning locker inspection. Nervous was an understatement!

Sunday

After our normal morning block jobs, it was then time for our locker inspection. We were given the command to stand by our beds at attention and soon enough our Section Commander began to hunt for any mistakes we may have made. It didn’t take long for him to find some! I strangely enjoy locker inspections. However,  every mistake they find is one I won’t make again. By the end of this process I am determined to have a faultless locker. For the time being however, “ten press-ups Vaughan!”

After breakfast we had a quick kit inspection (missed a loop for my belt!) and then we were marched to church. We were given a service and some hymns to sing. After the service we were treated to tea and biscuits, and ‘Roadrunner’ was on for the Scripture Reader’s children. It wasn’t long before 50+ recruits were huddled round the screen laughing and loving ‘Roadrunner’ more than the children did!

That evening we began to sort our lockers out ready for Monday’s locker inspection. After finally being convinced that my locker was up to a good standard, I crashed out in bed, smiled, and reflected on what a great first week that had been.

Bring on week two!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester